Hafsah Faizal’s debut novel, We Hunt the Flame, is one of our most-anticipated reads of the season. This YA fantasy novel introduces readers to Zafira, who sets off on a deadly mission to return magic to her world and save her people, all the while being pursued by the Prince of Death. To celebrate the book’s release, Faizal opened up about her journey to publication.
As someone who never enjoyed reading or writing or anything bookish, my foray into the world of publishing was a happy accident that changed my life.
Literally changed my life.
At seventeen, I had been home-schooled for around four years. Loneliness became my best friend, and with it came depression. Everything was bleak. Worse, I had just reached that moment where the question “What am I going to do with my life?” was beginning to haunt my every waking day. It was then, near the end of Ramadan in September 2010, that with bated breath, I created IceyBooks, not realizing how significant that blog would become.
It was like coming home. I found people I connected with, I found peers and friends and a place where I belonged. Later, I even found the answer to that pressing life question when I formed my business, IceyDesigns, which thrives in the bookish world in the form of websites for authors and fandom-inspired goodies for everyone else.
Months after creating IceyBooks, while I was still struggling to understand the enigma of publishing, I wrote my first manuscript.
It was a big aha! to my (well-meaning) fourth grade teacher who had once called my dad in to say “This girl can’t write for the life of her.” I knew the next step was getting my horrible first draft masterpiece published. This pivotal moment was around the same time V.E. Schwab was gearing up for the publication of her first book, The Near Witch. I had received an ARC—a pre-release copy—from her publisher, and while chatting with her about it, I snuck in the question: “Do you need a lot of money to get published?”
Ah, young Hafsah. How naive you were.
It turns out, you don’t need a penny to land a book deal. After years of writing, all while slowly comprehending the ways of the industry, I learned there’s only one thing needed to get published: perseverance.
At the same time, I learned another hard truth: Much of publishing is out of our control, and for someone who always had everything within her control—teaching myself during high school, running my own business—this was hard to grasp, which is why I’m so lucky I had blogging because I was able to learn there was still quite a bit I could control.
As I reviewed books, interviewed authors, and interacted with other bloggers and publishing professionals, I learned so much. I learned much about marketing and publicity. I learned of the many ups and downs of the process, growing a thicker skin in preparation for a future in which I didn’t know I would be an author. I learned how to establish a platform.
Several years later, as I was writing the manuscript that became We Hunt the Flame, I remember feeling a sense of relief that my first attempt hadn’t worked out. Not because it was horribly written—as an aside, I believe anything can be made better with the right editor, just… maybe not that manuscript—but because I knew next to nothing about the industry back then. With manuscript number five, I had something invaluable on my side: years of experience and understanding. There was so much I didn’t know, a fact made glaringly clear with each day that takes me closer to my debut’s release, but being a bookish influencer gave me a jumpstart. A wealth of know-how that I couldn’t have gleaned any other way.
All that said, blogging isn’t a prerequisite to securing a book deal, and publishing is still an enigma—just one I’m now a part of. But it’s been nearly nine years since I began writing, which ultimately cements the truth I learned early on: Perseverance is all it takes.
Hafsah Faizal is an American Muslim and brand designer. She’s the founder of IceyDesigns, where she creates websites for authors and beauteous goodies for everyone else. When she’s not writing, she can be found dreaming up her next design, deciding between Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim, or traversing the world. Born in Florida and raised in California, she now resides in Texas with her family and a library of books waiting to be devoured. We Hunt The Flame is her first novel.