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Darkness, Kingdoms and Islam: An Interview with Novelist Tavis J. Hampton

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Tavis J. Hampton lives in Indianapolis where he works as a library media specialist. He writes under the pen name Tavis Adibudeen and over the past few decades has written hundreds of poems, short stories and newspaper and magazine articles. His first novel, The Golden Scrolls, was published in September 2006.

How long have you been writing?

From the time I was a child. My first book was "published" when I was in first grade. My mother still has the only copy. It was a story about our dog, Aristotle, running away. All of the students in our class made their own books using construction paper and paste. The teacher laminated the pages and bound them together.

I started writing articles for the school newspaper in high school and also wrote for a local newspaper as an intern. In 1999 I started a non-profit Islamic web site that is now one of the most well-respected in the community at-large, with thousands of visitors each month from all over the world. As editor, I do not do as much writing as I used to, but I still try to publish a research essay every other month.

Together with a good friend of mine, we established the Muslim Writers Society, where people can freely publish their works on our site. There are also plans for an anthology. Currently, we have over 400 members.

Do you write every day? What sort of targets do you set yourself when you are writing?

I do write every day, but with the responsibilities of family and a full-time job, I do not always have time to work on my books.

I have, however, become a regular blogger. The amount of time I spend writing varies according to my schedule. Sometimes I might spend several hours in one day. Other days I don't get to write at all.

When I was writing The Golden Scrolls, I set a firm date for completion, but I did not set targets for the number of pages or chapters. I finished the book ahead of schedule. It was actually suppose to be completed by January 2007. I accomplished my goal by taking about an hour each day to write. Although I was not able to write every single day, I wrote more often than if I had not set that goal for myself at all.

When and where was The Golden Scrolls published?

It was published in the United States in September 2006 and is currently available worldwide. I self-published the book using Lulu.com. The Golden Scrolls is about a kingdom on the brink of an unfathomable darkness that was creeping closer to them and consuming everything in its path. Other kingdoms had already fallen, and the people of Cor were awaiting a Chosen One who would find the long lost Golden Scrolls. These scrolls contained the only remedy to the darkness that plagued these people.

To the surprise of everyone, the Storyteller, their guide and protector, believed that Fuad, a 12-year-old boy, was the Chosen One. Fuad left from Cor to find the scrolls, and It is there that the adventure begins.

Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult? Which did you enjoy most?

I created an entire world with 13 kingdoms, tens of characters, and an entire back-history to the book. I had to keep diligent notes; I'm talking pages and pages of it. It was sometimes difficult to keep everything straight. Fortunately, my wife and my editor both helped sift through all of it.

Once I had developed this world, my characters began to take on their own personalities. People come up to me and tell me what the Storyteller should say or what Fuad should have done. It is easy to fall in love with many of these characters and to wish to see them reach whatever goals they set out for themselves. At the end of the book, it brought tears to know that the journey had ended and that they would no longer be a part of my daily life.

How long did it take you to write it?

I started writing a short fable almost four years ago. It was supposed to be only a few pages, but after a few months of pondering over it, the pages multiplied. Then, I stopped for a couple of years. After getting married, my wife encouraged me to finish the story. Last year, I finally took her advice.

What would you say are your main concerns as a writer?

I just tell the stories. I do not pretend to have mastered the art of writing. But in the end, it is all about the story and the message. People want to read a good story. They don't care how many times you split infinitives or how many big words you use. They want a story that means something to them. My goal is to deliver that story to them in a nicely bound easy-to-read package.

I want my message to be clear. Writing for me is a way of reaching people who otherwise would not hear my message. I do not write simply to entertain. Every book, every fable, and even every line on a page has some deeper meaning. It can be a moral message, a spiritual message, or a social commentary. When conveying it, I do not want to make it too obvious, but I also do not want to obscure the meaning. It is a thin line to walk, but, hopefully, I traverse it well.

When people tell me that my writing has positively affected them, that motivates me to continue the journey.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

As a Muslim, who converted to Islam ten years ago, my life has taken a decidedly different direction than it could have. Any time someone has a life-altering experience, it affects everything and everyone around him. Each choice has a ripple effect in the pond of life, and those ripples spread out in all directions and touch all people.

My book is not about Islam, which is drastically different from many modern Muslim authors. I have taken a classical approach to writing. In the height or golden age of Islamic civilization, the authors transcended writing about mundane issues and created some of the most celebrated written works in history, including science, mathematics, sociology, and even fiction.

So, rather than boring my audiences with a book about regulatory issues of Islamic law or family moral values, I have woven a tale, one that begins with flawed people, and the story follows those people as they progress and grow. It is truly character-driven; my story is about people, rather than events.

What made you convert to Islam?

There was no one event or experience. It was the culmination of life experiences and realizations. Ultimate realization comes through self-reflection and contemplation on the Divine Presence. I try to send this message in my books without directly associating it with any religion. All people, religious or not, can relate to the concept of introspection. We have a saying, "He who knows himself knows his Lord."

In Britain, for example, the image that is being painted of Muslims is that they are terrorists. Why do you think this is so?

There are terrorists from all religions, cultures, and societies. To associate one group of people with terrorism is prejudicial and naive. It is unfortunate that some people do not take the time to educate themselves.

In the United States, we have a long history of indigenous Muslims, whereas the U.K. primarily has a community of immigrants. Islam in America dates back to pre-Columbian times , particularly among people of African descent. In our communities it has been commonplace for generations. It is not a new phenomenon.

It would make my response unduly long to go into the details of analyzing people's perceptions of Islam. Perhaps I will write a book on this topic in the future.

What will your next book be about?

My next book, The Sword of Kelterya, is already in the works. It is the second book of The Golden Scrolls, a year after the events of the first book.

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