Since always, fantasy has populated the literary world. By freeing itself from the boundaries of reality, it offers a space of freedom to its readers, in a world where the power of the imagination prevails over the realm of reality. This is particularly the case in Saudi Arabia where the young author Ossama al Muslim was recently noticed by becoming one of the top sales of the kingdom with “Orchards of Arabistan”, a trilogy populated by jinn and wizards.
The literary successes of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings trilogy illustrate well the ability of fantasy and science fiction to captivate the crowds. By creating parallel worlds supposedly far from our reality, they finally tell a lot about our current societies and their potential slides.
In Saudi Arabia, Osamah al Muslim is among this wave of young authors who are part of the fantasy literary movement of the country. He wrote three books between 2015 and 2017. His first one The Fear (Khawf) won the ninth place bestseller at Jarir bookstore, and his second one Orchards of Arabistan has been edited ten times. A universe inhabited by demons and witches, which earned him the criticism of few religious.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Writing to me started at a very young age. It began as simple drawings actually. At the age of 5, I was drawing on any piece of paper I could find and by the age of 9, I started using letters to express my feelings. Gradually, that didn’t feel like enough so I started creating worlds on paper that I wanted to live in and characters I wished I could meet and interact with. I never saw myself as a “writer” even until this day. I just shared my fantasies with others by publishing what I wrote and apparently, people liked living with me in those worlds.
What do you like about writing?
Escaping … that’s the most thing I love about writing. When I write I teleport to another world where I have control over everything. Writing helps me discover myself each time I type a letter. Most of the time I feel like a divine power that can control & manipulate the lives of the catheters I create. It is an intoxicating feeling and I got addicted to it the more I do it.
What attracts you more to the imaginary world vs more realistic novels?
As I mentioned earlier … fantasy provided me with portals that I can use to leave my own world and experience different feelings. It was never an intentional choice to write fantasy I just loved the freedom it provided me in creating whatever I liked with no boundaries. So it’s fair to say that “freedom” was the lure that hooked me to fantasy writing and I like to believe that fantasy chose me not the other way around.
What inspired you the story of “orchards of Arabistan”?
My second book “The Orchards of Arabistan” was inspired by the first fantasy book I read which was “Arabian nights”. It had a major impact on me, I loved every aspect of it and wanted to read more of the same magic but to my surprise, there was no literature that even came close to what was presented in that magnificent series. so, I did what I always do when I can’t find something I want … I try to create it for myself … and I did.
Why did you choose that your two characters would be two women?
Women as main characters are a general theme in most of my novels not just “The Orchards of Arabistan” and that’s mainly because of my personal belief that women have better qualities and aspects to be heroes. Furthermore, most of the people that I consider as idols in my life and had the most influence on me growing up were strong women.
How do you explain the success of your novels in the kingdom, especially towards women?
A simple answer to this question is that those who want to escape their reality will have more appreciation for my books and want to read them more. I think my overlapping theme of empowering women throw-out my body of work was a major factor in making most of my readers female especially having female heroines in my stories which is almost non-existing in Arabic literature which has really bothered me for a long time and I’m sincerely trying to change that.
You joined the Arab league for science-fi “Yatakhayaloun”. Could you present it?
The “Arab fantasy league” was created two years ago when some fantasy and horror writers felt that our field of writing was not represented well despite the growing fan base year by year. It started as an idea by fellow fantasy writer and dear friend Ibrahim Abbas who pitched the idea to a few writers. I was one of those writers and we all agreed to start the league and made it official by attending a group book signing in Jeddah where it was announced officially, no official books were published under the league till this day but we still act as a self-proclaimed union for fantasy & horror writers.