Tell us about your
most recent book and how you came to write/illustrate it.
My latest MG novel The
Haunting of Falcon House is set in the city I was born and raised in, St.
Petersburg, Russia. The story takes place at the closure of the 19th century
within a few years after Russian
slavery, or rather serfdom, was abolished in 1861. On the surface, the book has
all of the tropes of the classic, gothic ghost story, but below the surface,
the narrative—as in all of my MG novels—is about a personal choice one must make
on the issue of equality and freedom for all.
I write children’s
books because I believe they’re the books that change people’s lives.
My favorite book as a child
was Watership Down by Richard Adams. I
re-read it as an adult, trying to understand why I’d loved it so much. More
than a thrilling adventure story about rabbits, I saw it was a story about the
big questions of human life: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where do we
belong? How should we live?
I think that’s why it
meant so much to me. My family’s roots are in the Middle East. My ancestors were Iraqi, Egyptian, Kurdish,
and Circassian Muslims. I grew up in Britain in the 1970s, where such origins
were unusual. Negotiations around identity, difference and belonging were daily
facts of my life. Even my name was an issue.
Sabah Falah Said is an ordinary Arabic name, but unpronounceable in
English! Whenever it came up, people
would question it to such an extent that I ended up using initials.