A beautiful story with an equally stunning package, Ayisha weaves a story of sisterhood, which, paired with Erika Meza’s beautiful artwork makes for an unforgettable read.
Erika’s illustrations paired with your writing makes for such an wonderful read. How did you find working on such a heavily illustrated project?
I actually wrote the story before Erika drew the illustrations and so it’d be more appropriate to ask Erika how she felt about working with my words! I was so delighted with her work though; the way she brought the girls to life and just her vision for the treehouses and forest is quite breath-taking.
Do you have any sisters/siblings, and how did that influence this story in particular?
Yes, I have an older sister, but really it was understanding the dynamic between a group of girls who are very close, but also different, that fed into the story. And, of course, that you have no choice in who your family is, but you do have a choice in how you foster those relationships.
What’s one thing you hope readers take away from Seven Sisters? What were you trying to tell with this story?
I want readers to feel hopeful and warm – and that any child that reads the book can find something of themselves in one, if not more, of the characters. That they understand there should be a place and home for everyone, no matter how different people might be.
Which sister would you say you are most like?
From a practical point of view, I suppose I am more like Zayna, who’s a writer, than anyone else. Although whenever one writes, I think there is often a part of the writer in each character they create. I can be moody like Esher, eccentric like Saffah, sometimes even quiet like Ayla.
You have been a part of publishing for many years, first on the inside – working with books as a publicist and editor – and, for a while now, as an author. What do you think about Muslim representation, or representation in general in the books we publish in the UK? Has it improved?
We’ve come a long way since I started work at (the then) Random House in 2008. The conversations around how Muslim characters are created and portrayed, coupled with the fact that there are a growing number of Muslim writers, shows me that though change can be slow, things do change. And that is a great thing.
You’ve got an amazing portfolio, and this is your first (solo) children’s title (if I’m not mistaken), how did you find the writing process? Do you plan on writing more children’s?
That’s very kind of you to say. I’ve previously written a retelling of Austen’s MANSFIELD PARK for 9-12 year olds. I have to say there was a magic in writing for children that is sometimes missing when writing for adults. I also felt I could indulge in the fantasy world of SEVEN SISTERS and just have fun. It also taught me a lot about the rhythm and beat of sentences, and I hope that I might be able to translate some of that playfulness of language in my adult fiction. Possibly for future children’s titles, if the opportunity arises.
What is your must-have snack when writing?
Everything. In theory. Nutella, mini-rolls, chocolate fingers. . . Bags of Kettle crisps. . . But, alas, if I ate everything I wanted when writing then I’d have some issues in life. Coffee is a must though. I never start a writing day without coffee.
Ayisha Malik is a British Muslim, lifelong Londoner, and lover of books. She read English Literature and went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing. She has spent various spells photocopying, volunteering, being a publicist at Random House, and managing editor at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. Her novels include, ‘Sofia Khan is Not Obliged’ and ‘The Other Half of Happiness’. She is also the ghost writer for GBBO winner, Nadiya Hussain and has contributed to the anthology, ‘A Change is Gonna Come. ‘Ayisha was one of WH Smith’s Fresh Talent picks, Winter 2016. ‘Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged’ is her debut novel.
You can find Ayisha Malik on Twitter.
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