Today we’re chatting with Alia Alshamsi, a woman who seems to be able to do literally everything and who’s just added children’s book author to her CV. Alia has just released a beautiful children’s eBook called Alayah, a cute story of a little girl born with grains of sand in her hair that just won’t budge (we can relate after each trip to the beach!) – and is all about staying connected to your roots in today’s fast paced world. The book is fantastic – you can grab it through Amazon here or through the App store here.
What’s the inspiration behind this story?
I was going through a very self-reflective period. It was a tough period in my life where I found myself disconnected from who I was and facing many changes and challenges. My safe place is Jumeirah beach as it’s where I grew up, I have so many memories that all revolve on those shores. As I was walking back to my car, I noticed I had sand everywhere, my feet, my hands and my hair. That sparked the inspiration. Yes, I was currently living far from my shore and times were hard, but that beach was part of me like I was a part of it. It was then that I realised everything would all be alright.
What age group is Alayah targeted to?
I tried to keep the language simple enough for a 3 year old, but meaningful enough to be appreciated by all ages. It’s a simple story with a complex emotional message, which can connect with people regardless of their background.
You’ve decided to go the eBook route, rather than go for traditional print. Why?
I chose eBooks for two main reasons: firstly as a pilot project, it’s a great platform to keep the project sustainable and secondly, I was hoping to reach out to the iPad generation. I do think print books are indispensable however Alayah will remain as it is. I never want it to become commercial.
Currently the eBook is in English, but will this also become available in Arabic and other languages?
The Arabic version is ready. It was always meant to be in Arabic too and I’m planning to have a reading in Arabic very soon.
Will Alayah have a sequel or will your next book be a different story all together?
I have actually been asked about that on several occasions and am actually considering a series.
But the second book is a new book and I am finalising the illustrations with Hudhud (my illustrator). It’s actually the first book I wrote and it’s very special to me. However, I wanted to get all the feedback and reviews on Alayah before working on it. It’s titled: Booh! Where are you? Its target age is slightly older and is all about growing up.
Can you tell us more about who helped you with this project?
I am blessed to have had two friends on this project. One of them was Iman Ben Chaibah founder of Sail Publishing who actually pushed me to write and publish. Another is Hudhud (Hedaya Al Rahma), who brought my dream to life through her illustrations. It’s a passion project for the three of us.
How can our readers download a copy of Alayah?
You seem to do it all with experience as an author, photo-journalist and poet. How do you feel these all complement each other?
You need to live life and I don’t mean passively, I mean you need to be in the moment as a photographer, a poet, a lecturer and even working in my current job in marketing. I do everything with a passion or I don’t do it all.
You’ve got a wonderful 4 year old son, how do you juggle between being a mama and your career?
I make sure that I’m a mother first and foremost – everything else is secondary. I am also blessed with two amazing parents who are phenomenal grandparents. I had the best childhood ever and I am so happy my son gets to have part of that experience with them.
Did your son have any input in writing Alayah?
I was actually very nervous at the first reading I did! I read Alayah at A4 Space in Al Serkal Avenue and it was his first time hearing it. He was mesmerised and he completely owned it, in the sense that he asked me to reread it every night until he began reading it to me. It was the best review I could ever get.