From her debut novel City of Stars in 2013 and her second The Pigeon Chronicles in 2015 to her most recent offering, The Elemental, Emirati author Sara Galadari seems poised to establish herself as a force to be reckoned with on the UAE literary scene.
Her third novel, available now on Amazon, is described as “a page-turning dark fantasy that explores how the key to a promising future lies in stories from the past.”
Sara, who works in procurement for industrial company Emirates Global Aluminium, tells City Times how she balances her professional and personal life with her passion for writing. She calls her style of writing “dynamic”, in that it isn’t constrained by a specific genre, but allows her to explore penning a diverse range of stories.
Her love for storytelling was inspired by an early interest in human behaviour and cognitive sciences, which led her to pursue a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science in Communication in the United States.
She reveals she is honoured to have fulfilled her dream to be recognised as an Emirati author and is all praise for her home country, the UAE, for constantly striving to encourage women to pursue their chosen fields through a tremendous infrastructure of support.
We speak to Sara about her new novel, her rituals as a writer, her love for books and libraries, and more.
Your most recent novel The Elemental falls into the dark fantasy/horror category, a genre different from your previous novels. As a novelist, what is your greatest source of inspiration — is it an idea that stems from people, places or situations you’ve witnessed, or is it all purely imaginative?
Each story has its different source of inspiration, and the possibilities are limitless! Sometimes, an idea can spark from a simple interaction I’ve had or observed, and some ideas strike when travelling and visiting new places and historic sites. My imagination takes me the rest of the way in visualising how a story could take place, and I begin to put the pieces together to create a story.
The Elemental has a female protagonist, Elara Jove, who sets out on a thrilling, mystery-cracking adventure. What are her greatest strengths and what can you reveal to us about the story?
The Elemental is centred around Elara’s adventures in unravelling a set of cryptic messages that warns of a devastating future, which leads her to unveil the long-lost dark past of her world. Together with her friends, she enters into a race against time to defeat the sinister forces working to seize and corrupt her world.
I really enjoy writing female protagonists to highlight how powerful women can be, to add another strong female role model in literature for others to look up to, and to potentially inspire other young girls to follow their dreams. However, I also really wanted to write an imperfect character — a realistic one that can be easy to relate to, rather than an impossible standard to try and reach for.
Elara’s strengths come from her mind; her defining feature is her intelligence and ambition, which was crucial in figuring out the mysteries she needed to solve. However, she also has her own flaws — she has moments where she is shrouded in guilt and self-doubt, which causes her to second-guess herself at times, and she becomes her own obstacle to overcome as well.
Every writer has a unique creative process of putting together a novel. Once you have an idea for a novel, what is your ritual for writing on a daily basis?
When an idea for a novel comes to mind, I usually don’t know how the story is going to play out, or how its end is going to look like until I’m actually writing that very scene. I think that is what makes writing fun, too. I can’t wait to begin writing a new chapter because I can’t wait to find out what happens next in the story, and the anticipation is a driving factor in keeping me committed to finishing a story.
I find that I write in bursts of energy rather than sticking to a schedule. I have to recognise times where I have the creative energy and the capacity to write to keep it enjoyable, and balance it with other times where I need to attend to other responsibilities.
As someone who has a full-time day job, what are the challenges of balancing your passion for writing with your professional and personal life?
Finding the balance between my professional and personal life, as well as my passion for writing, can be challenging. It involves a lot of self-discipline, but I also think that the best way to find the right balance is to listen to yourself, and recognise times where you have the time and energy to follow through on your passion, and times where you might need to take a step back and catch your breath.
Ultimately, I find that if you are truly passionate about something, you can’t just wait for the right time to come and present itself to you for you to be able to chase it; you have to make the time.
Writers are often inspired at an early age by iconic novelists or stories. Growing up did you read a lot? How has your love for books inspired your love of writing?
I was constantly reading as a child. One of the highlights of my childhood was the weekly trips my mother would take me on to The Old Library in Dubai, where I devoured every book I could get my hands on. Whenever my family and I would go on long trips together, I would try and pack as many books as I could bring along with me for the ride. I was always itching at seizing every opportunity I could to find time to read another story.
With every book I read, I discovered that I had my own ideas for stories as well, and began writing them down. It was exciting to develop my own stories and plotlines, and I enjoyed being able to share them with others and watch the magic of them being transported into my own imagination unfold.
Are there any places in particular in Dubai that you love to visit to browse through books? What are your thoughts on e-reading versus actual books?
Although I haven’t visited in years, the first place where I fell in love with books was The Old Library. Nowadays, I love browsing through the shelves of Kinokuniya and Borders.
While I love e-reading, there is nothing quite like holding a book in your hands and having the scent of its pages fill your senses. But I have to admit that e-reading is much more convenient, especially since you can practically bring your entire library with you wherever you go!
The UAE has always supported and encouraged women in any field they choose to pursue. As an Emirati, how has the country shaped your professional vision and inspired you to pursue your writing as well?
The leaders of the UAE lead by example, and we’ve witnessed the many incredible feats that they’ve accomplished that pushed our country to the centre of the world’s stage. Great leaders inspire their people, and we constantly see how the people of the UAE are inspired and encouraged to pursue their passions, and how the nation celebrates our achievements together. It’s always been a dream of mine to become one of the UAE’s authors, and it’s an absolute honour to be recognised as one.
You describe your style of writing as ‘dynamic’ — do you believe you are a writer who is constantly evolving and growing with each story, each novel?
Definitely. As I grow and evolve as a person, so does my world view, ideologies, and ideas. Every story I write reflects a different part of me, and is influenced by the different stages of my life.
Who are the writers you were most influenced by over the years?
JK Rowling, Jodi Picoult, Charlotte Bronte, and LM Montgomery. I love reading their stories because of the way they showcase strong female protagonists who were fuelled by their own ambitions and passions.
Reading their stories, relating to their characters, and watching them as they overcame their obstacles and embarked on exciting adventures of their own, made me feel that I could do the same — that I could do anything I put my mind to, no matter how far away or impossible the goal may seem.
As someone who likes different leisure activities ranging from thrilling extreme sports to visiting museums and learning about history, what are your favourite places to visit and things to do in the UAE?
I love visiting the museums around UAE, like the Dubai Museum and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, as well as the historical sites that are scattered across the Northern Emirates.
Global Village is also one of my favorite places to visit, since it’s an opportunity to explore bites of cultures around the world. Most of all, I look forward to the family trips that we take every year out to the desert; we take a nice, quiet break away from the city and get lost in nature.
THE ELEMENTAL - A 'DARK FANTASY' WITH A MESSAGE
The story is centred around a young woman’s adventures in unravelling a set of cryptic messages that warns of a devastating future, which leads her to unveil the long-lost dark past of her world. Together with her friends, she enters into a race against time to defeat the sinister forces working to seize and corrupt her world, and discovers that not all enemies appear as they seem.
The overall message of the story emphasises the value of healthy ties with family and friends, and how preserving history and cultivating knowledge yields societal progress.
SARA'S PREVIOUS NOVELS
Sara’s first two novels, City of Stars and The Pigeon Chronicles, were published in 2013 and 2015 respectively. City of Stars explores themes of prejudice and gender equality, while The Pigeon Chronicles is a darkly humorous take around the author’s fascination with pigeons. Both books are available on Amazon.