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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Review of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the AshesAn Ember in the Ashes
By: Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: ARC
Source: Borrowed from Jon from Bookish Antics then was gifted a copy from the lovely Stacee at Adventures of a Book Junkie

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Set 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.

Vow your blood and body to the empire.

My Thoughts:
From the moment I saw the cover and read the summary of this book I fell in love. I made it my mission to somehow get a copy to read and thankfully a wonderful friend was nice enough to lend me theirs. Even from the first page I knew my instant attraction to this novel was going to blossom into love. Tahir’s writing was clean, crisp, descriptive and incredibly emotional.

This book was epic in storytelling and scale. There are so many intricacies and depth to the characters and world. I felt that it was all explained simply and with little to no info-dump. This was a pretty miraculous fete since this was a complex world. As the story unfolds you begin to see more and more about the world’s history and why things are divided by class as they are.

This novel touched on enslavement, murder, duty and honor. I was impressed that Tahir was able to show so many aspects of her world with just two view points, Elias and Laia. The story alternates between the point of views every chapter giving the reader a look into both sides.

The characters really drove the story for me. I felt Laia’s pain and drive to save her brother from imprisonment. Her struggle seemed real to me. I felt that her drive mixed with her guilt gave her character an appreciated depth. The level of character growth she experienced over the course of the novel had me loving her even more and cheering for her. Elias was such a complex character and I tended to enjoy his POV just a tiny bit over Laia’s. I loved both but I felt Elias’ voice to be a bit more compelling because of his immense guilt and struggles with his duty vs. what his heart wants.

The world that Tahir has created was brutal and hard to read about in many sections. There are mentions of rape, abuse and all the ugly elements of what some humans are capable of. I found it disturbing, but for me, it didn’t detract from the story but helped to cement my hate for the Empire.

So far it hasn’t been announced if there will be a sequel and if there isn’t I’ll be distraught. The book works as a standalone but it left so much unanswered that I need to read more about. I must have more from these characters and world.

Final Thoughts:
I had really high hopes for An Ember in the Ashes and was not disappointed at all. This book is a favorite and I’ll be reading anything Sabaa Tahir writes. Hopefully, the next thing I read from her will be the sequel.

Still not convinced? Check out Alyssa at The Eater of Books! review