Welcome…welcome everybody, to the Rebel of the Sands blog tour. Ever since I heard of this book a few months ago, I knew I HAD to read it. You’ll see from my mood board and mini-review below, that I absolutely adored this book. Needless to say, I’m so thrilled to be a part of the blog tour today.
My post today is jam-packed with all sorts of amazing things, so let’s not waste any time and get down to the good stuff. Shall we? I was given the opportunity to ask the author of this fantastic book, Alwyn Hamilton, some questions about her experiences in writing Rebel of the Sands, and what motivated her to tell such an exciting and spellbinding story.
An Interview with Alwyn Hamilton
Sarah: Hi Alwyn! First of all, congratulations on your debut novel, ‘REBEL OF THE SANDS’! There’s soME amazing buzz and excitement surrounding it, You must be so thrilleD! Starred reviews, praise from epic YA authors and avid readers alike…it’s all so exciting
Could you share some insight into your main character, Amani. What drew you to her character in the first place and why did you want to tell her story?
Alwyn: The idea of Amani was conceived after I’d gotten really tired of hearing that girls in fantasy novels just couldn’t be as good with a weapon as their male counterparts because they weren’t as physically strong. It wasn’t “biologically logical”. Cue my exasperated eye roll and my decision to write a girl with a weapon which relied entirely on skill over strength: A Young Female Sharpshooter, who couldn’t just keep up with the boys but could blow them all out of the water, but still not be taken seriously because of her gender. I knew she would be dark haired and dark skinned and known as “The Blue Eyed Bandit” and I knew what that would ultimately mean, but those were all relatively superficial aspects of her character.
I actually didn’t find her as a character until I sat down to write the book. I was writing something else, which I was struggling with. The main problem, looking back, was that I didn’t really know the main character very well. In a moment of frustration I decided to take a 15 minute break and write the first chapter of this “girl with the gun” idea. The first line of the book was kind of a total revelation of Amani’s character. The moment I wrote, “I wasn’t up to good. But I wasn’t exactly up to no bad neither” I knew exactly who she was beyond just “The Blue Eyed Bandit” (Even though I didn’t actually know her name until I reached Chapter 3.) I had her voice, her impulsiveness, her ability to find trouble even when she’s not looking for it, and I knew she was someone I wanted to stick it out with. That 15 minute break turned into writing an entire book on the strength of wanting to get this girl where she needed to go.
What was the easiest aspect of writing ‘Rebel of the Sands’? Alternatively, what did you find the most difficult.
Making up the religion and myths and legends for Miraji and the world in REBEL OF THE SANDS as a whole actually came together very naturally. Everything from the myth of The First Hero to the story of The Rebel Prince at the Sultim trials came together pretty as I daydreamed the book and were a ton of fun to write when I sat down to draft.
Share your favorite behind-the-scenes story of ‘Rebel of the Sands’. What stays top of mind when you think about the special moments that went into this book?
It’s all kind of a blur to be honest, especially the writing parts. But I do remember leaving my desk at work to take a phone call with my agent while the book was in the process of selling, and finding a literal fainting couch to sit on. It seemed apt and honestly I still feel like it sums up the whole thing nicely.
What did you find was the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received as a debut author?
Does “You worry too much.” Count as advice? 😉
I’ve found the soundest, sanest, advice usually comes from other authors who are older (in terms of how long they have been authors, not necessarily age) and wiser. It’s usually not so much “here’s what you should do” type advice, it’s more “here is what is going to happen and how you are probably going to deal with it.”
I was well versed in all this “what to expect when you’re expecting a book” advice before I even signed with an agent because so many authors are great about blogging it and tweeting it. But, in the same way that no teenager has ever wanted to take advice from their parents, it’s hard to take this advice seriously in the moment because you feel far too insane to apply anything so levelheaded to your own situation. Sure, they have been there, but Debut-dom/High School was a while ago, and you’d much rather get the same advice from your peers who are living through it with you. Hearing, “Chill out, I’m freaking out too” from other Debuts is the best kind of advice I’ve had.
I love to ask authors to share fun, little known facts about themselves. What are some tidbits of information that you think your readers would love to know about you?
I have a bad history of accidental…I mean “arson” is a strong word “so let’s go with… “incendiary habits”. I once set my mattress on fire by leaving a reading lamp on which tipped over. I didn’t even get a new mattress, we just flipped it. Then I set the garbage can on fire with a dishcloth, which I had set on fire with a toaster to begin with…What? I was trying to defrost something. Then…well, I think the whole family contributed to the “Tissue paper used to wrap tree decorations” fire of Christmas 2014, I was just the one that said “What’s that burning smell?” I burned another hole in my mattress a last year with a pair of hair straighteners.
It clearly runs in the family because one of my parents, who will remain nameless, burned their house down when they were a teenager. Also accidentally. Or so they claim. My aunt lost all her clothes the day before she was due to leave for university and they had to live in a motel for months.
If you could visit the home of any fictional character in the history of literature, who would you pick and why.
Hogwarts. It was more home than Privet Drive for Harry for years so I’m counting it. It’d be my choice for obvious magical reasons. But also being part of the Harry Potter Generation I can be reduced to tears by just a GIF of J.K Rowling saying “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” I teared up a bit just typing that out.
Many thanks to Alwyn for being so gracious and taking the time to answer all of my questions so thoughtfully. You really get a sense of how passionate she is about ‘Rebel of the Sands’ and what a labor of love it was from her words above.
Rebel of the Sands Mini-ReviewRebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands, #1) by Alwyn Hamilton
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on March 8th 2016
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.
Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.
Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.
Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.
I’ve been reading a lot of Jinn-inspired YA lately. The Forbidden Wish, Blood Passage and now Rebel of the Sands. You wanna know something? I’ve loved them all! I’m the type of reader that’s easily swept off my feet by stories of magical jinn and their quests to obtain freedom from oppression. These books have all involved gorgeous desert landscapes, colorful descriptions and swoony boys that know how to make a heart melt. Rebel of the Sands takes these all of these themes and expands on them by mixing it up with a strong cowboy/western vibe. This story was a really unique mix of shoot em’ up western and mystical jinn legends. I love how Alwyn Hamilton combined the two genres of storytelling to create a fully formed and richly detailed world.
I also adored the fierce and determined gunslinger that was Amani. Her character arc was fully realized and felt completely authentic as I followed along on her journey. To read along as she makes revelation after revelation and discovers her true destiny, was truly thrilling and I was completely invested in her from the very beginning. The story just got better and better with each new character I met and by the end of the story I was so caught up in the stories of many of the characters, and I’m so eager to see what happens next.
This book is jam-packed with non-stop excitement and the adventure is thrilling! Rebel of the Sands is perfect for those readers who enjoy epic quests and lots of action, mixed in with a healthy dose of meaningful character development and thoughtful protagonists. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of this book for yourself. Not only will it totally upgrade your bookshelf with all of its cover gorgeousness, but you’ll also fall in love with the words inside. I cannot wait to see what Alwyn Hamilton has up her sleeve for book two!