This month marks the one year anniversary of our feature. Hard to believe right? We are celebrating in our own diverse way, with giveaways, interviews, discussion posts, etc to share with all of you! Look for our new banner around (we are adding other social media outlets to our club) and for our soon to be twitter chats!
Today I’m showcasing an upcoming author, Alywn Hamilton who has a fantasy debut in early 2016 with Viking/Penguin.
REBEL OF THE SANDS BY ALWYN HAMILTON
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.
Please welcome Alwyn to the blog! Thank you so much not only for answering our questions but doing so on short notice.
Describe your book in a sentence or two.
REBEL OF THE SANDS is a Wild West meets Arabian Nights Fantasy about a sharpshooter girl on the run with a boy who has a secret, across a desert in the middle of a rebellion. There are gunslinger contests and magical horses made of sand and train heists and Djinni.
What was your inspiration for writing this book?
I got this notion that I wanted to write a western about a sharpshooting girl. Except I knew I didn’t actually want to write a western in the traditional sense. I kept thinking about what else I could do to have a story with this character without writing historical fiction. I was working with Islamic Art at the time and it hit me at midnight in a bout of insomnia that I wanted to write a Wild West story in the world of the Arabian Nights. It came together quickly as I realized the shared characteristics between the two mythicized versions of these real places. Both have Bandits, Deserts, strong religious cultures, etc. That was the jumping off point and everything sort of fell into place inside the world that sprung up.
What kind of research did you have to do to make sure your characters were authentic?
I think most of what makes the core of the characters and their voices is universal. Their wants, their fears, the way they fall in love and hold a grudge and grieve. So most of my research was probably world based. Belief and myth and storytelling plays a huge part in the book, so I read a lot of myths and folktales from Persia and the Arabian Peninsula. Those were the most fun to read and probably the most useful. I read a few late 19th early 20th century desert traveller accounts too, though most of these are from a western point of view, and dipped a little bit into histories of countries but tried not to get too bogged down in making my world conform to the history or geography of any country in particular.
How did you come to incorporate the diverse elements in your book?
It really was from making the decision that I wasn’t writing a traditional Western, that I was writing a gunslinging story in an Arabian Nights inspired desert. Even though the original idea had been the Wild West of 19th century America, when the Arabian Nights came in it just made sense to populate that world with middle eastern characters, anything else would have been whitewashing. That wound up feeding into the plot too. For instance my main character was nicknamed “The Blue Eyed Bandit” when I was still thinking of it as a pure western. I kept that nickname when the setting developed as it did, but her having an unusual eye colour for her ethnicity became an integral part of the book and her character.
How does the diversity in your book relate to your life?
I’m not going to pretend that I lacked characters who looked like me growing up the same way others did. As a white girl I was lucky enough to have Tamora Pierce’s Alanna and Mercedes Lackey’s Talia and Robin McKinley’s Aerin in my books. But I remember I went to books because so many TV shows had only one female character for me identify with and as a kid and often I couldn’t because, female or not, she wasn’t like me. I can’t imagine having been deprived of people like me across all mediums. And I know that a lot of people were. I think fantasy is increasingly drawing inspiration for world building beyond Western Europe, and through that, expanding into more diverse characters and I hope I can be part of that.
What are some of your favorite YA books about diverse characters?
I’m reading Heidi Heilig’s THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE at the moment, which is wonderful and which features a shipful of diverse characters (literally, there’s a ship, it’s amazing). Rae Carson’s THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, and Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW AND BONE have diversity woven in seamlessly as an integral part of their world. Then , outside of Fantasy, there’s Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES, Susan Ee’s ANGELFALL, Marie Lu’s LEGEND trilogy and Jenny Han’s TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE who have great diverse protagonists.
What areas of diversity do you want to draw attention to or do you feel are underrepresented in books?
I want more books that have diversity as part and parcel with a book about something else. Books that address diversity and discrimination head on are important, of course. But I love books that are about diverse characters going on adventures or fighting crime or becoming superheroes or falling in love. I think the more diversity is presented as just being part of every subgenre in YA the more it will become prevalent and normal and not seen as a limited subcategory.
If this one isn’t on your radar yet then hopefully it is now! Please take the time to visit the other lovely blogs in our #YADiversityBookClub and enter to win some great books!
Check out the other #YADiversityBookClub posts:
Lessons From a Year of Reading Diverse YA @ We Heart YA
First Anniversary Perks @ Teen Lit Rocks
Anniversary Giveaway @ The Reading Date