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Monday, March 20, 2017

Penguin Teen Spring Tour 2017: My Interview with Renée Ahdieh!

Hey guys! I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to hang out with Renée Ahdieh one-on-one for Penguin Teen On Tour and to chat with her about her new upcoming book, Flame in the Mist! Below is a transcript of our interview, so I hope you guys enjoy it! Personally, I had a blast :D

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017
Pre-Order: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Tamora Pierce.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

Renée Ahdieh is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog.
Connect with Renée: Website | Twitter | Instagram | FB | Pinterest

Brittany: Let's talk about the differences between writing [Flame in the Mist] versus writing The Wrath and the Dawn. Was there anything different about your process?

Renée: When you read The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and The Dagger, they're mired in this notion of the power of story because Shazi is literally telling stories to stay alive. So I'd say that the tension, while it's really built into the situation . . . there's not a lot of action happening on the page, especially in the beginning of The Wrath and the Dawn. You can feel how tense it is and how afraid you are for her, cause her life is being threatened, and she's trying to tell stories to understand what's going on and . . . conceal who she is and what her wants are. Khalid is also trying to control who he is and he doesn't want anyone to know; so there's a lot going on with tension.

With the Flame in the Mist, there's a lot more [physical] action going on, so it's kind of creating a different sort of tension and I had a really good time doing that because Mariko, she's a girl . . . dressed as a boy-warrior, and she's infiltrating a clan of ninja, so it was super fun writing these scenes! Because Shazi is one of these characters who has a lot of spirit, but a lot of her action and a lot of her drive is almost . . . cerebral, so it's word-play. Mariko is a scientist who's also trying to overcome her very analytical nature and to take action. She's trying to learn how you take action of these situations, and I loved being able to write that kind of character and understanding their motivations.

Brittany: Well, I definitely appreciate it.

Renée: Thank you, thank you!

Brittany: Now, you write a lot of very strong leading ladies and now you're on tour with four very strong female voices. How do you feel about that? And is that really important to you when you're writing a book to have this strong female narrator who's breaking these [societal boundaries] that are set out for her?

Renée: I think it's very important to break molds that are set out, but I also . . . have this knee-jerk reaction when people talk about "strong female characters."

Brittany:: So do I! This is why I wanted to ask you about it.

Renée: It's always sort of annoyed me because there are different kinds of strength.

Brittany: I feel like it's just another mold.

Renée: Exactly.

Brittany: All of our stories should be out there. There's not just "strong" [males] either.

Renée: Exactly! You don't see people saying a "strong male character."

Brittany: Nope, definitely not.

Renée: And how are they qualifying and quantifying strength? Usually, it's under the guise of what a man would perceive to be strong. Like physicality and the ability to work well with weapons. And I love that . . . but again, there are so many different kinds of strength. There's strength of the mind, strength of the heart, and we need to give these things equal weight 'cause it isn't good to put these strengths below physicality, because often, in my opinion, it's a very gut reaction. Anyone can swing a sword, anybody can throw a spear, or something like that. But to truly be able to understand nuance of emotion and make a difference, that involves far more than just punching something.

Brittany: I totally agree. Now . . . do you think Mariko and Shazi would be friends?

Renée: Absolutely. Absolutely, but I think they'd get on each other's nerves, though.

Brittany: I could see that.

Renée: I love both of these characters so much because, again, Shazi is incredibly impetuous, and she's a little bit reckless. She acts before she thinks. She has this very gut feeling, [like] "okay, this is what I'm going to do in these situations," you know? And then she makes it happen, and she doesn't really care what's going on around her.

Mariko is much more hesitant, she analyzes everything from all different angles and then tries to come up with the best way to respond to a situation. But it's often to her [own] detriment because she spent so much time thinking about it, but she hasn't taken the actions necessary. This is why she's in very these very terrible predicaments [in Flame in the Mist]. I think Shazi would be exasperated by Mariko's need to think so much, and Mariko would be exasperated by the fact that Shazi never has plans.

Brittany: That would be fun though!

Renée: I think they would be friends though, because the best of friends, in my opinion, we all enhance what's good about each other and challenge each other to work on the things we need to work on.

Brittany: That's definitely true.

Renée: Yeah, and I would like to think they would be terrific friends, but I think they would yell at each other a lot. It'd be like me and my sister, because I'm more like Shazi and Mariko is much more like my sister, so yeah . . .

Brittany: That's interesting!

Renée: Yeah.

Brittany: So,  I know you love your research.

Renée: Yes!

Brittany: How much research did you have to do for Flame in the Mist? I imagine a lot. And I remember when I saw you last time, you were talking about going to Oregon and learning the process of forging a katana.

Renée: Mhm, yes!

Brittany: Did you do that?

Renée: Actually, I am going to be going with Sabaa Tahir, who is one of my dear friends.

Brittany: Yes, I remember you saying that you were going to convince her to go, too!

Renée: Actually this time, she is the one who put it together! We were going to be taking a sword forging course and we're both going to be making katanas!

Brittany: That's amazing!

Renée: I'm very, very excited about it. Again, we're both the sort of writers who are very dedicated to our research.

Brittany: I mean, any reason to go get katanas made.

Renée: Right?! Exactly! I love how we're making this "for research" -laughs- when we would do this anyway.

Brittany: So besides the katanas, did you have to do a lot of other research? What was your favorite part?

Renée: I love all kinds of research, I think the things I enjoy most are food. And it's not just that I like to try food, I also like to learn how to make it. Because I feel like you can really understand the flavors and . . . so much about the culture by the way they prepare [their] food. You can see so many commonalities between cultures. I was just having this great discussion with a good friend whose family is very traditional; They live here in the U.S., but they are not necessarily trying food outside their [own] heritage. They have like, German-Polish heritage, and she thinks it's such an unfortunate situation because when I took her to have Middle Eastern food, she said, "this is the same food, it's just different spices and if they would just try it..." It's variety, you know, spice of life sort of stuff, right?

Brittany: Right, yes.

Renée: It's the best thing. You see many commonalities cross culturally when you try people's food. It's a language that doesn't need to be spoken and you can understand so much [about] people by the way they eat. So, I love that and I love clothing, jewelry, and I love, as you can guess from earlier, weaponry. 

Brittany: That would explain why they are all so well-described in your books.

Renée: Oh, thank you!

Brittany: Was there anything while you were researching for Flame in the Mist, that you would be scared that it has you on a watch-list?

Renée: Oh gosh, I mean, that's a question that [all writers] joke about! Because we're asking questions like, how long does it take to die if you cut off someone's head . . .  and that kind of stuff.

Brittany: I know what you mean, because I research things like, how bad does blood smell in X temperature? Does it even smell, or is just dried? Stuff like that.

Renée: Exactly! And for this book, and you see that I have more than one "H" in my last name, so it's probably not a good idea for me. But anyway, I was learning too, because Mariko is a scientist, and she's creating a lot of the traditional things you would associate with ninjas, [such as] smoke-shields, and that kind of stuff. And the science behind this was really neat and I got to . . . bother my sister for help because my sister is a scientist. So, learning how to make what amounts to early napalm during the research process definitely has me on some watch list . . . -laughs-

Brittany: Okay, so I have one final question and it's actually from my good friend Stefani Sloma, who says that she misses you.

Renée: Oh my gosh, I adore her!

Brittany: She saw on Twitter that your Patronus is a rat and she wants to know why.

Renée: Oh my god! Okay, so this is hilarious. So as soon as all of that stuff for all the houses came out for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and you could go onto Pottermore and get your Patronus. And of course like years ago, I took the test . . . and I was Slytherin, but I was really disappointed because I wanted to be in Gryffindor! So I did an incredibly Slytherin thing, and I lied to people and told people that I was Gryffindor. And whenever they did the changes for the test, I was like, "Oh, retake it!" And every single time, without fail, I was in Slytherin. And so, I thought that this must be a way to redeem myself, though since that time, I've totally embraced being a Slytherin. I think there is so much to love about being Slytherin too. Because . . . like with every house, there are negatives and positives.

So, my husband took the test for his Patronus, and he got this really cool one—he got an adder—which is a really neat poisonous snake. And I was like, "I'm going to do this!" So, I take the test, and I'm a rat. And initially, I'm like, god this entire situation is just trying to screw me over. First, I'm a Slytherin and now, I'm a rat! And then my husband says to me, "Well, think about it. You love the movie Ratatouille. You love Remy from Ratatouille. And rats are resourceful and they will eat anything. So that is you!"

Brittany: And they have been around forever, they have survived everything! -laughs-

Renée: Exactly! So, rats are resourceful, they will eat anything, and he's like, "that is you!" and I'm like, "That's true!" -laughs-

Brittany: Thank you so much, Renée! I'm really excited for Flame in the Mist!

Renée: Thank you so much, Brittany!
Just in case you guys are interested in the other books on the tour, I've included their information below! You should definitely check them all out :D

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: March 7th, 2017
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Guest Post with Alwyn
The sizzling, un-put-downable sequel to the bestselling Rebel of the Sands!

Mere months ago, gunslinger Amani al'Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she's fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne.

When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan's palace—she's determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan's secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she's a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she's been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.

Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about djinni and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin Random House
Pub. Date: February 14th, 2017
Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister's footsteps and earn her place in her father's war band. She never gets the chance.
Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

A richly imagined fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cinda Williams Chima, "The Valiant" recounts Fallon s gripping journey from fierce Celtic princess to legendary gladiator and darling of the Roman empire."

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Pub. Date: January 24th, 2017
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling YA murder mystery set in Kenya.

In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn't exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill's personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.


  1. Great interview. Any reason to get Katanas is a good one. ;)

  2. What a fun interview! I can't WAIT to start reading Flame in the Mist. And yes, Renee has the best descriptions of food. Wrath and Rose made me so hungry when I read them!

    Mary @ Mary Had a Little Book Blog

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And yes, I'm going to be reading FLAME as soon as I finish my current read, and I an DYING from excitement :D Thanks so much for stopping by, Mary <3

      Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles

  3. Oh I love this interview, I especially loved hearing Renee's thoughts on "strong women." You guys are right, it's very short-sighted and only applies to one type of person. I can't wait to read this one!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this interview! It was so great to talk to Renee about it :) I hope you love FLAME when you read it! <3

  4. I loved reading your conversation about the different aspects of "strength", I like reading about mental strength more than physical strength. I think that is wild that she is going with Sabaa to forge katanas. Now that's research dedication! Thanks for sharing your interview. :)

    1. I'm so glad you liked the interview! Agreed, it's totally wild, though I'd love to try forging a katana someday :D

  5. Best interview ever! Renee seems so awesome and the whole Patronus conversation made me laugh out loud. Haha :D

    1. Eeep, so glad you enjoyed! I had soooo much fun with Renee, and she absolutely is as awesome as she seems :D

  6. Omg you are so lucky you got to interview Renee and hang out with her! I love her books, and I love this interview (:

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview :D Renee is lovely, and I feel very lucky to have gotten the chance to do this :) Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Eeeep! What a fantastic experience, Brittany! I really enjoyed reading this interview and it made me think about the variations of strength in anyone. This is absolutely true and I am sure that I often talk about strong characters and should maybe elaborate on the actual qualities of that strength. I wish that the tour was coming to Toronto again this year. I missed last year's and it is so wonderful that you had the opportunity to meet all of these ladies. :)

    1. I do the same thing as well, and lately I've been trying harder to be more aware, and to elaborate in reviews regarding what exactly I mean when I say "strong female character", etc :) This was such a wonderful experience for me, so I really hope there will be more book tour stops in Toronto in the future so that you could go too! <3

  8. Ah this is such a fun interview! Renee Ahdieh sounds amazing and it's so cool that you got to interview her :) And now I really want to go learn how to make katanas as well ;)

    1. She's definitely amazing! And omg me too! Though I'd want to learn to do it in Japan :D

  9. OOOOH! I am SO SO EXCITED for Flame in the Mist - it sounds like SUCH a great book! Plus, I loved TWATD and TRATD and I can't wait to read more from Renee.

    Love the interview too<3

    Aditi @

  10. Omg this interview is so exciting! I love what Renee said about different types of strength...i think nowadays strong female characters are denoted upon how they measure up physically to men since the trend now seems to be women who fight so it's refreshing to see strength of mind :P Thanks for this awesome interview!!!
    Kariny @kariny's boox frenzy

  11. I need to hurry up and read The Rose and the DAgger because I loved The Wrath and the Dawn. Loved hearing from the author in this interview! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yess you should read it asap!! I loved it :D So glad you enjoyed the interview! :)

  12. Absolutely loved reading this interview! It was interesting to see the difference between writing Flame in the Mist and the Wrath and the Dawn. I still have to read that one, by the way, but I'm even more excited for Flame in the Mist now!

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Kelly! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! <3

  13. This is SUCH a fabulous interview!! I mean, I am insanely jealous, so please understand the strength of my envy, but also, you did such an amazing job here, both of you! I agree wholeheartedly about the strength issue. Because on one hand... you know, we are basically ALL strong women in some way, our own personal way. But then you also want to promote that strength, so I see completely how that is a fine line. Also, YES to the food! GAH Renee knows how to make a girl hungry! And can we get in on this amazing katana trip? Let's you and I go for "research". And by "research", I mean making swords and hanging out with amazing authors. ;)

    1. Shannon, I love this comment so much <3 Thank you so much for your kind words! Renee was an absolute delight to interview, and I felt that it was a super enlightening experience for myself as well :) And RIGHT?! I would love to make katanas, eat food, and hang out with authors for research! We should do this XD haha.

  14. Yay :D Such an awesome interview post Brittany. <3 Thank you for sharing sweetie :) I haven't read any books by this author yet, ack. But reading her first two books soonish, I hope :D