Interview with Sabaa Tahir

Posted by Goodreads on August 8, 2016
Sabaa Tahir drew on her fascination with Ancient Rome and the stories of warlords, kidnapping, and murder she read while working on the international desk of The Washington Post to create her epic fantasy debut, An Ember in the Ashes. The instant bestseller, centered on the brutal Martial Empire, follows Laia and Elias, two teenagers from very different backgrounds, who unite in a battle against the tyrannical regime. After Laia's brother is arrested for treason, rebels promise to rescue him—but only if Laia undertakes a perilous spy mission into the Empire's greatest military academy. Here she meets Elias, the gifted but reluctant soldier desperate for freedom, and they begin to work together. Tahir's much-anticipated sequel, A Torch Against the Night, sees Laia and Elias fight their way deeper into the Empire to free Laia's brother as the enemy closes in. With days to go before the book's release, Tahir answers your questions about the titles that made her want to be a writer, her guilty pleasures, and why, given any superpower, she'd choose to be a talking dragon.

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Beth: A Torch Against the Night is finally almost here! I can't wait! Do you feel different than when An Ember in the Ashes was about to be published? Calmer maybe? Or more anxious?

Sabaa Tahir: Thanks for the question! In some ways I feel calmer—I know a little bit of what to expect. But I'm anxious, too, because...I know a little bit of what to expect! I would say I have less anxiety and more excitement this time because I did this before and survived, after all. And now that I've done a tour, I know how much fun they can be, so I'm REALLY looking forward to meeting readers and chatting with them about TORCH.

Gemma: I adore all the parallels to Ancient Rome in An Ember in the Ashes. How did you first get interested in Ancient Rome?

ST: When I was in tenth grade, I had to do a report on a historical figure. I chose Nero, and after researching him and the Juleo-Claudian dynasty, I was hooked on all aspects of that time period. There was so much intrigue, and the societal dynamics between men and women, citizen and noncitizen, soldiers and civilians—it's all so stratified and fascinating.

Lisa: What book (or books) made you want to become a writer?

ST: There are five main books that made me want to become a writer. In no particular order, they are:

1. The Random House Book of Fairy Tales
2. The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
3. Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy.
4. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
5. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Jaida: How does it feel to know that people all over the WORLD are crying (like me) and obsessing over your book?

ST: I still have a very hard time taking it in. Me? My book? Not possible. How could it be? When it does get through my head (on rare occasions), I feel REALLY grateful. Because I know what it is to obsess over a book. In a way, writing a series is a type of obsessing—you have to be obsessed to spend so long with certain characters. So knowing that other people might feel that is wonderful and heartening and crazy.

Nicole: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind and which artists?

ST: Yes, I do listen to music when I write! You can find my playlists at I listen to a little of everything, but I'd say that alternative and indie rock are probably what I listen to most, followed by electric, classical, rap, folk, and pop.

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Maria: First, I want to say that I LOVE An Ember in the Ashes. My question for you is this: What's your guilty pleasure(s)?

ST: Oh, where do I even begin? I have books that are guilty pleasures, movies that are guilty pleasures, food...the list goes on. But my number one guilty pleasure is dessert. I have a horrible sweet tooth, and though I try to resist, if I see a Green & Black's chocolate-almond bar, then I lose all self-control.

Patrick: If given the choice, would you rather have An Ember in the Ashes adapted as a movie, a TV series, a play, or a musical?

ST: Definitely a movie! I'm a very big fan of film—but really any adaptation would be thrilling.

Grace: Do any of your characters have a personality that is similar to your own? Which ones?

ST: They are all actually quite different from me. You'll be happy to know that the Commandant is much more bloodthirsty than I am. Laia is more fearful. Elias angsts far more than I do. And Helene is way more of a badass!

Christy: If you could have any superpower, what would it be—and why?

ST: I would want to be able to turn into a talking dragon because of the following:

A. I would be a dragon.
B. I could breathe fire at my foes (OK, maybe I am a little bloodthirsty).
C. I could fly, which means I could visit my family and not have to deal with the airport and all associated annoyances.

Jenny: If you could live in any book world, which one would you choose?


Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany Cutlip Great interview! Thanks for sharing with us! I can't wait to get my hands on this book!!

message 2: by Jane (new)

Jane Well, people have different tastes. I disliked it intently. I have no plans on reading the sequel.

message 3: by Ali (new)


message 4: by Liliana (new)

Liliana People who don't have a weakness for dessert are inhuman.

message 5: by Alice Woodland (new)

Alice Woodland (alicethroughthebookstore) I just finished An Ember in the Ashes and now I cannot wait for A Torch Against the Night.

message 6: by James (new)

James Wahome Finally, the notification has come through, the book is out, I can't wait.

message 7: by Iannis (last edited Sep 15, 2016 09:11AM) (new)

Iannis Ruiz I received my copy of "A Torch Against the Night" about a week ago, and I'm starting it today!! I actually have to re-read the last few chapters of "An Ember in the Ashes" first just to recap, but I'm super excited!

*UPDATE 9/15/16*
I just finished the book and I am even more hooked than I was before. I don't know how you do it, but I'm in love. The plot twists and the character development is just (sigh) lovely.

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