‘How do you decide how to live your life?’
That is the central question that Ammar Al Naaimi poses to his readers, who he believes have an equal interest in the juxtaposition of fantasy and realism to identify their life paths.
“Freedom and choice of purpose are really important to me on a personal level. This is why I never stray too far from this topic. I feel like if I can resolve it, my own life will fall into place somehow. Besides, it’s a fun puzzle to tackle,” he quips, as he reflects on his passion to write fantasy novels that revolve around magic and jinn and the freedom to carve out his own path in life.
Describing that passion, he says: “I write novels and short stories exploring people’s freedom to choose their own paths through life, as well as local themes. I focus a lot on magic, action, and jinn in my work. When not writing fantasy, I work as a communications professional at Mohammed Al Barwani Group of Companies.”
Ammar first got inspired to try his hand at writing novels after reading a book titled ‘The Name of The Wind’, by Patrick Rothfuss. “Someone urged me to try writing, so I began to practice,” he recalls. And that practice led him to publishing short stories via Twitter in 2019, earning people’s ‘likes’ and positive feedback. It leveraged his passion to delve into the world of novel writing, which has endeared him to bibliophiles, both within and outside the country.
Noting that it has, since, been an interesting journey, with several books published through independent publishers, he says, “I am thankful to everyone who has supported me by preordering and buying the books, as well as commenting and sharing on social media.”
Author of ‘Sarim’, ‘Unoriginal Tales: Ten Fantastical Stories from Oman’, ‘Majan Chronicles’ and ‘Hazim’, Ammar is prepping up to publish ‘Mumeet’, the third and the final part of the trilogy – Sarim and Hazim – which is behind schedule, but which he aims to publish in 2024.
Ammar’s Creative Influences
Musing about his favourite authors and how they have shaped his approach to writing fantasy novels, Ammar says, “My favorite authors are Patrick Rothfuss, Stephen King, and Brandon Sanderson. Patrick teaches me to be thoughtful and write well and with beauty. King teaches me to choose the simplest path to the most powerful emotional outcome, and Brandon teaches me to love writing and the magic that can be found at the end of a pen.
“I’m also a big fan of Bushra Khalfan’s writing and took a writing workshop with her, which really helped structure my writing.”
Commenting on the themes in his books and the audience it targets, he states, categorically, that the topics are not intended to establish any emotional connect with young readers. “To be honest”, he says, “I try to avoid writing for young readers, as I feel like there’s a lot out there for them. My big target segment is 17 to 35 year olds – my age segment – they are the people who seem to have the biggest interest in the central question I like to ask: How do you decide how to live your life?” he adds.
Genre and Target Audience
Ammar’s target readers also belong to the age category that his themes speak to. As he notes, “My target readers are people who love fantasy and are exploring their own lives; they are likely to be between 18 and 35 years of age. My genres of choice are urban fantasy (think Harry Potter) and epic/high fantasy (think Lord of The Rings), but with a local jinni twist. I think folklore has a real place in the Omani identity, so I always try to give it a place in my stories,” he explains.
Listing out the challenges that he faced in the initial days of his writing career, he states, matter-of-factly: “The main challenge was and continues to be running into people who believe that reading is not fun. While I agree that today’s world has a lot of varied media like movies, songs, series, and social video platforms; I think that this actually gives writers and books more freedom. It means that the people who want to read books really like the act of reading itself. We end up with a purer, more dedicated community, which I think is a beautiful thing.”
However, there is no denying that writing itself can be a solitary pursuit, demanding a balancing act, more so when one has to handle a full time career. While Ammar manages to dedicate an hour each day to writing, he agrees that it can be a difficult proposition at times. “It’s a tricky balancing act and I don’t always succeed; but I think that’s how juggling is supposed to be anyhow,” he jests.
Advice for Wannabe Authors
Ammar has the following advice for new writers trying to break into the publishing industry: “Read a lot. The main hurdle when writing is going to be the actual sentence structures and word choices. It’s difficult to write well if you keep interrupting yourself to think of the right word.”
For readers and fans of the author awaiting the launch of his new book ‘Mumeet’, here is a little peek into the story in his own words: “So far, I can tell you that the book starts in a magical prison; that it has some elements of COVID-19; and that Mishal is trying to understand what the different colors of fire that he can summon could possibly mean.”
Snippets of Ammar’s Books:
Mishal was ten years old when he first met demons.
Now, five years later, the jinni still lives in his head, terrifying both Mishal and his parents. At times, Mishal’s hands burst into bright yellow flames. However, one day an old man called Shayib Ghalib arrives with his white cane and helps Mishal with the jinni. When he invites Mishal to join the Public Authority for Anti-Jinn Operation, Sarim, the teenager is thrust into a world of magic, jinn, and prophecy.
Hazim is the second part of the Sarim series. After many struggles, Mishal Al Balushi is now a team leader at Sarim. But while he tries to befriend the team and trust them, he discovers that an ancient jinni is out to possess one of his friends. Will Mishal be able to help him? And what is he willing to give up to save his friends?
Majan Chronicles is a series of fictional short stories that explore Oman and narrate the daily dramas of everyday lives. Each story is a small, fun adventure into the soul of a different Omani: A retiree who doesn’t know what to do with his life anymore, a volunteer worker who goes to Al Batinah after Cyclone Shaheen, a girl who doesn’t want to feel alone anymore in her house of silence… Each story has a unique perspective and offers insight into different themes – such as volunteerism, love, the benefits of boredom, and parenthood.
As a bonus, each story has a QR code which takes the reader to an audio version of the story.