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Interview with...

Renée Adhieh

El Templo #82 (junio 2021)
Por Alicia D. Carballeira
29 lecturas

Your first series, The Wrath and the Dawn, was published in Spain in 2017, and since then you have written another duology and started a new series. Has anything changed in your writing style from your first book until now?

I love this question. I think perhaps my style has deepened even further from my first series, almost like getting comfortable with your favorite pair of shoes. Also I feel as though the things I search for in books I love—an immersive setting, memorable characters, and a searing romance—are things I’ve become even more enamored by in my most recent books. Above all, I want to write for a reader like me: someone who craves a sensory experience and getting lost in the pages of a story.

Although you favor the fantasy genre, your books are very different from each other. You travel from the settings of One Thousand and One Nights to feudal Japan and recently 19th century New Orleans. What makes you jump so much between locations?

When I first began writing, I knew I wanted to transport readers to worlds that aren’t as common in Western literature. Telling stories from inclusive backgrounds has always been intentional for me. I love to travel, and it only made sense for me to celebrate the world at large in my writing. The common thread between all these locations is the rich and unique culture of each setting: the food, the music, the landscape, and, above all, the people.

Accurately reflecting such different cultures and folklore requires in-depth research work. How do you document yourself?

I think it’s important for a writer to be responsible with any story they are telling. If you’re writing about a young woman, then you want to fully inhabit her world. Similarly, when you are telling a tale from a different culture, make certain that you take advantage of any opportunity to understand and experience that world from its own unique lens. In this way, you can be a responsible, respectful writer. Also reaching out to people who live this experience is so important. Their input is invaluable, and their points should be heard and respected.

Your strong and resourceful female characters are also a hallmark in all your novels. Shahrzad, Mariko, and now Celine, they are all independent women who can get by very well on their own. What motivates you to create this type of characters?

I think it’s important for all of us in the book community to acknowledge that being “strong” involves much more than being able to hunt or fight or throw or have a fiery temper. There is also strength of the heart and strength of the mind. I am lucky to know so many amazing women. They are the truest source of inspiration. All the women in my life are strong and resilient in their own ways. Turning to them is what motivates me most.

In your latest book, The Beautiful, you put epic fantasy aside and focus on the supernatural world and on one particular creature that is making a comeback: vampires. What is the reason for this choice?

I have loved vampire stories since I was twelve years old and fell in love with Anne Rice’s books. The hypnotic, otherworldly quality of her writing made me fall into the pages in a way that has stuck with me ever since. Honestly I began writing a version of The Beautiful even back then. I wanted to create a world of mythical creatures that included people who looked like me and straddled cultures and experiences as I have, being a girl of mixed race. Writing Celine was a liberating experience because she is the most like me of any character I’ve ever written.

The action takes place in an alternative New Orleans. Despite not being the same city as the 21st century one, have you visited it for inspiration? Any favorite places?

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the world. I’ve visited about fifteen times so far, and—save for the pandemic!—I make a point to travel there at least twice a year. It’s inspired my writing for the last ten years. The culture of New Orleans is unlike any other. I adore the French Quarter and the Bywater, as well as the city’s jazz haunts and spectacular cuisine.

Although it has not yet arrived to Spain, The Damned has already been published in English. This series was born in the middle of the comeback for vampires and similar creatures. What do you think about the new boom that the supernatural genre is having, and how has it affected you at the time of writing?

I am thrilled to read more vampire books and books with supernatural creatures. Honestly I don’t know that these stories have ever faded from popularity for those who’ve loved them as long as I have. The recent resurgence just highlights that readers never tire of being swept into worlds of magic and mystery, where anything is posible.

In 2017, you participated in From a Certain Point of View, a Star Wars anthology. How was the experience to work for such a well-know saga with a big fanbase? There are almost 40 short stories in it, all by different authors. How did the coordination work?

It was a dream come true to write anything associated with Star Wars, a fandom I’ve been a part of since I was a little girl. Having the opportunity to shed light on the backstories of some of the lesser known character was a treat. Honestly the coordination was excellent because we worked with an amazing editor and had constant input and communication with those in charge of maintaining the legacy of this world and its dynamic characters.

Finally, how have you handled these difficult months? Is there any new project that you can tell us about?

Thank you so much for asking this question. It’s not been easy, for sure, but I am thankful for my health and the health of those around me. We had our first child at the beginning of the pandemic, so—while that was difficult—it was a gift to be there to experience every moment with our son. I am working on something right now, but I have to keep it a secret!

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