AUTHOR CRUSH FRIDAY: SABAA TAHIR
Glitter girls, you have pressing questions for your favorite authors and we have their answers. Welcome to our new weekly segment, Author Crush Fridays.
We love asking questions and we love the answers from some of our favorite authors. Today we’re talking to Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes. As a former journalist at The Washington Post, a ton of research went into her first book, An Ember in the Ashes, which is winning critics over and already optioned for the big screen by Paramount. Thank you for talking to us today, Sabaa!We’re honored!
GLITTER: First, how did you come up with the plot for An Ember in the Ashes?
SABAA: I came up with the plot after reading a Washington Post article about men jailed by military forces in Kashmir, and never seen again. The article was told from the point of view of the women and girls left behind—daughters, sisters and mothers of those taken. It was pretty harrowing and made me wonder what I would do if a family member was taken in such a way. Would I be able to get him back? Would I have the courage to do so?
GLITTER: If you could describe An Ember in the Ashes in only 160 characters, how would you describe it?
SABAA: I would describe it as:
The story of Laia, a girl fighting to save her brother after he’s jailed by a brutal regime, and Elias, a regime soldier battling to be free from tyranny.
GLITTER: Do you use any experiences from your past job as a Washington Post foreign-news editor to help you with your writing?
SABAA: For sure. Working at a newspaper involves a lot of deadlines and a lot of editing. Since writing a novel often means working alone, setting deadlines for myself was a really important way of holding myself accountable and making sure I finished what I set out to do. Also, my experience as an editor helped me a lot when I was revising the book. I was able to see my mistakes and figure out ways fix them, something I think I would have struggled with if I hadn’t edited so many stories at the paper.
GLITTER: How much research went into the book?
SABAA: A ton of research! Most of it fell into two categories: Reading and interviewing. The reading is obvious; I devoured books and web sites about stuff like the Spartans, the Romans, the Bedouins and ancient Roman emperors. I also read a bunch about soldiers and their training—everything from survival guides to non-fiction accounts of war zones.
The second part of my research required that I go out and talk to people—interviews! One of my main characters is a warrior. It was important to me that his voice be authentic, so I found modern day warriors to chat with. This included a West Point cadet, a police sergeant, a former army soldier and an FBI agent. What I learned from those interviews allowed me to dig a little deeper with my characters and really uncover their souls.
GLITTER: Will you be involved with the film adaptation of the book?
SABAA: I’m not writing the screenplay or anything (trust me, that’s a good thing), but Paramount is really committed to staying true to the book, so yes I’ll be involved!
GLITTER: What are you working on now?
SABAA: I’m finishing up a final proofread pass for EMBER. I’m also working on another YA fantasy, but I’m very early on in the writing process so I’m sort of keeping it under wraps—just in case it changes!
Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s eighteen-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.
For more information, please visit Sabaa at SabaaTahir.com or on Twitter @SabaaTahir.