What if the Hunger Games were set in a fantasy world?
Contemplating that question during a discussion with her sisters sparked the idea behind YA author and popular designer Hafsah Faizal’s debut, We Hunt the Flame, a YA novel that took “four years and many iterations” to complete.
We Hunt the Flame features a huntress masquerading as a boy, as well as the prince sent to assassinate her. Evelyn Skye, New York Times bestselling author of The Crown’s Game series, called the ancient Arabia inspired fantasy “danger, magic, and hope all wrapped into one.”
Though the novel has received much praise from authors and advance readers all across the board, Faizal’s first and most infamous love is design.
“Designing is in my blood, thanks to my father, so I started tinkering with design at an early age— thirteen, to be exact— simultaneously learning the ropes of code,” Faizal said. “When I created my book blog, it gave me an excuse to keep revamping the look every so often, and as my audience grew, more and more people began inquiring about my services.”
You may know her as the founder of IceyDesigns, which boasts many bestselling author clients and has been featured on Huffpost Style, Brit + Co., Buzzfeed, and Bookriot. Faizal was seventeen when she founded the design company.
“[It was] around the same time I started writing,” she said. “I wrote and queried four manuscripts, all YA and science fiction, before I realized fantasy is where my heart thrives.”
Faizal says her background as a designer often impacts how she approaches writing.
“Being a designer makes me a very visual writer,” she said. “I tend to spend copious amounts of time when it comes to describing architecture, characters, and symbols— even the embroidery on an outfit’s cuffs! I honestly don’t think I can love one more than the other. Designing feeds the visual half of my soul, and writing sates my literary half.”
Faizal said what she loves most about the creative process is how often her own varies, which keeps it “fun and challenging.”
“Otherwise, I would have tired of it years ago,” she explained. “At its core, however, the process of initial idea to completed product in both writing and designing is about the same: consume enough for a healthy imagination, tinker with a good idea, bring it to fruition, and then revamp [and] edit until that good idea becomes something greater.”
Faizal said snags during the creative process can hinder her— anything from “a horrendous plot hole,” or design clients asking for things she doesn’t feel she can do.
“The harder the problem, the easier it is to second-guess my every ability and action,” she said. “But really, the projects that steal our tears, sweat, and cumbersome hours? They are the ones most worthy of our talents, the ones that are the most rewarding, which leads to my favorite part of the process— when everything comes together!”
Faizal has a long list of inspirational go-tos.
“I’m inspired by the people who can take the ordinary and twist it into something extraordinary,” she said. “I'm in awe of the people who are boxed in by society, but find amazing ways to break free. I'm inspired by photography, art, and stories that have the ability to swallow me whole, seeping into my bones, and transporting me elsewhere, making me think in a whole new way. And lastly, I'm immensely inspired by anyone who, when asked how [it feels] to be an overnight success, smiles as they relive the countless years and endless struggles they persevered through, when no one knew their name and no one lent them a hand.”
We Hunt the Flame releases May 2019. Faizal is currently hard at work on a final round of edits.
“Then, it’ll be time to work on the sequel!” she said.
Hiba Tahir is a YA author, a freelance journalist, and an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Arkansas.