Interview- Renee Ahdieh author of The Wrath & the Dawn + Giveaway (INT)

9780399171611_large_The_Wrath_and_the_Dawn Renee

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.

Interview

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

9780399171611_large_The_Wrath_and_the_DawnEvery 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.

The Wrath & the Dawn releases May 12th 2015 by Putnam Juvenile

Giveaway

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Extras

Interview- Sabaa Tahir author of An Ember in the Ashes + Giveaway (INT)

I recently had the good fortune to read the upcoming novel, An Ember in the Ashes. This book lived up to all my expectations and still, weeks later, haunts my thoughts. It has become a favorite and I’m honored to be featuring an interview with the author, Sabaa Tahir.

About the Book

EmberCoverSet in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Thank you for joining us!
I’m so excited to be here!

About An Ember in the Ashes:

The summary for your book compares your setting to a “brutal Rome-like world.” Did you do a lot of historical research to help build up your world?
Research was my favorite way of procrastinating. (Which is way nerdy, but that’s the truth.) I spent a ton of time researching slavery, both in the U.S. and in ancient Rome, as well as the system of social stratification in the Roman Empire. I also agonized over names—every character name in the book has deeper meaning. I made this massive list with etymologies and meanings and notes, and drew from it constantly.  I researched military schools too, and conducted interviews with soldiers and police officers to get a sense of what it’s like to be a warrior.

What came first the story or the characters?
The characters. Laia and her brother, Darin, were first. Their friendship and closeness came out of my friendship with my own two brothers. After Laia, I thought up one of the villains—the Nightbringer. Elias came next, and with him, Helene, the Commandant and the world of Blackcliff Military Academy.

I’m not a writer but I always imagine that characters often times take on a life of their own and demand to be written in a certain way. Was this true for Elias or Laia?
Such an astute point and yes, it was true for Laia. She started off as more of a rebellious heroine, and given her background, it just didn’t fit. I had to take into account her entire history and then reimagine how she would actually respond to the early events of the book.

I was awestruck with the depth you were able to give all your characters and their world—how long have you been dreaming up AEitA?       
I worked on the AEitA for 6 years. 🙂

Is there anything particular you’d like your readers to take away from reading your work?
Recently, someone who read an early galley of EMBER wrote me an email. She said: “I love that Elias and Laia have hope, even when everything is going wrong.” That’s it, right there. That’s what I want readers to take away—this idea that hope can fuel us, even in the darkest moments of our lives. I’d argue that those moments are when having hope is the most important—because it’s hope that carries us through.

Your writing process

AEitA is impeccably written with beautiful prose and well-rounded characters have you written any unpublished works prior to this book?
I’ve been writing since I was a little girl—angsty journals, short stories, bad poetry. But unless you count my fourth-grade opus about a birthday party—this is my first novel.

Please tell us that this will be a series? You left this first book off with so many possibilities of a follow-up (or few). If you do choose to write another do you already know where the story would go?
I’d love for it to be a series, because I have my characters’ whole lives planned out, but right now it’s a standalone. I’m hoping that readers will ask for more, though, and that Penguin (who is publishing the book) will want more, too!

When writing do you listen to music? If so can you tell us a couple of songs that you’d call your AEitA soundtrack?
I can’t write without music! I actually have an AEiaA playlist that’s a couple of hundred songs long. But if I *had* to pick only three songs (I know you said a couple, but I can’t bring myself to omit a single one of these), they would be:

Questions about An Ember in the Ashes Film Adaptation

It has been announced that the rights for AEitA have been purchased by Paramount. Did you ever dream it could possibly be a film while writing?
Oh my goodness, never. It blew me away when Paramount optioned the book. I sort of try not to think about it because it’s too exciting to imagine EMBER on the big screen!

Look for An Ember in the Ashes April 28th 2015 by Razorbill

Giveaway

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Giveaway- The Uninvited by Cat Winters (INT)

UninvitedYou might have seen on Twitter or IG that I received a few copies of Cat Winters’ latest book, The Uninvited. Today I’ll be sharing one copy with you in a giveaway. I haven’t read this one yet but I’ve loved both of Winters’ other two books, In the Shadows of Blackbirds and The Cure for Dreaming. I ran across her first book right when I started blogging and fell in love. I also grew to respect and adore Cat because she is incredibly talented as well as so nice. She agreed to do an interview about Blackbirds way back in those first months of blogging and it has continued to be one of my favorite interviews I’ve conducted.

When it was announced that she was writing an adult novel I was beyond thrilled and it was quickly added to my most anticipated list. If you’ve not read any of her work I hope that you will especially if you enjoy historical fiction with a touch of paranormal (haunted historical fiction in my world).

About the Book

TheUninvitedCoverTwenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days.

But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.

Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.

Releases August 11th 2015 by William Morrow

The Giveaway

This giveaway is for an ARC of The Uninvited by Cat Winters. This is an international giveaway. I will be checking entries for anything fishy so play by the rules. The winner will have 48 hours to respond via email or another winner will be selected.
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