We were so excited to interview Melati Lum, talented Australian author of the new pre-teen series and book Ayesha Dean: The Istanbul Intrigue, for our next Creative Spotlight. She shares with us her journey from lawyer and author to what inspires her! Learn more about her creative process by reading on…
- Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Adelaide, Australia, from migrant parents who came over from Malaysia to study, but ended up staying here. My mum is Malay and my dad is Chinese. Dad was originally from a Christian family and he reverted to Islam while he was in university.
Most of my working life has been devoted to the law, in particular criminal law. I’ve worked as a trial lawyer in the courts for the prosecution of serious crimes in my state, and I’ve previously had the opportunity to work in the prosecution of war crimes at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
In my spare time I love travelling with my family, and generally spending time with them and close friends. I love the occasional singalong with my guitar (which I don’t play very well), learning French, discovering delicious foods, and of course reading!
- What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve loved reading since I was a child, and have wanted to write a book for a very long time but until last year never seriously took any steps to complete that goal. I’ve often started a story that didn’t get further than a few pages…
I remember wishing as a child, that I could read a book where the main character was Muslim, or at least of a diverse background, and the story would be an enjoyable one that wasn’t necessarily too heavy. I think it’s important that Muslim children are able to see their experiences reflected in the books they read, and while it’s important to recognise that many Muslims are suffering in the world, I thought it would also be great to write a fun and entertaining book featuring a Muslim heroine that simply provided clean, halal entertainment.
- How does your faith influence your work?
It’s been my inspiration and motivation for my writing so far. It’s the catalyst that helps me through all those difficult periods of writer’s block and beyond. It’s the driving force behind completion.
- Tell us about your new book, and why everyone should read it.
The Istanbul Intrigue is a fun, exciting adventure story for all pre-teen readers. Anyone who’s a fan of Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys will love Ayesha Dean… Young Muslims don’t have much in the way of entertaining literature that reflects the experiences of Muslims growing up in Western cultures. While the numbers of western Muslim authors are increasing, there are still relatively few Muslim protagonists out there compared to the number of books in mainstream literature. I think it’s important that young Muslims can read about, and be proud of, modern Muslim heroines to balance out the Hollywood heroes that are dominating the entertainment industry today.
While The Istanbul Intrigue is an enjoyable, entertaining read for preteens, the overall message I hope it conveys is that young Muslim women can be proud of who they are, and can have a strong spiritual relationship with Allah, yet be able to develop great relationships with people of different backgrounds including non-Muslim friends and family, and have lots of fun at the same time.
- What was the best gift you ever received and why?
The gift of Ibn-Arabi. My Dad first introduced me to the Great Andalusian scholar several years ago and the little that I know of him has opened my heart in a way that I could not have perceived or appreciated earlier. Every so often Dad presents me with another book featuring his works, which means so much to me.
- What does it mean to be an author?
For me, writing a book was something that I always wanted to do. So the first one was a goal achieved. Now though, it’s on to the next one… and I think that may be a feature of my life from now on! Always looking at the next story…
- What would you like to see on Muslim Gift Guide?
There’s a beautiful variety of gifts on Muslim Gift Guide… Lately I’ve been searching with some difficulty for beautiful, safe, reasonably priced, nose jewellery. So I’d like to see some more of that if possible!
- How do you balance your creative business with personal life?
It’s a challenge for me at the moment to spend as much time as I would like on my writing because I have quite a demanding full time job, and alhamdulillah a family who I then want to spend most of my free time with. Life is a constant balancing act, so I try to schedule little bits of time in during the week or weekends to work on being a writer.
- Where can you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
Hopefully I become wiser, stronger (spiritually, physically and emotionally- we can always hope!); I hope to have written more stories; and at the very least have plenty of stories to tell :).
Follow Melati Lum!
All Photo Credits: Melati Lum.