An Ember in the Ashes has been one of the most powerfully boosted debuts to release in 2015. For a diverse fantasy, with an equally diverse and outspoken author behind it, its reception has been incredible and hopeful for others following in its footsteps.
The inspiration for the fantasy began with stories author Sabaa Tahir read in the Washington Post and her own childhood growing up in the Mojave Desert, where her family owned a motel. But inspiration to continue writing struck from everywhere.
“Books, movies, my family and my characters. With that last one—I feel a weird obligation to tell their stories. And if I don’t tell, I feel like I’ve let my characters down.”
An Ember in the Ashes is about a brutal Romanesque world, where slave Laia and soldier Elias are both trapped by the rules of the Empire. When Laia’s brother is arrested, Laia is forced to join the rebels, who connect her to Elias, the Empire’s finest soldier.
Beyond the enthusiastic buzz surrounding the title, Tahir has also enjoyed the experience of being a debut author and making new connections for the first time.
“Meeting so many other debut authors has been wonderful! The 2015 debut author group is a talented and friendly bunch. It’s wonderful to have such a supportive community, especially since I didn’t have any writer friends in YA while writing Ember.”
It is obvious that Tahir has a strong writing ethic and sense of responsibility to her craft – and it is that same determination that she would like to pass on to other writers still working on their drafts or venturing into querying.
“Make writing a priority. Don’t make excuses for yourself. Don’t blame other people. Don’t blame your life,” said Tahir. “Writers write. They write when they are poor or rich or hungry or lonely. They write from prison, from shacks, while pregnant, while sick with cancer, while surrounded by demanding children, while being undercut by their own family. They write through abuse and addiction and frustration and isolation and rejection. Writers write. It’s as simple as that.”
Besides writing, Tahir is also a devoted reader. Her favorite authors include Junot Diaz, J.K. Rowling, Marilyn Robinson, Arundhati Roy, Toni Morrison, Terry Brooks, Rumi, Amy Tan, Alice Walker, Daniyaal Mueenuddin, Antoine de Saint Exupery, Marcus Zusak, Alison Croggon, and Patrick Rothfuss. There are, of course, more favorites on her list – that just scratches the surface.
And she doesn’t just have favorite authors. Tahir thoroughly enjoyed the interactions between her characters and writing about their world – but she has to admit that she did have a favorite.
“I really enjoyed both of my main characters for different reasons, but Elias was very challenging because he is so different from me, so he was my favorite to write,” said Tahir.
Tahir has already had an enthusiastic response to An Ember in the Ashes’ release, but for future readers, she does hope that one emotion and deep truth will remain with them long after they finish the last page.
“Hope will always be more powerful than hate and fear.”