I recently had the pleasure of reading an early copy of The Wrath & the Dawn and I instantly fell in love with not only Ahdieh’s beautiful prose but also the sweeping scenery, characters and pacing. This book became an instant favorite for me and I’m delighted to have the honor of asking Renee some questions.
One of the reasons I was drawn to your novel was because of the reference to A Thousand and One Nights in the summary. I loved that you incorporated aspects of this folk tale into your own story and used a similar structure to frame your own. Was there any specific reason you chose the Middle East and A Thousand and One Nights for TW&TD?
I have to be careful when answering this question because sometimes I feel its answer could be a book in and of itself. My husband is Persian, and the first time he took me to visit his family, I saw this gorgeous tapestry hanging on the wall of their living room. At a distance, it looked like a hundred different vignettes strung together at random. When I asked his mother what it was, she told me it was tales from A Thousand and One Nights. Eventually, this inspired me to consider what it would be like to write a YA version of the tale of Scheherazade. I’m also a child of mixed-race, so I’ve always been fascinated with different worlds. I think all of these things along with many others contributed to what eventually brought about the book
You were able to give lush, vibrant descriptions of the scenery that made me feel that I was there. Have you traveled to this area of the world? If not, what resources did you use to help transport your reader?
Thank you so much for saying so! I’ve been to India several times, and I traveled through Greece and Egypt. Many of the things I saw and experienced served as inspiration for certain scenes in the book. I also watched several documentaries and read a lot of poetry and literature from the region, as well as had lengthy discussion with family members who lived in the Middle East for many years. I think it’s so important to make novels an immersive experience, both for the reader and the writer.
Since your novel has historical and folklore elements I imagine there was a good amount of research involved. What was the oddest or most interesting thing you learned?
Oh, lord. I think the day I learned about ancient Egyptian surgical procedures was a pretty fascinating/horrifying day. Also any research that goes into detail about old school waste disposal. That’s always fun
Your main character is a heroine to root for. Shazi is strong willed, cunning and incredibly likeable. In writing TW&TD did the characters or the storyline come first?
Thank you again! For me, character always comes first. I can read a book about two people stuck in an elevator for three hours if I find them to be compelling. Whenever I’m drafting, I begin with character sketches. These sketches usually detail specific traits I’d like a character to embody. From these, I craft scenes that, hopefully, convey those character traits.
Did any of your characters take on a life of their own and go off the original path you had set for them?
Hmmmm. The fun answer would be yes. But no. I’m a crazy plotter and a big control freak. One of those nutjobs prone to make lists about every inane detail. Seriously you can ask my agent. Her nickname for me is Crazypants. That being said, there were definitely moments characters said things that surprised me. But I always know what I plan to write when I sit down.
My favorite type of character is one with secrets that aren’t instantly revealed and straddles the line between good and evil, which you accomplished beautifully. Do you have a specific method for creating your characters and their personalities?
Thank you so much! I think I inadvertently started to answer this question above and then deleted some of it because I saw this one. What can I say; your questions are all so great and thought provoking! I usually start with a character’s name. I write it on a sheet of paper and create a web around his/her name with character traits, physical features, anything I think might be of relevance to that specific character. Sometimes I’ll write a short story from that character’s perspective just to establish voice.
Do you use music to help set the tone as you write? If so, what are a few songs that express the feel of your book?
Music is of absolute necessity when I write. The sound of silence drives me batty. Usually I’ll have a playlist on low, running on repeat. If other people are around me, I’ll put on noise-canceling headphones (see above re: control freak/Crazypants). I love all kinds of music, but I’m partial to anything by Explosions in the Sky, M83, Radiohead, Sevenlions, Bassnectar, Gemini, AWOLNATION, Massive Attack, Metallica, any of Stravinsky’s ballets, John Coltrane . . . I mean this list could get exhaustive.
Are you actively working on anything right now? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’m working on edits for the sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn, tentatively titled The Rose and the Dagger.
Thank you so much Renee!
Thank YOU, Kristen!! J
About the Book
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.