An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway

March 19, 2015 2015, author interview, fantasy, giveaway, Sabaa Tahir, special feature, Wendy 62

Ember in the Ashes Helene

Sabaa Tahir in the dressing room with the actress who played Helene.

Two months ago, I was invited to attend a lunch to meet author Sabaa Tahir and to watch the filming of  the trailer for her book An Ember in the Ashes. The shoot took place here in Los Angeles, and while I’ve been on location before as a film publicist, this was the first time I’ve ever walked into a studio filled with smoke! It was a dark, moody setting that suited the book perfectly, since the story follows an orphan named Laia who risks her life to save her brother Darin, who’s held captive by a brutal empire.

The actress who played Laia was friendly and chatty, and she showed us the scar painted on her shoulder. It’s an important and serious part of the book, so it was cool to see the attention to detail in the make-up and costumes. The Kommandant was small, blonde, and totally badass in her uniform (I wish I had a photo of her, sorry!), though she was very gracious when she wasn’t in character. There were a couple of small sets, including a tent which we ducked into, and some props such as a whip which was fun to speculate about.

An Ember in the Ashes Laia

Sabaa Tahir with the actress who portrayed Laia.

vine-divider-finalAbout the Book

Over sandwiches and cookies, Sabaa Tahir told us that her own background played a big part in writing An Ember in the Ashes. Growing up in an 18-room motel owned by her parents, she never felt she fit in, from her food to her color to her culture; because of assumptions based on mere appearances, she was often bullied. As a child, she found solace in reading fantasies and comic books, so when she started writing, she decided she wanted to write about a girl much like herself–powerless, voiceless, and isolated. But she would choose to give her heroine a way to fight back.

Fun facts:

It took six years to write the book, including two years of preparation and world-building. It also started out as a middle grade story!

Ember finds the basis for a few of its key elements in history:
Treatment of slaves —> Ancient Rome
Social structure, tribes, training young boys —> Spartans

Fun character to write: The Kommandant, because “She’s such a bitch.” We all agreed with that! Apparently the Kommandant also was originally a man. I told Sabaa I thought it was much more interesting that she was a woman, and Sabaa agreed, saying the Kommandant definitely acts as a foil to Laia.

Authors whose books she loves: Terry Brooks, C.S. Lewis, Marion Zimmer Bradley, J.R.R. Tolkien, Laura Ingalls Wilder, J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula LeGuin

Strong female characters she loves: Alina from the Grisha trilogy, Elisa from The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Cinder, Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Mare from Red Queen, Samantha and Andy from Under a Painted Sky

vine-divider-finalWatch the Trailer for An  Ember in the Ashes:

And here’s the Elias trailer we’re helping to unveil today, along with a few other Ember Ambassadors:

Sabaa said that Elias was a challenge to write, though she got a handle on him once she conducted a few interviews for his character and the Kommandant; she spoke to West Point cadets and a few other sources for background information, as well as for psychological insight. She said that when she asked what the most difficult experience they’d ever had was, she expected to hear some war/job-related story–but in fact, the person told her that the hardest thing he’d ever experienced was his divorce. A sobering reminder of how deeply our personal lives can affect us.

She revealed that Darin was a composite of her two brothers, whom she’s very close to. One of her brothers is even a producer on the film adaptation of the book! She said it’s definitely great to have someone she trusts looking after her project, and handy to have an inside source for updates.

We also spent some time talking about author/blogger relations, touching on topics both serious and light-hearted. I’m not a big events person, so it was fun to meet some of the other bloggers and booktubers (I had no idea Christine and Kat lived in LA, for example) and to hear their perspectives and experiences. I especially enjoyed meeting Renee from Alice Marvels, whom I’ve followed online for years but had never really had a chance to speak to. We’ve hung out since then and you guys should totally check out her awesome write-up of this event, too!

ember bloggers

Bloggers at the trailer shoot (No, I’m not pictured!), plus the lovely Renee from Alice Marvels chatting with Sabaa Tahir.

Right now, An Ember in the Ashes is a standalone, but there’s huge potential for a sequel, which all of us are absolutely clamoring for. Sabaa accidentally let slip a detail about what might happen in future books, and all I have to say is, PENGUIN YOU HAVE TO GREENLIGHT BOOK TWO.

vine-divider-finalWin An Ember in the Ashes prizes

Thanks to our friends at Penguin Teen, there’s a giveaway for 5 signed ARCs and 5 tee-shirts! This giveaway will run for 1 month and 5 winners will be selected.

Leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you’re excited about reading this book (and what you think of the trailer), and fill out the Rafflecopter form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ember prize

Win one of 5 signed ARC + tee-shirt prize packs!


Please note: this giveaway is sponsored and hosted by the publisher. Most photographs were also provided by the publisher.vine-divider-final

An Ember in the Ashes will be available in stores and online on April 28, 2015; you can sample an excerpt from the book here.

Right now there is also a super special pre-order deal for the Kindle edition at $2.99. This is a CRAZY price for a new release from a major publisher, so definitely snap that up before it’s gone! It’s a fun book that’s sure to make a splash this spring. Look for our review closer to release.

Wendy signature teal




62 Responses to “An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway”

  1. Cindy

    OMG the book trailer was amazing!!!!! It was so dramatic and awesome and I was so sad that it was only like 34 seconds long. :( I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, and watching that amazing trailer and reading many peoples’ early reviews on it erased any doubts I previously had about reading this book. I can’t wait to read it! :) I love Ancient Rome, Sparta, a weak protagonist-turned-powerful, and all that good stuff, and reading a book with everything I like in it is practically a dream come true! Also, the author’s brother is making a movie, right? That’s like an added incentive for reading the book, since I really like watching books in action and seeing how others would interpret books. :) :) :) Can’t wait!!! <3 <3 <3

  2. Fatima

    I’m a huge science fiction and fantasy fan and this book sounds amazing. I’m so excited to read it! I also love historical fiction so I’m interested to see how Sabaa Tahir incorporated ancient Roman history in the book.

  3. Cindy Ngo

    Super excited for this book to come out. The reviews have been quite positive. I literally searched all over for a giveaway to see if I could get it before the release date and also because the t-shirt is awesome! Trailer was nice but the book will be better I’m sure =D

  4. Michelle M

    Really excited to read this book, its been on my “To-Read” list and every time I watch the trailer I get even more excited for it!! Thanks for the post on it!

  5. Rashika

    I am so amused to hear that Ember started out as a MG story because if it was still an MG story, I am sure there would be kids out there traumatized by it. Heck I am still kind of shocked!

    I also love knowing that even though the Kommandant started out as a male, Sabaa decided to make the Kommandant a female. Her character is so scary and awesome. She was definitely a badass female and I liked that :D

    I can only imagine how much fun this event probably was for you to attend and meet all sorts of awesome people! Hopefully they had good food too ;)

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Wendy!! :)
    Rashika recently posted…ARC Review: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah hah hah, that’s so true! BRUTALITY, YOUNGLINGS. HOPE YOU SURVIVE.

      I liked that she didn’t pull her punches with the action and the way the society was set up. A lot of fantasy/dypstopians feel a little slight on the physical stakes, but the reality of being imprisoned is just devastating, and you get more of a feel for that in this book than you do most YAs, I think.

      I LOVE that the Kommandant is female! The dichotomy of the two female characters pitted against each other is so much more interesting–one, powerless and doing what she can to survive, and the other in a position of ultimate authority who is merciless. Female villains are so interesting, and I feel like we don’t see enough of them.

      And yes, so fun! And the cookies and sandwiches were from Panera, so it was kind of an indoor picnic. :)
      Wendy Darling recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

  6. Katie

    I really want to read this book because it sounds like it has some Roman themes to it. The Roman-Greco period was always my favorite in history, and I love reading books that either take place during that era, or when authors model their worlds after it.
    Thanks for the chance to win!

      • Katie

        Crossing our fingers that Rafflecopter likes me this time! Yeah, I’m really curious about this book because of the Roman-Greco theme, and how much I loved Marie Rutkoski’s usage of it in her Winner’s Trilogy. It will be interesting/heartbreaking to see the more brutal side of that historical theme in a book.

  7. Hazel Beatrice

    I love the fact that this was a middle grade story and it took 6 years to write. That is such an inspiration for everyone to pursue writing even more.
    I’m also interested about the world Sabaa created and how the characters would be so I’m looking forward to reading this one. As for the trailer, I love the details that were incorporated in it.

  8. A Canadian Girl

    I don’t normally watch book trailers, Wendy, but I liked this one. It also doesn’t reveal too much about the book, which is nice. It must have been pretty cool to be on set and get to see the process and compare it to what eventually made it on the trailer.

    There’s so much hype for this one. It sounds like you really enjoyed it when you read it so I’m looking forward to seeing whether it lives up to the hype.
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Review: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m not a big book trailer person either, but it was cool to see this one come to life after reading the book and seeing the actors in costume on set. I agree, I liked that it doesn’t tell you too much but kind of just sets the mood and whets your appetite for more.

      And hah, hype monsters–sometimes I feel bad for books that are talked about a lot, because they’re also judged so much more strongly. This was a strong 4 stars for me overall–I had a couple of quibbles with it, but there’s a lot to love about it. I hope you end up enjoying it when you get to it!
      Wendy Darling recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

  9. Jessica Meyer

    Great post! It sounds like you had a wonderful adventure!!!

  10. Sarah

    I love the world building books in a series. Often the first book that sets the atmosphere is my favorite – so the author’s mention of the two years of world building she did really got me excited for this one!

    The trailer was great!

    • Wendy Darling

      I know what you mean, world-building is one of the best parts about reading fantasy–and you’re right, often the first book in a series has the most of it. Sometimes fantasy can be so heavy on detailing setting and language and things that it can also wear me down, though, as I’m not the most patient of readers. But in this case, there’s a nice balance between atmosphere/background and plot/characterization.

      I’m glad you liked the trailer! It’ll be so cool to see a movie trailer eventually, too.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

  11. J. Oh

    I love this post! This is a book I’m so excited to read, and I loved getting to read more about the process behind it. I actually never watch book trailers (I just prefer reading to watching), but I watched these, since they were short, and wow–they’re intense! Really atmospheric. Makes me even more excited to read this book.

    Now I’m really conflicted, though. I want to read a hard copy of the book, but if the Kindle edition is on sale for $2.99, then… :O What is a reader to do?! Hahaha.

    Thanks for this post!

    • J. Oh

      Sorry, quick question: I don’t have a Twitter. Is the only way to enter this giveaway by tweeting?

      • Wendy Darling

        Hey J–sorry for the delayed response, it’s been (and still is) nuts offline.

        I believe this is a Twitter-based giveaway, yes. But maybe be on the lookout for future ones which are not? We posted about a more traditional giveaway on our Facebook and Tumblr awhile back, and I’m guessing there might be another one in the future.
        Wendy Darling recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, and thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, it was definitely a very cool experience.

      I’m glad to hear you’re excited about the book, too! I actually rarely care about book trailers either, but this one did a nice job of touching on the main characters. I liked the music a lot, too.

      Hah hah, I can’t help you with that–I’m often torn by the same dilemma. I will say that I just got a finished copy in the mail (I’ll post photos to Instagram soon), and it is GORGEOUS.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

  12. Carina Olsen

    Eeek! Perfect post Wendy. <3 So so happy for you that you got to go see this :D You are so lucky. <3 And yay! I love the interview so much. Now I'm even more excited about this book :D So many have loved it. Sigh. And I am dyyying to read it. Crossing all my fingers that I will love it too :) But aw. I keep wishing to see a photo of you. Hmph. ONE DAY. Maybe :D But if not, I do understand. <3 Anyway. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing post sweetie :)
    Carina Olsen recently posted…In My Mailbox #177

    • Wendy Darling

      Ah, thank you! It is nice to get invited to these things. :) I never go to book signings or big events (as I was telling Pili below, I hate crowds, don’t care about autographs), so it’s nice to get the opportunity to spend quality time chatting with authors and other bloggers.

      Preeetty sure you’ll enjoy this one, Carina. Lots of action! Lots of atmosphere! Cool characters! All good things.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

  13. Lia

    I’m sooooo excited for this one! Maybe it’s a product of everyone else’s excitement, but I have high hopes! I love that the book will explore the boundaries between “good” and “evil.” Oooooh! You met Christine and Kat! Lucky!

    • Wendy Darling

      I hope the book lives up to your expectations! It’s very good, and I think most people will enjoy it. I didn’t even talk about Elias, who is such a great character and is one of the alternating POVs. We actually just missed the guy who played Elias in the trailer (you can see his muscled arm, hee hee), which we were all sad-faced about.

      And hah, people are just people to me. Christine and Kat seem to make a lot of appearances, though, so maybe you’ll feel “lucky” yourself in the future…

  14. Y. Glover

    This book looks amazing. So interesting to read about Tahir’s view of what she wanted out of her heroine and why. Nice to see more and more strong female characters with no tropes! The trailer looks fabulous and I love the influence of different cultures which contribute to the look and feel of this novel. Can’t wait to read this one and sounds like it would look great on the big screen, too.

    • Wendy Darling

      I was very struck by Sabaa’s descriptions of her heroine, too. You can clearly see she has something to say, and she says it well. There’s nothing wrong with fluffy books, but when an author has thought through the underlying themes she wants to express, that’s when a book becomes something truly special.

      And yes! This would make an awesome film.

  15. Summer

    This looks like it’s going to be such a good book, she obviously put so much of herself and research into it, and it’s reassuring to think that if I love the book, the author’s brother is working on the movie so there will definitely be quality control happening.

    • Wendy Darling

      It can definitely come in handy to have someone working on a film who loves and is protective of its source material–and the fact that he’s her brother is a huge, huge bonus! I’m really excited to see this story on screen. There are lots of highly visual elements, and the story lends itself really well to action and drama.

  16. Nikki

    This story sounds so interesting! I have it on my TBR pile but with such an awesome pre-order price I might have to go pick it up now!

    • Wendy Darling

      I know, right? $2.99 for a brand new release (actually, it’s not even out yet!) from Penguin? That’s nuts. Impossible to resist.

  17. Kayla Beck

    I have been waiting for this book for SO long! I’ve wanted it ever sense I saw “Rome-like world” in the summary. (History nerd right here!) I’m also super excited that it’s getting so much press.

    Thanks for sharing your recap!
    Kayla Beck recently posted…Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh man, this sounds like it’s right up your alley, then! The world-building and setting are REALLY well done. She does a great job of building up tension and menace–as a history buff, I’m sure you’ll appreciate those aspects.

    • Wendy Darling

      I hope you like it, Karen! I think you will. I had a couple of issues with it, but overall it’s a riveting read. I sped through it pretty quickly.

    • Wendy Darling

      Ahh, this is very much a Pili book, I think! Let me know if I’m right.

      I almost never go to signings and big events (it’s just so not my thing–I hate crowds, don’t care about autographs, etc), but I do enjoy these more intimate events where something interesting is happening. It’s nice to be able to spend some quality time talking to an author, I think you get more unique interviews/blog posts out of that. I’m glad to be able to share them!

      • Pili @ In Love With Handmade

        I will let you know as soon as it gets here and I can read it! But it feels like it’d be a Pili book indeed!

        I haven’t attended many events, but both were smallish and more low key, so it was a lot of fun to be able to chat with the authors more relaxed! Although nothing beats having the chance to meet them over food and drinks!
        Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…Mystery Twitter Theater!!

        • Wendy Darling

          Oh, that sounds nice! “Small and low-key” are definitely more my speed, and yes, I agree authors seem more relaxed in those settings as well. Small gatherings are much more conducive to real conversation, vs pre-planned presentations, though of course they’re not always possible.

          And yessss, food and drink for all the meet-ups, please!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, it was a fun and enlightening conversation. It was actually nice that Sabaa was taking the time to sincerely understand blogger perspectives; I’ve been in a lot of events/meetings where the authors seem so wary and on guard, like bloggers were zoo animals that might be nice to see from a distance, but might also bite your head off, hah. (And depending on their experiences, who knows, that wariness might be justified.)

      The book is definitely worth checking out. Hope you enjoy it when you get around to it.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh Lucy, it would have been so great to meet you! Pish, we should just arrange our own meet up one of these days. :) It was a very fun afternoon.

      And I’m glad you got the Kindle edition! I hope a lot of people take advantage of that.

  18. Brenda

    So exciting to go behind the scenes for the book trailer, sounds like fun to chat with fellow bloggers too. Sabaa Tahir sounds lovely and I’ve enjoyed reading about all her experiences it writing her book, the trailer looks wonderful. Much congratulations to her on its upcoming release.

    • Wendy Darling

      Yes, it was very cool to see it all coming together! And actually, I’m soooo antisocial when it comes to book events, hah–I almost NEVER go to signings or launch parties, and I generally fly under the radar if I do. But it was really fun to hear the other bloggers/vloggers talk about their own backgrounds and opinions about various happenings in the blogosphere. I hadn’t met any serious booktubers until then, so that was definitely interesting–and I made a new friend in Renee, too! So it was an extra great experience.

      I’d love to hear what you think of this book when you get around to it, Brenda! I really like how thoughtfully the author approached the characters and setting and themes in her story.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway

  19. Alexa S.

    This must have been such a cool experience! I think it would be awesome to be behind the scenes at the filming for a book trailer, and it’s just that much cooler that it was for a book that I’m very much looking forward to reading. Loved seeing your recap, and can’t wait for the book!
    Alexa S. recently posted…The Wrong Side of Right Launch Party (+ Giveaway)

    • Wendy Darling

      There’s a lot of standing around and waiting on sets, but it definitely helps when the hosts and actors and photographers are so gracious and accommodating. It is very cool to see the sets and hear about the process, and then to see it realized in a final trailer!

      I’m pretty sure you will love EMBER, Alexa. It’s a harsh, unforgiving world, but hey, as an SJM fan, you’re used to that, hah.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: trailer feature + giveaway

  1. an ember in the ashes movie adaptation

    […] really enjoyed An Ember in the Ashes, and I enjoyed meeting author Sabaa Tahir when I went to visit the set of the book trailer shoot. When the opportunity came up to host a […]