On Wednesday June 20th, I attended Sabaa Tahir’s book tour for the 3rd book in her An Ember in the Ashes series, A Reaper at the Gates.
Side Note: I have to brag about my bookish bestie for a minute. A few hours before I was set to take off for this event, she texted me to say she has a surprise for me. The surprise turned out to be Belle leggings complete with books all over them. Despite the fact it was almost 90 degrees out, I wore them to the event.
As per usual, I will share what I learned at the event…
- Sabaa is pronounced “Sah-Bah”
- The moderator for this event was Jasmine Warga, author of My Heart and Other Black Holes and Here We Are Now.
- Sabaa felt great relief when she finished A Reaper at the Gates. She struggled through it, but the last 6 months of the process did get easier.
- Each book in the An Ember in the Ashes series is meant to be very different books. Whereas A Torch Against the Night was a journey story, A Reaper at the Gates is going to be more about family.
- She has NOT started the 4th book, but confirmed that it will be the final book in the series.
- The word processer that Sabaa uses most frequently is Scrivener.
- The Nightbringer’s POV was Sabaa’s favorite POV to write in A Reaper at the Gates.
- Sabaa was inspired to write this series after once seeing red eyes while gazing out the window in the late hours of the night. The experience terrified her. She admits that she believes in Jinn.
- Music is a HUGE part of her writing process. She will oftentimes put certain music or songs on that remind her of particular characters so she can get into the right mindset to write that character’s POV.
- Music became a big part of her life when her father got rid of their cable when she was 9 years old. She started listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, U2, etc. Music was the safe place she could always turn to.
- Sabaa is the daughter of an immigrant Father. She said that oftentimes children of immigrants are held to very high expectations. They often put pressure on their children to go into a “respectable profession” like medicine or law. Sabaa has two older brothers, one that went into theatre and the other that went into film, so her parents were “broken in” by the time she came along and went into journalism and then writing. She did mention that her parents are now thrilled with her career choice.
- In regards being an author with children, Sabaa said she always found it helpful to think about what she’d like her children to see. She wants her children to see a Mom that values hard work and that goes after her dreams. She also recommends taking advantage of ANY time you find to write whether that’s 2 hours or just 15 minutes. Little snippets of writing can add up to big things.
- Sabaa urges everyone to support, believe in, and push any of the aspiring writers in their lives. Her husband was the one who pushed her into writing her first book.
- It took her 6 years to write An Ember in the Ashes.
- Sabaa admitted that she felt a great satisfaction in being able to post on Facebook that she got a publishing deal. She is fully aware how petty that is.
- It took her over 4 years to admit she was a writer when people asked her what she did for a living.
- Her writing is inspired by world events. People read her series and think her world is brutal, but at the core it’s the world we live in.
- Sabaa has received a lot of backlash over the cover changes for the An Ember in the Ashes series… It was important to Sabaa to change the covers to feature a WOC on the cover. She is passionate about marginalized people seeing themselves on the cover of books.
- When she gets stuck in her writing, she takes the advice of a friend. When her friend suffers from “writer’s pause” she will go back to a point where the writing was going well & re-read. This helps her get things rolling again. Sabaa also recommends refilling the creative tank by watching TV, movies, and reading books.
- Sabaa didn’t feel “successful” until she attended BookCon for the first time as an author. She was placed on a panel with fellow YA authors like Veronica Roth and Melissa de la Cruz. When she was announced, she was shocked at the applause she received. She was even more surprised to see the line of people afterwards to have her sign their books.
- She is more of a “pantser” writer, but she does know the character’s story ahead of time.
- Originally, there was a dragon in A Reaper at the Gates. When her husband read it, he asked if the book really needed a dragon, or did she just put it in because she loves dragons? After she sent the book off to the editor, they asked the same question. The dragon didn’t make the final cut.
- Sabaa would identify as a Ravenclaw with a touch of Slytherin and Hufflepuff.
- After writing a particularly dark scene, Sabaa likes to write a “kissy scene” or eat chocolate.
- A Reaper at the Gates is a darker book. She called it “The Empire Strikes Back“ of the series.
- The geography of this series is highly influenced by the high desert in California where she grew up. She was also inspired by Yosemite National Park.
Spent my childhood in the Mojave Desert, where I didn’t have cable and thus chose to entertain myself with books and radio. My parents assured me that I wanted to become a doctor, but a brief stint working in a hospital changed my mind.
I left the desert for university at 17, graduated from UCLA a few years later, and went to work for The Washington Post directly after. Five years later, I left the Post and started working on a book.
If I could be anything, I’d be a space explorer, but a cool one, like Jean-Luc Picard.
I’m represented by Alexandra Machinist at ICM.