Q&A With Sabaa Tahir, Author of An Ember in the Ashes

Q&A With Sabaa Tahir, Author of An Ember in the Ashes

I got the chance to talk with Sabaa Tahir about her debut novel, An Ember in the Ashes. I hope this gets you pumped for her amazing novel!

Q&A With Sabaa Tahir, Author of An Ember in the Ashes

About Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes is now on sale!

Find Sabaa Tahir around the Interwebz here:



Interview with Sabaa Tahir


I loved the setting of the story – it seems like there is a blend of cultural and regional influences.Were there any specific times/places that inspired you?

ST: For the naming conventions in EMBER, as well as the system of social stratification, I was inspired by the Juleo-Claudian era of Ancient Rome. Blackcliff was in large part inspired by the ancient Spartan agoge—the system the Spartans used to train their young boys into super soldiers. The magical mythology comes from stories my mom told me when I was a kid. Lastly, I grew up in the Mojave desert, a place both stark and beautiful. I used my memories of the land to help detail the physical setting of EMBER.

What are some of the books that have stayed with you over the years?

ST: The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks; The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley; The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell; The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy; The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein; Gilead by Marilyn Robinson; Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison; The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling; The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak; The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyaal Mueeneddin, Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid, The Illustrated Beloved City, edited by Bapsi Sidhwa; The Naming by Alison Croggon; I’ll stop now, but I assure you, the list goes on and on.

How does the process of writing a novel compare with writing news articles?

ST:I never wrote news articles, but I did edit them. Novel-writing is very different from writing news stories. People often refer to news stories as “the first draft of history.” News articles are written swiftly, while the writer is on deadline. The goal is to report the facts and make the story both objective and interesting to readers. Daily deadlines mean things are constantly in flux. You are also often working with others—fellow reporters, editors, designers, photographers. Writing a news story can often be a group effort.

With novel-writing, one is usually utterly alone, at least, until the book is picked up for publication. The deadlines are more widely spaced: months, or in my case, years. There is sometimes an extensive revision process. The entire thing just takes much longer. As a debut author, you don’t have an editor to hold you accountable, which means you have to be disciplined about organizing your time.

I know you’re obsessed with music: what band/artist should more people be listening to (if you can narrow it down!)?

ST: And, if An Ember in the Ashes had a theme song, what would it be? I’m listening to a ton of Little May right now—she has a very soulful voice and I’d love to see her get more popular. Ember has many theme songs. If I had to pick one—probably The Adventure by Angels & Airwaves. When I began writing the book in 2007, I listened to this song all the time.

What has surprised you about this whole process (writing, being published, meeting fans/authors)?

ST: I’ve been most surprised by how much effort goes into the publication of a work of fiction. I am in awe of the team at Penguin Young Readers—so many people, so many man-hours, so much thought and care goes into each and every book. It’s crazy and I never really thought about it until this past year.

Find Out More about An Ember in the Ashes on the Blog Tour

4/20 – Perpetual Page Turner – guest post
4/21 – Once Upon a Twilight – Top 5: favorite moments from An Ember in the Ashes
4/22 – Fiktshun – Would You Rather?
4/23 – Cuddlebuggery Book Blog – playlist/book soundtrack
4/24 – Fangirlish – interview

4/27 – The Midnight Garden – guest post
4/28 – Icey books – interview
4/29 – YA Books Central – Top 5: Things I Can’t Live Without
4/30 – Me My Shelf & I – 25 Things You Might Not Know About Me
5/1 – Dear Author – Top 5: Major influences

5/4 – YA Interrobang – interview
5/5 – The Young Folks – guest post
5/6 – Alice Marvels – Never Have I Ever
5/7 – Good Choice Reading – interview
5/8 – Bookish – Fashion Spread/Look Book

5/11 – Read.Breathe.Relax. – interview
5/12 – Mundie Moms – guest post
5/13 – Two Chicks on Books – guest post
5/14 – The Children’s Book Review – interview
5/15 – Bookhounds – Top 5: Things I HAVE to Do Before I Die