An Ember in the Ashes Trailer: Behind the Scenes w/ Sabaa Tahir

Posted 03/10/2015 by alicemarvels in Fantasy
I recently had the opportunity, along with several other bloggers and vloggers, to meet Sabaa Tahir during the book trailer shoot in Los Angeles for An Ember in the Ashes. Having just finished the book (spoiler alert: I loved it!!), I was already fangirling over Sabaa’s writing, and it was lovely to meet her and find out there’s a really cool, funny, down-to-earth person behind the book.

Sabaa Tahir An Ember in the Ashes book trailer shoot

Sabaa on the set of the trailer shoot for An Ember in the Ashes

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.

Sabaa Tahir An Ember in the Ashes book trailer shoot with Laia

Sabaa with the actress who plays Laia in the trailer


Sabaa Tahir An Ember in the Ashes book trailer shoot with Helene

Sabaa and the actress who plays Helene


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!

You can read the first two chapters of An Ember in the Ashes over at MTV.


About Ember in the Ashes:

An Ember in the Ashes Excerpt & Giveaway

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.

Available 4/28!

Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Indiebound | Google Play 


About Sabaa Tahir:

Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Find Sabaa online: Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Pinterest 



    Was it Elias’s muscles we got an oh-so brief look at in the trailer there? Too bad you didn’t manage to sneak a peek of him on set! What an amazingly cool experience to have, color me jealous! I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, and I think the cover is gorgeous! Definitely gender neutral and stunning:)


    This is so exciting! I so need to read the book before the movie comes out!


    I’m really looking forward to reading this book because I keep seeing it everywhere and am so curious about it. I really like this historical details the author researched and it hope it comes across well in the book.


    Ohhh I want to read this one


    I haven’t seen this book at all. It looks and sounds fantastic and the author sounds like someone I would love to meet. I have many of her books growing up with on my list and the heroines as well. I must look this one up.


    This is sitting on my shelf, tempting me, and I can’t wait to read it!!
    Thanks for all the inside information on the author and the trailer.
    Jen @ YA Romantics


    Ahh you’re so lucky! It sounds like it was a lot of fun.
    I’m intrigued by this book but I was on the fence, but if you liked it, I’m willing to give it a shot!
    Thank you for sharing!


    Reneeeeeee. I’m so late in coming by to visit, but your recap is amazing! So thorough and detailed, it felt like being there all over again. I was taking notes so fast that I had a hard time deciphering my own handwriting, hah, but I posted my recap today and linked to yours so people have a better idea of everything that went down.

    I’m so glad to hear that you loved the book! It’s crazy that there isn’t a sequel approved yet, right? I’m hoping there are enough pre-orders to make that a reality.

    And honestly, as much as I enjoyed the event, meeting you might’ve been my favorite thing. I’m so glad we got to hang out afterwards, and I DEMAND another meeting soon. 😀 😀 😀

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