Assalamu ‘alaikum Melati, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Salams, I’m from Adelaide, South Australia, and have parents who migrated here from Malaysia over 40 years ago. They originally came over to study, but ended up loving the lifestyle in Australia and staying on. My mum’s Malay and dad is Chinese Malaysian. Dad grew up in a Christian family and became Muslim while he was in university. My husband also comes from a non-Muslim family so as a family we have several different cultures to celebrate and participate in.
Most of my career so far has had something to do with the law, particularly criminal law. I’ve prosecuted serious crimes in the courts as a trial lawyer, and have spent some time working at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague on war crimes prosecution.
That’s awesome! What inspired you to write “Ayesha Dean: The Istanbul Intrigue”?
I’ve always loved reading for as long as I can remember. As a young Muslim growing up in a western environment, I never got to read about main characters from diverse cultures in my favourite books, let alone about Muslims. Nowadays there are more culturally diverse writers of fiction, but still not enough for the hungry reader! I wanted to contribute to increasing diversity in children’s fiction, and also writing something that young Muslims in the west could relate to and enjoy. I think it’s important that Muslim children are able to see some of their own experiences reflected in the stories that they read, and it’s also important for children who aren’t Muslims to be exposed to Muslim characters who are friendly, compassionate, and people who they’d like to get to know more of.
Okay, the three main characters Ayesha, Jess and Sara are great friends. Who do you think you are most like and why?
Ohhh! Even though Ayesha’s character is not based on me, out of the three of them, I’d have to say I’m most like Ayesha… But Ayesha is way cooler than me! I’m not sure I could tackle bad guys with a level head in the same way that she does. But there are definitely aspects of Ayesha’s character that I can relate to, for example her love for travel, her emotion when it comes to her Islam, and a little of her curiosity.
If you could talk to your younger self, hat advice would you give her?
I’d tell myself to listen to my mum when she told us not to skateboard holding onto the back of my friend’s bike on a hilly road that went around a bend that we couldn’t see past… We were very lucky we didn’t get more hurt!
Ouch! That sounds painful. If you were to write a book about your life, what do you think the title would be?
This is a hard one… I’d like to say “Journey to Infinity”, or perhaps even “TravelDeals.com”… but in reality, it’d be something more along the lines of “The School Run Balancing Act of a Working Mum Writer in Her YaYa Travelling Suit Pants”…
Growing up, who were your favourite authors?
I loved the Nancy Drew series, Baby Sitters Club series, and I read a lot of Judy Blume as a kid.
What would you like to achieve in the future?
I haven’t thought that far ahead! I’d like to have written more books. I’d hope to be in a position where I was satisfied with the work that I was doing and hopefully would have improved on getting the balance right between work, family and friends, health, the community, creativity and spirituality. I also hope to have visited more places and connected with more people along the way.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
The same advice I have to constantly give myself, since I am still very new to writing fiction… Believe and remember that you have the story within you, it’s just a matter of releasing it. Silence the little voice that tells you that you’re not good enough. Each person is unique, and this will be evident in the story that you tell. Keep going!
I know that you self-published your book. What was the writing and publishing process like for you?
The writing process was quite fun! The publishing process was more of a challenge, but also new and exciting in its own way. One of the great things I’ve learnt from the process is that it’s so helpful to connect with fellow authors who are going through similar challenges. The moral support you can provide as well as receive in the author community can be fantastic and was an unexpected delight for me.
What’s next for Ayesha Dean? Are you working on anything right now and what can you tell us about it?
I’m working on the next Ayesha Dean adventure, but you’ll have to wait to find out more!
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
The book is available to order from various online retailers such as www.bookdepository.com, www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com , and a variety of others. You can also pick the book up from some great bookstores in Australia. Follow me on facebook.com/melatilum.author ; Instagram.com/melati.lum ; twitter.com/melatilum or my website www.melatilum.com.au
Jazakallah khayr Melati, we wish you every success in your future endeavours inshaAllah!