On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, co-authors Asmaa Jamil and Kristin Johnson shares their experiences working together on Kingdom of Treasures, and what inspires them.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed authors Asmaa Jamil and Kristin Johnson about their experiences working together on Kingdom Of Treasures, what inspired the story, and the creatives writing process.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Asmaa – Originally from Northern Iraq, I was born into the Chaldean Christian ethnic group before moving to the United States, where I grew up. Leaving the corporate world not long ago to focus on my writing full time, I draw on my experiences living and working in several different countries to influence my creative process. While abroad, I learned about other cultures and their unique traditions, a key role in my development as a writer.
I hold a BS in Business from Oakland University, an MBA in International Business from Wayne State University, a PGCert in Management Information Systems from Oakland University, and an MLA in Near Eastern Languages from Wayne State University. I have over two decades of professional experience in retail and wholesale credit as well as entrepreneurship.
During this time period, I gained extensive cultural insights, working with diverse international teams in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America. I have extensive cultural knowledge as gained by living in Brazil, China, Singapore, and India, which is in addition to being born in Iraq and raised in USA. With expertise in strategic planning, forecasting, risk assessment, operations, business transformation and beyond, I’m an industry expert.
Raised in a family of storytellers, I always felt inspired by the power of a narrative. Specifically, I found that family stories were the most captivating, as they speak to audiences of all ages with ease. Not to mention I like that family stories foster opportunities for household gatherings and traditions.
Kristin – I’m originally from Michigan and I’ve lived in California for half my life. I have a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s in writing from the University of Michigan.
I’ve traveled in Asia and abroad and done research trips, but my overseas travel experience is not as extensive as Asmaa’s. That being said, I’ve worked with people all over the world from the US and Canada to Trinidad and Tobago to Japan.
I write fiction, nonfiction, and screenplays. I’m a prize-winning/ prize-finalist writer, blogger, ghost-writing/creative writing consultant, screenwriter, and editor. I’ve published/collaborated on several books and co-produced two short films, “Accidental Date” and “Aftermath,” which have been award winners, award finalists or semi-finalists in several film festivals.
I’ve adapted several books to screenplays/teleplays including THE LAST MOON by DeAnn Lubell. I’m a member of the Desert Screenwriters Guild, an officer of World Game-Changers, and a member of Palm Springs Women in Film and Television. I also work with the Happy Guy Marketing as a ghostwriter, which is how I came to work with Asmaa.
I was also raised in a family of people who love stories and the written word. Although I’m drawn to worlds of imagination, I do gravitate to uplifting family stories and enjoy the family memories and traditions they inspire.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
Asmaa – I first started writing TV show pilots, then movie scripts and then thought about writing books when an aunt read one of my movie scripts and said it should be a book. I did not think twice about it and said yes, it can be a book.
Kristin – And I loved Asmaa’s enthusiasm. Asmaa doesn’t hesitate and she seizes opportunities. It’s inspirational and motivational. That was the script we collaborated on, “Cinderella and her Daughter Ambarella,” in early 2020, which became the first book we wrote together, Magical Mountain. We were working on that script as the pandemic hit. As client and writer, Asmaa and I had worked on those TV show and movie synopses prior to that.
I first wanted to write a book at an early age, and this is one of many I’ve written. Not all of them have made it to publication, but thanks to our unique collaboration, these two books did. In terms of our first book together, in the summer of 2020 Asmaa and I started working on turning the screenplay into a book. Thank goodness for her aunt’s vision!
When did you take a step to start writing?
Asmaa – I have been writing since 2006.
Kristin – I’ve been writing since I was a child, but when I was at the University of Southern California it became a career for real. Although I’d written articles for newspapers and I’d published poetry, I took the leap to professional writer at, appropriately, the Master of Professional Writing Program.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Asmaa – I was writing the story for several years for a movie script and once someone pointed that it should be a book, it took around one year to write.
Kristin – Our first book together took a few weeks for a first draft because we gave ourselves a deadline. Asmaa converted the script to fiction, but the novel ended up taking us places we hadn’t thought of, and in turn the novelization made the script better.
Conversely, the book benefited from the first screenplay rewrite because initially Asmaa wanted a more satisfying resolution that also involved the fairies in a big way. One of our lead characters, Ambarella, needed to be more active in the final showdown with the antagonists, including her father. Asmaa did a lot of the conversion, but as she did so, I would rewrite and shape it and add more character description.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
Asmaa – Once the first book was written, I knew this was a series where I could incorporate so many beautiful stories from 1001 Arabian Nights. The second book took one year after the first one was published.
Kristin – It was one year later from idea to publication, as she said. We wrote it from scratch. Chapter by chapter. There was a lot of worldbuilding in it and we needed to get that right, then have it edited.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Kingdom Of Treasures?
Asmaa – The latest book is based on the Mazin of Khorassan from the 1001 Arabian Nights tales. It’s a beautiful story that very few people discuss from the 1001 Arabian Night Tales. It has an imaginative world which fit right into a perfect continuation from first book. There were lingering questions from Magical Mountain and readers would ask me what next. The latest book also allowed for new characters to shine in their own way and further develop main characters for the third book in the series.
Kristin – Asmaa and I teamed up again because, as she said, we wanted to revisit these characters and this unique fairy-tale world she has developed. It was a no-brainer for me working with her again and going back to the Visigothic Empire and the realm of the Seelie.
As a recent article about JRR Tolkien in Apple News said, “The snobbery of those who look down on fantasy has a long pedigree — so much so that, in 1947, J.R.R. Tolkien felt the need to defend the genre in his work, ‘On Fairy-Stories.’
For Tolkien, fantasy and fairy stories are not simply stories about fairies. They are stories that take place in a land of fairies.” Tolkien was right. The late Ray Bradbury also talked about it. Yes “Game of Thrones” was a smash hit and Harry Potter is a worldwide sensation, but people—especially among the intelligentsia—still tend to think of fantasy as childish.
Our book takes place in the human world, in the past, and in the land of fairies—the Seelie Islands in the sky. And uniquely, like the first book, it continues the story of Cinderella—as well as a thread from the story called “Mazin of Khorassan”—from the perspective of the fairies, including Tius and Roderic. The fairies are completely fascinating, especially the women.
With the release of the Amazon Studios adaptation of the Wheel of Time series, which is very female-focused, the time is ripe for the story of these powerful women, Oshana and Ambarella and Morgiana or “Morgi” and Lexi, also the antagonists, Fairy Duma/Eternal Godmother Luna.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Kingdom Of Treasures?
Asmaa – Ensuring the story is well told.
Kristin – Ensuring that our ideas meshed with each other, which they did. And, since this is a series, not giving away too much of the story that will take place in the future books. And having continuity with the first book.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
Asmaa – The original stories from 1001 Arabian Nights had great women character that were strong and intelligent but hidden underneath the male protagonists. I took those characters and gave them the center roles where they shined in battle and wisdom.
Kristin – Yes, Princess Oshana is a lovable heroine who may be a prisoner, but no damsel in distress. She’s strong and determined. The women take center stage, but we also have some admirable male characters. Tius was such a lovely, heroic guy in the first book that he needed his own storyline. We also lay the groundwork for Roderic’s storyline in this book.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
Asmaa – Life experiences and stories I have heard from others where some people are truly driven by power and greed.
Kristin – We have four antagonists! Fairy Duma was an antagonist in the first book, and she continues causing havoc in this book. The demonic and powerful Sinboo is another antagonist based on the story in 1001 Arabian Nights. Princess Oshana’s father King Petput and Fairy Godmother Luna are also antagonists who both want to punish Oshana and hurt her mother, but also make sure they maintain their power. I too infused life experiences and stories into our four antagonists. Our antagonists might be human, demon or fairy, but they’re drawn from people.
What is the inciting incident of Kingdom Of Treasures?
Asmaa – In both books, the inciting incident is the reaction and choices made by those that believe they are entitled to everything they desire.
Kristin – Yes. The inciting incident is when evil people respond to the goals of the sympathetic characters. In the first book, Queen Rella wishes to marry her dream man and there are those who want to ruin her happiness. In the second book, Tius and Roderic want to know more about their hidden heritage, and there are those who do not want them to take their place among the fairies.
What is the main conflict of Kingdom Of Treasures?
Asmaa – In Magical Mountain, the conflict lies between those that are willing to do anything to anyone to get what they want and those who follow the right path.
In Seelie Islands, the conflict lies between those what want to restore truth and those that want to bury it.
Kristin – She’s right. It’s good vs. evil because that’s always a conflict. In the first book, a cursed king, jealous sisters, and an evil fairy try to destroy one family’s happiness. In the second book, there’s also the half-Seelie Tius and Roderic versus the fairy establishment, and the Seelie versus the rival Pixii clan.
Did you plot Kingdom Of Treasures in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
Asmaa – I write freely, and the story came together at the end.
Kristin – Sometimes I will outline, but the outline often gets thrown out. In this case, we had a rough idea of the story and where we wanted to go. To a large extent, we wrote freely.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Kingdom Of Treasures need?
Asmaa – Yes. Besides having a ghostwriter/co-writer, an aunt and a friend edited the book as well as a freelancer.
Kristin – We both knew we needed an editor in addition to working together. You need more than one pair of eyes on your book. We also both went through the book several times, highlighting things that we wanted to discuss. The great thing about Asmaa is that she constantly wants to improve her craft and she is totally invested, as I am. We exchange ideas and our emails/messages fly back and forth.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Asmaa – Write and don’t correct things or make changes at first until you have a story you want to follow.
Kristin – Don’t get too frozen by what I call “the inner critic,” that part of your brain that wants to criticize every word you write. Also, if you are collaborating, trust the creative process and the magic.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Asmaa – This is a series of four books and the third book will be a retelling of Alibaba and Forty Thieves. The main character was introduced in book two.
Kristin – I typically have several book projects (and screenplays) in the works, but the third book in the series is definitely in my future plans.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Asmaa – I am very proud of what I have accomplished and the collaboration with Kristin. I also love when people give me feedback after they’ve read the book. It was worth it. I love writing and creating a world that other love to read about.
Kristin – I agree, a big part of what I’m proud of is the collaboration between Asmaa and me. Her imagination is incredible, and she’s always a delight to work with.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Kingdom of Treasures: Magical Mountain – Magical Mountain (Kingdom of Treasures): Jamil, Asmaa: 9798785387072: Amazon.com: Books
Kingdom of Treasures: Seelie Islands – Seelie Islands: Jamil, Asmaa, Johnson, Kristin: 9798412116853: Amazon.com: Books
Follow me on Twitter: https://Twitter.com/ AsmaaJamil8
Follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/asmaa-j-2aa8b96
Same book links as above.
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorKJ
Follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristin-johnson-810345/
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