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


a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. says

    What a fantastic interview Kristen!
    I’m so excited about this book! I just cannot wait to get my preorder! And reading about how Sabaa researched so much about the Roman Empire and the names and everything, it makes my inner geek happy and even more eager to read it all!

    • says

      Thank you Pili! I have 3 pre-ordered already plus I’ll be buying this one for giveaway! I’m a fan for sure 🙂 I can’t wait for you to read it and hear all your thoughts.

  2. says

    I love author interviews, they make me so happy because I feel like I get to see into their minds and what they were thinking while creating the worlds of their novels. I am so excited to read An Ember in The Ashes for two reasons : 1) I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things from the people who’ve read it and 2) I love the Roman Era because the violence and political corruption and unrest that existed in that time is extremely exciting! The fact that the structure in this novel patterns it just makes me really happy and anxious to have this book in my hands.

    Thanks for the giveaway! Awesome post, Kristen!

  3. Susan T. says

    I am really interested in the world building for this one. Rome was a pretty brutal and harsh empire, especially for slaves. I can’t wait to see how that plays out in this book!

  4. says

    What an awesome interview Kristen! It’s so wonderful to have read the book and then learn even more about the book from this interview.
    And Penguin, WE WANT MORE!!

  5. Kayla Arnold says

    I don’t know in particular, I’d just love to read it because I’ve read such awesome reviews! The setting is also interesting as it seems sort of historical which I like 🙂

  6. says

    What a great interview! I hadn’t heard Ember was going to become a movie! I love that it took her so long to write it! I haven’t even read it yet bug I hope there’s a sequel! Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. says

    Whoa! Nice! Hearing so many good things about this one already! Admit to being hesitant at first, but starting to really get intrigued! I could sooooo go for some good news about now! So a free book would definitely make my day! Great interview!

  8. ReadiculousGirl says

    I LOVE Roman and Greek history, and I am so looking forward to seeing what Sabaa took out of Roman history and culture to put into her book. I’m also really excited to see the characters in this book and how they respond to the trials they face throughout the story; I always look forward to seeing hope in action, whether it be in life or fiction.
    This sounds like a great book! Thanks for the chance to win!

  9. says

    I’ve actually read it and LOVED it! Sabaa’s writing was gorgeous, and I enjoyed reading this interview. I love learning the behind-the-scenes when it comes to books. 🙂

  10. Mithila says

    I’m really excited as to how she’ll continue to build the Roman-esque world! That has my interest the most so far.

  11. Danielle says

    What an awesome interview! I was already looking forward to getting my hands on this, but now I’m even more excited!! I’m #2 in the queue for a copy at work (I’m a librarian), but I’m pretty sure I’ll be purchasing for my bookshelf at home ^_^

  12. says

    I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS ONE!!! *flails* I mean, I was a little dubious at first because so many books seem to have a Roman flair these days, but pfft, this sounds (and looks!) so so awesome. And I LOVED your interview questions! I didn’t know this had been optioned for film rights already. OMG. I hope something happens there! ^_^ And procrastinating with research?! GAh. I wish I had that habit 😉

  13. says

    Huuugs. <3 I love this post Kristen 😀 Your interview with Sabaa is amazing. <3 Sigh. But now I'm even more excited about this book. How mean, lol. ALMOST HERE 😀 Soon I shall get to read it too. <3 I cannot wait. I'm so happy with how much you loved this book sweetie 🙂 Just really hoping I will love it too, ack. Fingers crossed. I'm excited about all the things. The plot sounds amazing. I'm dying to meet the characters 😀 This book will be awesome, I hope. <3 Thank you for sharing sweetie 🙂

  14. says

    Wow. Six years to write the book. Seems like all that hard work really paid off with the high ranking reviews I’ve read so far. This is one of the top 2015 books on my list this year and I can’t wait to read it!
    Thank you for the giveaway!

  15. Isabella says

    I can’t wait to read this book just because it sounds so different from the usual releases! I mean “brutal Rome-like world” is all you need to say and I’m in 😉

  16. says

    I’m really excited for this book, because I love epic fantasy. Most of the reviews I’ve read are positive, but I have read a couple negative ones, and I can’t wait to see what I think about it. Obviously I hope I love it as much as you do. Also, if it’s going to be a movie, I HAVE to read the book first. 🙂

  17. Cameran says

    I was lucky enough to win a galley of this book through Penguin’s First Reads program, and I loved it so much! I’ve been raving about it to everyone I know and hope the sales do well so that Penguin will greenlight the sequel that NEEDS to happen. Thanks for such a great interview!

  18. Mary Loki says

    I want to see if it lives up to all the hype! Even good books can crumble into letdowns bc they couldn’t take the extreme pressure! Hopefully this one does!

  19. Ashfa says

    Just amazing to know all about he writing process! Love the sound of this book and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  20. sherry butcher says

    I’m most excited about for An Ember in the Ashes to see if it lives up to all the hype and is a real good read. TFS.

  21. Dinky says

    I can´t wait to laia and Elias! And the academy sounds fab! I really need to read this book as soon as possible! 🙂

  22. says

    I am excited by the fact that the world is inspired by ancient ROME. ROOOOOME! It sounds amazing. And of course I can’t wait to see what transpires between the 2 protagonists <3

  23. Ghita says

    This book is pretty much a package with everything I like in books: Dystopia, romance, history! Thanks for the interview, really interesting to read!

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