How Kummam al-Maadeed sparked the imagination of Qataris with her fantasy novels
text BY Shams Al-Shakarchi
Taking inspiration from the ancient civilisations of Rome and Babylon, to the action-packed adventures in anime and the spellbinding stories of Harry Potter, Kummam al-Maadeed created a magical world of her own to become Qatar’s first English-language fantasy author.
Growing up, Kummam al-Maadeed made up stories all the time. Inspired by all the books she read, from the spellbinding world of Harry Potter to Jane Austen’s 18th century scandals, Kummam created her own adventures. But it was the “unlimited possibilities” of fantasy that allowed her imagination to wander.
“I can write about anyone going through anything in a world of my own creations,” the Qatari author told QRM. “Fantasy simplifies deep and serious issues and delivers important messages through beautiful and magical journeys.”
Kummam began writing as a student in 2007, when her sister encouraged her to pursue her passion after hearing about a fantastical dream. She put pen to paper and wrote a blog of film reviews.
The Lost Rose
Published in English in 2016, translated to Arabic in 2018
Published in 2019
Sparks of Imagination
Published in 2019
After finishing a degree in Public Relations and Advertising at Qatar University and starting a career in PR, Kummam turned her attention to literary writing. Her first book, The Lost Rose, was self-published in English in 2016 and translated to Arabic in 2018. It follows Clara and Luca’s quest to save the kingdom of Tharun from the grasp of evil sorcerer Adrian. He is determined to magically enslave Clara into marriage, while a closely-guarded secret threatens Clara and Luca’s bond and their battle to stop Adrian.
Seeing her work in print was a dream come true: Kummam became Qatar’s first English-language fantasy author. “It’s hard to put it in words. I was overwhelmed by people’s positive reactions, by the fulfilment of my life dream. It really isn’t easy to explain,” she said.
In 2019, her second novel, Calling Magic, was published by Qatar’s major publishing house Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press. It received high acclaim and earned Kummam a following of enthralled fans. It was sustaining the momentum with a third successful novel which saw her change tack.
Sparks of Imagination, a ‘flash fiction’ anthology, also released in 2019, was the antidote to a “really bad writer’s block”, she said, allowing small ideas to gain ground and giving readers a glimpse of new characters and kingdoms.
For Kummam, writing – especially fantasy writing – is a healer, distracting people from everyday life and helping them process issues through a character’s experience. “I used writing to process and heal from things I have gone through such as depression and severe self-doubt,” Kummam said.
“These issues are universal. Everyone can relate to them, especially young adults who are my target audience. One day a reader told me that The Lost Rose helped her with her depression and that was the best and most important compliment I ever had.
“I feel lucky to have this medium to help people and this is why I tell everyone who is willing to listen that fiction is important. It helps us a lot with coping with life.”
A world-stopping pandemic has brought many of these issues into focus, forcing people to find new ways to cope. Kummam, who is Acting Director of Communications and Public Relations at Qatar University, felt the anxiety herself. “It was a hard time for me. I work in communications, so the stress of my job took a hold of me,” she said.
“I had to remind myself to be kind and allow my soul to feel what it needed to feel”
“I did not write and I felt so guilty. But in the end, I had to remind myself to be kind and allow my soul to feel what it needed to feel. Now, I am slowly getting out of the writing rut and finding a new routine that considers the uncertainty of life.”
And while 2021 has started off on the same uncertain path, Kummam manages to find moments of magic outside of her make-believe novels. “It’s all about enjoying the little moments in life, like hot tea with mint, and milk chocolate,” she said.
“It was hard in 2020 to feel these things, but I tried my best to slow down and re-evaluate my life and focus on the things that matter to me the most. Feeling grateful for all God’s blessings and seeing the light in everything is what brings magic in one’s life.”
Kummam continues to be inspired by stories old and new, from the ancient civilisations of Rome and Babylon, to action-packed adventures in anime. She is currently working on a sequel to Calling Magic and is collaborating with fellow Qatari writer Abdulla Fakhroo on a fantasy book, Fangs of Blood and Ashes.
Meanwhile, she stays motivated thanks to her fans on Instagram: “I enjoy their enthusiasm whenever I post about my books. They helped me through so many hard days and I am very grateful for them.”
Photos: Courtesy of Kummam al-Maadeed