For her latest publication, Emirati author Sheikha Salama Bint Hazza Al Nahyan, was inspired by three animals deeply connected to her homeland and heritage. Entitled The Horse, The Saluki & The Falcon, the book features thought-provoking quotes and illustrations that share wisdom, positivity and hope at a time when it is needed most. Here, MOJEH speaks to the acclaimed writer.
Can you tell us about your latest book and the concept behind it?
The book is inspired by Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, and features quotes on life, humanity and empathy, told through the UAE’s most treasured animals. Each animal featured was chosen based on its characteristics that resemble thoseof humans. For example, the horse represents beauty and power; the Saluki symbolisesintelligence, speed and loyalty; and the falcon signifies alertness and an attentive tactical prey. The book explores the messages animals would relay if they could speak to humans.
In what ways does The Horse, The Saluki & The Falcon pay homage to your Emirati culture?
I noticed that there aren’t many children’s books that are rooted in Emirati heritage, which was why I was adamant on creating a story that was not only educational, but also traditional. These three animals have helped our ancestors to survive, and falcon hunting and saluki racing is still relevant today. It reminds us that surviving such a harsh environment was only possible because of these species.
The book shares life lessons on humility, love and kindness — why are these messages so important to right now?
Silver linings in times of uncertainty are very important. There’s something good to be found in every difficult situation. A positive quote that resonates with a person could change everything in an instant. It could change their whole mindset and open doors they thought never existed. Hope and positivity are both very powerful tools for the human mind.
How does The Horse, The Saluki & The Falcon spread positivity?
The girl in the book is like that little voice within us questioning certain events and why they’re happening. She and her surroundings are the inner journeys within us. As curious and as young as she is, she questions everything and in return, the horse, the saluki, and the falcon spread that positivity and remind her to be brave and that it’s okay to hope and to dream.
What do Olga Byrne’s illustrations bring to the book?
Illustration adds life to anystory. It gives your mind a chance to wander and picture what each character looks like. Olga’s work, ethics and vision mixed very well with my project. We bonded quickly and she instantly understood the type of art I was looking for. We aimed to adda lot of emotion with the visuals and focused on making the words flow with the images; even at times letting the images speak louder than the words themselves.
Your previous works have been written specifically for children, but this book has a slightly different and more mature tone. Who did you write the book for?
As when writing my previous books, it was never my intention to write for a specific audience when creating The Horse, The Saluki, & The Falcon – I just let the story unfold, and let it choose what it wanted to be.
How do you find inspiration for your writing? And did this process change during lockdown — did you find new forms of creativity?
I’m like a sponge when it comes to inspiration. Always seeking it from my surroundings, what I watch, what I read, an art I admire, history, culture, people, conversations, etc. The lockdown period was challenging for inspiration but, I somehow managed to do it differently by using the tools I had available with me such as books, movies, tv-series, documentaries, basically anything I could get my hands on. I spent more time doing various things and switching up my daily routine so that I didn’t get bored or uninspired.
As a writer in her twenties, what advice would you give to young aspiring writers?
Never give up. Writing is a challenging process in itself, which sometimes needs months or even years to finish a specific piece. To start your literary journey, you need to have consistency and drive so that you can become a successful writer.
And what can we expect to see from you in the future?
I’m currently working on a short story for a more mature audience. Right now I’m editing and polishing it and might launch towards the end of this year. I’m not sure what the readers will expect from me in the future but I’m certain there’s going to be many more stories for different age groups.
Finally, an inspirational quote you’d like to share from your new title?
“Do dreams come true?”asked the girl. “They only do if you believe in them long enough,” answered the horse. This quote reminds me that nothing is impossible. Keep dreaming, keep doing because it can and will happen someday. Failure just means that you tried, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to achieve.
The Horse, The Saluki & The Falcon by Sheikha Salama Bint Hazza Al Nahyan is available now at Salamabinthazza.com
- Illustrations by Olga Byrne