An Ember in the Ashes Trailer: Behind the Scenes w/ Sabaa Tahir
We all had lunch and chatted about Sabaa’s background and her experience writing the book, and then just generally gabbed about books, blogging and vlogging, and badass ladyheroes. It was so much fun to meet and chat with Sabaa, new-to-me bloggers/vloggers, and those I’ve followed online for years IRL, like Wendy from The Midnight Garden, who is just as cool and sweet as she is online.
Here are a few highlights from our interview/chat:
Sabaa on writing her characters, and how her experiences growing up a small town, and feeling like an outsider, made their way into the book.
“I never really forgot how it felt to be voiceless. My characters, like me, would feel voiceless and deal with alienation, and unlike me, they would fight back.”
It was her goal to “bring characters to the intersection of hope and despair, and see what they do.”
On Sabaa’s research & inpsiration for the book:
She said she took inspiration from ancient Roman society for the world of An Ember in the Ashes, particularly the oppressed classes. She took inspiration from Spartan training for Briarcliff, the brutal military academy for Masks, and interviewed someone from West Point for inspiration as well. Helene’s character and some of her experiences were inspired by her conversations with a real female FBI investigator. Darin, Laia’s brother, is a composite of Sabaa’s younger and older brothers, who were both protective of her growing up.
I asked her what are some strong heroines she’s enjoyed reading about, and she had an amazing list:
Alina from the Grisha series
She found the heroine from The Girl on the Train fascinating (though not likable)
Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles
Sammy from Under a Painted Sky
Mare from Red Queen
Karou from Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Elisa from Fire and Thorns
On the cover for An Ember in the Ashes:
Sabaa was able to weigh in on the cover before it was finalized, and she stressed that she didn’t want a gendered cover. (I think it worked out pretty well!)
Sabaa shared some of the books she enjoyed growing up:
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Shannara by Terry Brooks
Little House by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pern by Anne McCaffrey
Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Ms. Marvel by Gerry Conway
The Crow by James O’ Barr
ElfQuest by Wendy Pini
Sabaa discussed the writing experience, and some surprising ways in which the book changed:
Originally the story was going to be a middle grade, and the Commandant was a man. Sabaa confessed that writing the commandant was fun, but her favorite character to write was Elias, though he was probably also the hardest to write.
After we chatted, we got to take a tour of the trailer set, and meet the actors who play Laia, Helene, and the Commandant. Elias was around the set somewhere, but unfortunately I didn’t sneak a peek of him.
I don’t have a picture of the Commandant, but if you watch the trailer, she is the one holding the whip, and she looked fairly badass and frightening in person.
Watch the final trailer for An Ember in the Ashes below!
About Ember in the Ashes:
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.