Magic, Djinn, Ogres, and Sorcerers. Thirteen-year-old Zardi loves to hear stories about fantastical beings, long banned from the kingdom of Arribitha. But anyone caught whispering of their powers will feel the rage of the sultan—a terrifying usurper who, even with his eyes closed, can see all.
When her own beloved sister is captured by the evil ruler, Zardi knows that she must go to any lengths to rescue her. Along with her best friend, Ridhan—a silver-haired, violet-eyed boy of mysterious origins—and an unlikely crew of sailors led by the infamous Captain Sinbad, Zardi ventures forth into strange and wondrous territory with a seemingly impossible mission: to bring magic back to Arribitha and defeat the sultan once and for all.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Did something inspire you to start writing? Please share!
I’ve always written. I used to write poetry and short stories for fun when I was younger but it was only when I started editing children’s books for a living, and I kept on having ideas that wouldn’t go away, that I thought about writing a book seriously.
I love editing the many wonderful books on my list, and reading their excellent work challenged me to write the best book that I could.
How did you come up with the concept for Book of Wonders?
The Book of Wonders draws on the tales of 1001 Nights also known as Arabian Nights. Many of the stories in 1001 Nights are well known and include Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor. For those of you who haven’t read Arabian Nights they begin with a young woman called Scheherazade who tells tales to a cold-hearted sultan for 1001 nights in order to escape execution [the sultan has a nasty habit of executing his new wives!]. Through her stories, she manages to melt the sultan’s heart and they end up living happily ever after.
As a young reader, I loved these stories. I loved that Scheherazade was such a good storyteller and that she always made sure that she was at the most exciting bit of the story when the sun rose so that she would get to live for another day.
However, the 9 year old me was enraged by the idea that the sultan got a happy ending after killing lots of innocent young women! Even back then I wanted to create a new story, where the sultan was challenged and maybe even defeated.
With The Book of Wonders I have created an alternative version of events which I hope will keep readers guessing!
What was it like creating these characters? Do you have a favorite?
I have been with the characters in my book for a long time. I feel protective of them and very proud of them. Zardi is my favourite character. She is brave, loyal and smart. But she is not perfect. She has a temper and can be impulsive. It was important to me that no one in the book was perfect. I wanted them to all have many sides. I wanted them to feel real.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I go there because it reminds me of when I was a student - this is the place where I’d go to write essays about Dickens, Austen and Beowulf.
Most importantly, Lyra talks about the Radcliffe Camera in The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman. This is one of my favourite books and so I always feel extra inspired when I work here!
What would you like readers to take away when they finish reading The Book of Wonders?
Magic, friendship and adventure. That is what I like writing about and I hope that is what readers will get from my book. I also hope that reading The Book of Wonders might inspire them to read some of the tales in Arabian Nights. That would make me very happy indeed!
----Thank you, Jasmine, for taking the time to answer these questions! After interviewing you, I'm really interested in reading more into the tales of Arabian Nights!