You want to know what’s glorious? TODAY IS GLORIOUS. I’m extra incredibly shriekishly (shhh, that’s totally a word) excited to be plastering the goodness of Rebel of the Sands in your faces.
This book was one of my top “I-must-have-this-book-in-2016-or-spontaneously-combust-with-longing” books and it did not let me down. So today I am a) interviewing the author, Alwyn Hamilton, b) giving you a list of reasons WHY this book is everything, and c) having a GLORIOUS giveaway at the end.
READY FOR THIS? OF COURSE YOU ARE. YEEHAAA!
Alwyn Hamilton was born in Toronto and spent her childhood bouncing between Europe and Canada until her parents settled in France. She grew up in a small town there, which might have compelled her to burst randomly into the opening song from Beauty and the Beast were it not for her total tone-deafness. She instead attempted to read and write her way to new places and developed a weakness for fantasy and cross-dressing heroines. She left France for Cambridge University to study History of Art at King’s College, and then to London where she became indentured to an auction house. She has a badhabit of acquiring more hardcovers than is smart for someone who moves house quite so often.
How long did it take Rebel of the Sands to go from inkling of an idea to published novel? Did it go through any ginormous changes?
ALWYN: The very first inkling of an idea about a girl with a gun in a Wild West Meets Arabian Nights setting came sometime in early 2012. I started writing it towards the end of that year after letting the idea brew long enough that it had become an actual story. A first draft took about a year, then another six months of editing before I queried it. I signed with my agent shortly after and we did another four months of edits together. The book sold at the end of 2014 and had about another 8 months of edits before it reached the final state you can hold in your hands! So from idea to actually sitting on shelves it was 4 years, though not four years of non stop work!
The biggest change from idea to execution was that when I was letting the idea brew, I planned out the entire story, all the way to the end of the Rebellion. I realized somewhere around 60,000 words in that it would never fit in a single book. So I added the plot of them stumbling across a destroyed desert city and reworked it so that I could end book 1 before it became a 300,000 word tome. The rest of what I had planned for the story has now evolved and goes in books 2 and 3.
Can you tell us a little about how you got a book deal?
ALWYN: Absolutely! On a Friday afternoon in November, after we’d been doing some editing, my agent told me that if I could finish some tiny little tweaks quickly she might be able to get in on desks in New York before the weekend. I cancelled my plans for the evening and managed to get home from work at about 8.30 and finish it off and send back to her about 9 p.m. And then suddenly it was out in the world. My agent told me to take up a hobby to keep myself sane as it might take a while. But maybe we’d hear back before Christmas. She was amazing and kept me posted about who had it and what they were feeding back. We heard back very quickly. On the following Wednesday we had my first call with an editor.
In the weeks that followed I had calls with 7 more editors in the US and met with 4 in London and the sales in other countries started to build up. It was all a total blur. My agent set a date to hold an auction for U.S and U.K. I was a nervous wreck that Tuesday of the U.S auction, I don’t think I got any work done. Unless you count using the work printer to print out the 8 pitches sent for the book. The first round ended at 3 p.m that day, and it started to narrow down. The afternoon was a rush of emails and calls as I dodged around my office pretending to do my job. I worked in an auction house then, and we had a furniture sale that day. Around 6 p.m I had to go upstairs and find a fainting couch. My best friend came and collected me to be supportive, and took me home via Pizza as I stayed glued to my phone. On the train back to mine she read through all the pitches sent. She pulled out the one from Viking from the pile of 8 and told me it was her favourite one. I don’t know if that swayed anything in the great cosmic balance, but by 10 or 11 that night everything done and the book was with Viking.
The next day was a daze. Towards the end of it I would up at my agent’s house being handed a box containing a bottle of sand with a pitch from Faber rolled up in it. I thought I might be hallucinating. It was amazing. The next day the UK auction was held and Faber won the book for the UK
Do you have a favourite quote from Rebel of the Sands?
ALWYN: So hard to chose from your own writing! And I’m looking forwards to seeing what quotes stand out to readers. But I really liked getting to use “lying is a sin” to mean so many different things depending on who is saying it.
What is the toughest and what’s the easiest part of the writing process for you?
Easiest Part has to be drafting. I love just pouring out words even if they’re bad and nothing makes sense. Hardest part…I struggle sometimes with editing small pieces. If I have to pull out a whole scene and write a new one that’s fine. But if it’s just doing a small tweak like pulling out a character, I find it quite tricky to close the gaps around where the change used to be sometimes.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
ALWYN: The best storytelling advise out there, for me, has to be the list that, Emma Coats, an ex-Pixar employee tweeted. It was 22 amazing tips on telling a story which I saved to my phone. They are all winners, but the one I refer to the most is “Simplify. Focus. Combine Characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.”
And lastly! (The most important question.) Has any chocolate been harmed in the making of your novel?
ALWYN: Most of the chocolate harmed has been at the bottom of a café mocha, accompanied by an almond croissant usually. But the odd piece of chocolate Guinness cake or pain au chocolat has been seen on the writing battlefield, for sure.
Sounds absolutely delicious, to be honest…mmm CAKE. Ahem. Thank you SO MUCH for stopping by, Alwyn! It’s been amazing chatting with you!
- IT FLAWLESSLY MIXED PERSIAN FANTASY, MAGIC, SASS, AND GUNS. Fantasy is my life, honest, it absolutely is. But mix an epic fantasy vibe with a wild-western one and add in epic shooting skills?!? I AM SO CONVINCED.
- IT’S BASICALLY SET IN A DUSTY FANTASY WORLD WITH MIDDLE-EASTERN INFLUENCES. And actually reminds me of Blood Red Road, which is only my favourite book of nearly ever, by the way. We have weapons factories and GUNNNNNNS and shooting people — but we also have spirits and ghouls and terrible things lurking in the desert that like to rip your face off. #nice And sand. MUCH SAND. The cowboy western feel to it was absolutely my favourite.
- THE HEROINE, AMANI, IS DOWNRIGHT AWESOME. She’s the “tough heroine” who is a wicked good shot and dreams of running away from her abusive relatives to FIND HER DESTINY OF AWESOME. But she’s not ever irritating. She’s really really sassy. And she makes mistakes. Omg, so. many. mistakes. Yet no skimming on the character development, so by the end I really wanted to hug her. But she’d probably have shot me. #awkward
- THE LOVE INTEREST, JIN, IS AN ADORABLE BUCKET OF SASS. Everyone is sassy in this book. I have zero complaints about that. We meet Jin when he stalks into a shooting game in the local tavern and competes against Amani (who’s dressed as a boy at that point) and they’re so stinkin’ cute together. And he also gets shot at. A lot. I do so like a book where everyone is shooting and bleeding. Ahem.
- DID I MENTION I LOVE THE SASS?!?!?
“You’re going to get us both killed if you go off looking for this on your own, you know. And if I was going to die on account of you, I’d rather have done it weeks ago before I had to do all this walking.”
- THE STORY LINE ITSELF ALSO NEEDS BE MENTIONED; MOSTLY BECAUSE I LOVED IT. It’s fast paced! There’s an entire new world crammed into this 330-page novel but a) the world building was amazing, and b) it wasn’t rushed at all, and c) I’m really pleased that you can HAVE a really decent fantasy world story that isn’t 500+ pages. This has epic world building. Epic mythology. Epic settings. EEEEPIC EVERYTHING, DANGIT. (Although it did have a tendency to info-dump in the form of folklore tales. Which I’ll forgive it for, but I wasn’t particularly interested in those tales.)
- THE ONLY DOWNSIDE IS THAT I NEEDED THE SEQUEL LIKE YESTERDAY. It was entirely amazing, okay?! I’m really happy that my all my expectations were met PLUS there were shoot-outs on trains and magical Djinn things and shrieky secrets spilling aaall over the sands.
Jin was at my side…”Did you just shoot someone?”
“I got us hired, if that’s what you’re asking. And I only shot his glass.”
Jin hooked one arm around my shoulder, leaning on me. “I knew I liked you, Bandit.”
THANK YOU TO ALLEN & UNWIN FOR THE REVIEW-COPY. Rebel of the Sands by Alywn Hamilton is published March, 2016.
She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.
Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him…or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.
- Thank you to Allen & Unwin for sponsoring this giveaway!
- 3 x winners
- AUSTRALIAN only