Q&A with Radiya Hafiza

Rumaysa, A Fairytale and Rumaysa, Ever After truly captured my imagination and my heart. They are inspiring tales that have familiarity from the traditional tales we have heard before but these add delightful twists and cultural references that take these tales to a whole new level of wonder! Check out the lovely Q&A provided by the publisher and author, Radiya Hafiza.

Tell us a little about the book

Rumaysa Ever After is a fairy tale retelling with Rapunzel, or Rumaysa, journeying through enchanted lands to find her long lost parents. Stolen from them as a baby, Rumaysa was held captive by the evil witch Cordelia. Rumaysa helps out a prince one day, unbeknownst to her that he is the brother of Queen Saira White of Bishnara. After receiving an invitation to their magical golden palace, Rumaysa is pulled into a dark journey that threatens her own happily ever after.

What were your favourite fairy tales as a child?

Cinderella was my absolute favourite, as well as Rapunzel and Snow White. I loved the magic in fairy tales, the balls, the enchanted mirrors and dresses, and good winning out over evil in the end. I think my love of happy endings definitely came from reading fairy tales as a child; they make all the adversity worth it in the end.

What inspired you to reimagine classic fairy tales?

There have been a lot of movie remakes in recent years of fairy tales with updated modern messages and inclusive casts, but I was yet to see someone who was Muslim or wore a hijab in one of them. I wanted to see someone like myself being the princess or main character in a story, defying stereotypes and carving out their own journey. Rumaysa came to me one day when I was at work. I loved the idea of switching out long hair for a long hijab and started to wonder what else I could change to bring my own identity and culture into the story, and that’s where Rumaysa A Fairy tale began.

How much of yourself and your life did you incorporate into your reimagining?

I definitely brought in my culture with the foods in Rumaysa, as well as my religion to give the characters in the story a different identity. It was fun incorporating things like an Eid party and having the clothes my characters wear brought to life by Rhaida El Touny’s illustrations.

I think every author will say there’s always some parts of them in their book and I like to think that I share some of my character’s defiance for rules and appetite for adventure, but the farthest I go these days is to my local Tescos.

Are there any particular themes or ideas you wanted to portray in Rumaysa Ever After?

I definitely wanted to talk about trust in Rumaysa Ever After. Rumaysa is still grappling with being free after spending her whole life in captivity, and whether young or old, it can be hard to know who to trust. When you’re betrayed, it’s easy to close yourself up to the world but I wanted to talk about the joy in making new friends and learning to trust people again, something that was important for Rumaysa to learn in her journey to finding her parents.

What is your writing process like?

My writing process begins with a rough plan of the story I want to write. I find I can’t plan too much in detail as the story and characters come to life mor when I begin writing. I usually prefer to write at night or morning when it’s quiet and I’m on my own.

How was it writing your second novel compared to your first?

My second novel was a bit easier to write than the first one because it was a continuation of the first book, if you will. I knew right away Rumaysa’s story wasn’t finished in Rumaysa A Fairytale and I already had ideas about where she would go next. It was a lot more fun to focus on her one story too, instead of doing three different ones. I got to spend more time with the same characters and really flesh out their stories, which made it all the more enjoyable.

Are there any other fairy tales you would like to reimagine in future stories?

I’d love to do all of them if I could! But Little Red Riding Hood/Hijab would be fun, and maybe Hansel & Gretel.

And finally, if you could be one character from a classic fairy tale who would it be and why?!

I’d pick Cinderella! She’s gracious in the face of difficulty and gets to wear a magical dress, go to a ball and can speak with animals. I think it’d be really fun to be her, minus the horrible stepfamily!

RUMAYSA EVER AFTER by Radiya Hafiza is out now in paperback (£7.99, Macmillan Children’s Books)

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