When Tavis Stewart speaks of his debut novel, Ibbie’s Fashion Adventures: Around the World to Catch a Thief, he gives much of the credit to his wife, Asil Attar, the CEO of Alyasra Fashion in Kuwait.
Throughout most of the entire conversation, he speaks of her achievements, how she has inspired the protagonist, and how her background has literally shaped his imagination. With Stewart, his wife is not behind him, but walking alongside him, a partner on his journey, whom he reveres. Here, he answers more focused questions regarding the book.
You say it is essential for books classified as Young Adult to convey messages. How are you seeking to inspire the youth in this series?
My own daughter Bryony has been an avid reader from a young age. As she grew into her teens it became more difficult to find books that had a positive and social message. That’s when I started to write this first book of the Ibbie series for teenagers, to bring that sense of real adventure and multi-cultural friendships, along with a way to open their eyes to the social issues that face their peers in other countries around the world. My daughter is no longer a teen, but she was the first one to get this book and is loving reading it now. A twist in the story involves fighting for justice.
So, in essence, you bridge the divide between fashion and humanitarianism. Was that difficult in a world that places us into boxes, that encourages us to stick to our passions without venturing outside our respective fields?
Alhamdulallah, it wasn’t difficult for me because my wife ‘is’ the example of how to bridge those two worlds. We both have a focus on social responsibility as part of our work and our lives, which has brought us into personal contact with all the characters in this book. For me, I was influenced by Anita Roddick, the late founder of The Body Shop in England with whom I worked in the 1990’s. She forced all of us to venture far outside our respective fields and explore new personal horizons which has influenced me for the last 20 years.
It must be easy to have a muse for a wife! Ibbie is loosely based on your spouse, Asil. And though they both share a love of fashion, how similar are they in terms of mannerisms and personality?
As I didn’t know her when she was coming into her teens, I have used my imagination based on how she is now. We are both great believers in never growing up, so I still see the rather clever opinionated little girl in her every day. The main characteristic used that she has always displayed, is her caring nature and this is the essence of Ibbie. She may always want to do things her way, but she always makes sure that nobody gets hurt.
This is the first book of a series. Will each of the books be a standalone or will you have to read them in an order to understand each story?
Inshallah, there will be five books in the series, and each one can be read as a unique story. However, Ibbie will get older in each book, so reading them as part of a series will help the reader to understand her experiences as she grows from a girl into a young lady. Please don’t ask me how I’m going to portray that, I guess I will be using the experiences of my wife and daughter a lot.
And, finally, the protagonist is an Arab and a Muslim, like your wife. Was it easy to write a book about a character from a different culture?
My wife and I have been together for fourteen years and Alhamdulallah I myself converted to Islam before that, so that side of the relationships between the cultures in the family has been taken from personal experience. This was one of the reasons for writing the books, as I wanted to convey the message to anyone who reads them that what’s important in life is your faith and your family, and lots of adventures!
You can order a copy of Tavis Stewarts’ novel Ibbie’s Fashion Adventures: Around the World to Catch a Thief on Amazon.