Exclusive SDCC 2015 Interview with Renee Ahdieh

San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive: We interview The Wrath and the Dawn author Renee Ahdieh

We continue our exclusive interview features with The Wrath and the Dawn author Renee Ahdieh (her husband is Persian, and the surname means “keeper of the covenant”).  Renee is a new YA author, with The Wrath and the Dawn being her debut novel, which is a re-imagining of Arabian Nights.

Since it was her first time being at San Diego Comic-Con, I asked her how the experience has been so far, and she said it was “crazy, but good crazy,” which is a good way of putting it.  “There are so many things to see,” she continues. “And I just love to see people so passionate.  Being just free to be passionate about it.”  Yeah, she understands and knows that kids don’t have to be the only ones who get to be afforded that luxury of being passionate about books, or movies, or whatever.

We continued to talk about the magic of Comic-Con, including the fun of cosplaying before we got to the really important stuff, like Renee’s amazing book!  You can watch the video or read the transcript below!

What was your favorite scene to write?

My favorite scene to write is probably—it happens midway through the book, and it is a chase scene through the souk.  Souk is, like, sort of their open-air market, and I based it on the open-air market in Cairo, Egypt.  It’s been there for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. It’s called the Khan el-Khalili, and whenever I was there, it was this amazing experience, because all of the spices that were out, vividly colored spices.  They’re selling food, people are yelling at you, and they’re trying to get your attention. All this dried fruit everywhere. And it seems so old world once you walk by, and people are selling, like, actual lamps, and stuff like that. Beautiful things! So I wanted to hearken back to that, and make that sensory experience that I experienced come back onto the page. And it’s a chase scene that ends with a sword fight and a kiss.

And I loved writing that scene.  I won’t say who the kiss is between, you have the read the book for that.

Do you think Khalid was selfish when he refused to sacrifice Shazi or does love trump everything else? 

I do believe that in this situation, love does triumph, but at the same time I do think it was selfish.  And I think he knows it’s selfish. But it’s funny, I wanted to make characters in this book that didn’t necessarily exist in worlds of white and black. I wanted them to exist in a sort of morally gray area. And Khalid kind of epitomizes that morally gray area for the entirety of the book, so it kind of is fitting for him to make that decision, after like, letting everybody else rule him for a long time.  I don’t want to spoil a lot.

That’s okay.  I will read it!  Eventually.  

Your shirt is amazing, by the way.  (commenting on my Mockingjay shirt that I was wearing)

So, this is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights.  What was the hardest part of developing it into a young adult story?

Probably not making it as, uh—so I’ve read two different versions of A Thousand and One Nights. I read the one that everybody’s familiar with, the Sir Richard Burton one.  But I also read the one that was translated by Husain Haddawy, and he translated it directly from the Arabic.  And I think- because the original stories are actually very gory, and they have a lot of violence in them, and some things that happen that may not exactly be appropriate for a younger audience.  So, I think, taking those elements, and taking what was essential about the narrative and making it appropriate for young adult audiences is probably one of my biggest struggles, and the other one I would say was just taking something so well beloved and doing a rewrite of it.  My agent gave me really good advice. She said, “You need to take what you love about it, and just make it your own.” Don’t stick to the subject matter, don’t feel that you need to be married to a certain way.

So, what can you tell us about book two of the series, The Rose and the Dagger

I can tell you that I think it’s coming out summer 2016.  I’ve seen the cover and it is gorgeous! Like, this maybe—I shouldn’t say this.  Like, I think I might like it more than the cover of The Wrath and the Dawn, and I think the cover of The Wrath and the Dawn is beautiful.  And, um, ah, there will be some more kissing, there will be some more [unable to recognize the word(s)], there might even be a magic carpet ride or two, also.

Oooh! Yay! Okay, so, if you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing? 

Trying to be a writer. (laughs)


I mean, I had another job before I did this. But now that I’m a writer, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.  It’s like going in after—it’s like I liken it to going into a store and trying on a bunch of jeans. Some of them work, they’re fine. They serve their purpose.  But then you put on a pair of jeans that just fits you right, it’s like, I never want to take these off.

Now you do write and you do read. What are you reading, like, right now?  And what books have influenced your writing?

The books that influenced my writing are probably books by Kristin Cashore, Tamora Pierce.  I’m a big fantasy reader.  What I’m reading now, you mentioned it earlier, I love Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes. I’m a huge fan of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Trilogy. I think those are beautiful books. Again, I need to read more contemp(orary) books, because I seem to only read the fantasy books, so yeah!


A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.