It is my first time posting on the first and last day of a tour.
This also marks my first author interview, and I’m so glad it is with Maiya Ibrahim. Her debut novel came out last week and have heard many great things about the book.
I have removed the synopsis in this post. But you can check either my previous post or the link below to add this book to your tbr.
Now, let’s quickly jump to the interview to see what Maiya has to share about the book.
► Title: Spice road
► BY: maiya ibrahim
► Publishing: Random House Children’s
► on: January 24, 2023
► GENRE: Young Adult fantasy
► Series: the spice road trilogy #1
► paGES: 411 ► aGE: 13+
BUY BOOK: AMAZON | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound
Hi Maiya! It’s an honour to be interviewing you. Firstly congrats on your debut Spice Road! 🎉🥳 Can you introduce us to your brand-new book? How does it feel to have your first book published?
Hello, thank you so much for having me! In Spice Road, my Arabian-inspired YA epic fantasy, seventeen-year-old warrior Imani leaves her hidden desert city on a quest to find her missing older brother, whose betrayal is now her people’s greatest threat.
I’ve dreamed of being an author since I was a child, so it’s surreal to finally have my first book published after such a long journey. It’s been a blast connecting with readers and hearing their theories about what’s going to happen in the sequel (hint: lots of twists and reveals). But seeing the hilarious memes about Spice Road has definitely been one of the highlights.
And honestly, it’s also a bit of relief. Debut month is the busiest I have ever been in my life, so I’m looking forward to retreating a little after launch and spending time with my family (and the sequel draft!)
I: Once again congrats on your debut and hope have a good time with your family.
Tell us a little about your writing process and what inspired you to write this book?
My writing process is constantly evolving as I pick up new skills, but before I start a manuscript, I like to craft a pitch that I then expand into a broad outline of the story’s big beats. I tend to plot alongside a few of the popular beat sheets like ‘Save the Cat’, though not strictly. They’re more there as guard rails to stop me from veering too far into irregular-pacing-land. Once that’s done, I dive into the draft. I write a little or a lot until I run into a problem that leaves me no choice but to go back and refine the outline. Rinse and repeat until the outline is detailed from page one to ‘the end’, and the writing flows easily.
A major inspiration behind Spice Road was my dream of contributing to Arab and SWANA representation in fantasy. That kind of rep was seriously lacking when I was growing up and getting into the genre, so I set out to write the sweeping, epic fantasy that I would’ve loved to pick up when I was feeling invisible in high school.
I: That’s wonderful. Agreed. It’d be great to see more books with SWANA reps in mainstream fantasy.
Which character was the hardest to write?
Imani, without a doubt. I’ll preface this by saying that I endeavour to craft characters with true-to-life personalities that have been shaped by their contexts, and who get realistic emotional arcs.
For Spice Road, I wanted a fierce female protagonist who readers could root for while still being able to relate to her. That meant writing someone who is demonstrably rather than superficially flawed. For Imani specifically, she comes from privileged, sheltered circumstances and doesn’t know it. She can be brash and frustratingly stubborn, and she takes time to accept truths that challenge the worldview crafted for her by people and institutions she trusts completely. But she is earnestly trying to be the best person she can be, and her heart is in the right place.
I think therein was the challenge: striking the balance between affording Imani the time, space, and opportunity to mature like a real person does (incrementally, while retaining their core personality), and still showcasing her great qualities, like her loyalty to her family and people, her bravery, and her devotion to the ideals of justice and mercy.
It was much easier writing a character who readers could love instantly (*cough* Qayn *cough*), but I’m glad I brought Imani to life with her imperfections because I think (I hope) I’ve achieved what I set out to do.
I: I can see you’ve given more thought to Imani’s character. Looking forward to see her grow in this series!
What are you currently reading and watching? Are you enjoying them?
I’m currently reading two fantasy novels, both by Arab writers, both of which I am enjoying and strongly recommend! One is The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah, and the other is The Daughters of Izdihar by HadeerElsbai.
I’m not watching anything at the moment because I’ve been spending my very limited spare time reading or playing video games. That said, I am hoping to catch up on the last season of Peaky Blinders post-book release, and I really want to watch the sequel to Knives Out! For anyone reading this, give me your recommendations! I love SFF, true crime, history, mystery, thriller, speculative—I’ll pretty much give anything a try if it’s good.
I: You heard Maiya. If you have any recs feel free to share it with her. I’ll be linking her social media handles below.
Let’s spice up this interview! match 5 characters in the book with 5 spices
Oooh! I love interview questions that make me think about my book in new ways!
I think cumin would match Imani’s personality—robust, rich, warm, but with an edge you need to watch out for.
Taha’s spice would probably be black pepper—complex, sharp, earthy, with a bite.
Atheer, Imani’s big brother, matches the zaatar spice. It’s a blend that works with absolutely everything, and I think it suits him because he’s described as being loved by the entire city(almost), and he’s just an all-round pleasant person!
I think Amira, Imani’s sister, goes with cinnamon, which is one of those spices that’s spicy but can be sweet, depending on the dish it’s added to. That seems to work for her—she’s loveable, but she’s a fighter too, and stubborn in her own way.
Last but certainly not least, I think our roguish djinni, Qayn, would be aniseed, which has a liquorice flavour. It’s sweet, aromatic, and a little spicy. Personally, I find the flavour bitter at first, and then sweet, and I think that’s perfect for him.
I: Love your answers!! They all sound rich with flavours and personality. Can’t wait to learn more about them from the book.
What are 5 things you need to have in your bag and can’t go without?
- Mobile phone
- Car/House keys
- Lipstick because I look like an unfinished sketch without a touch of colour on my lips. I’m currently wearing Spiced Cocoa by Revlon, which is a pretty appropriate name given this interview!
- Hand sanitizer and a mask (okay, I cheated, they’re two items but we’ll slot them together under ‘pandemic accessories.’)
Thank you! This was fun!
I: Awesome! Mask and sanitizer are an inseparable pair so we’ll keep them as one 😉
It was great chatting with you Maiya, and good luck with drafting the sequel and your future projects!!
About the Author
Maiya Ibrahim is the debut author of SPICE ROAD, publishing January 24, 2023 from Delacorte Press and Hodder & Stoughton. She graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Technology Sydney. When she isn’t writing, reading, or spending time with her family, she enjoys video games, gardening, and expanding her collection of rare trading cards. She lives in Sydney, Australia.
She is represented by Peter Knapp of Park & Fine Literary and Media, Claire Wilson of RCW Literary, and Mary Pender-Coplan of United Talent Agency.
this was such a lovely interview, can’t agree more with the amira-cinnamon pairing! 💖