Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours for introducing me to Sam Taylor and her debut novel We Are the Fire. I’m very excited to bring you an exclusive interview with this new voice in YA Fantasy.
We Are the Fire
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: February 16th 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
As electrifying as it is heartbreaking, Sam Taylor’s explosive fantasy debut We Are the Fire is perfect for fans of An Ember in the Ashes and the legend of Spartacus.
In the cold, treacherous land of Vesimaa, children are stolen from their families by a cruel emperor, forced to undergo a horrific transformative procedure, and serve in the army as magical fire-wielding soldiers. Pran and Oksana―both taken from their homeland at a young age―only have each other to hold onto in this heartless place.
Pran dreams of one day rebelling against their oppressors and destroying the empire; Oksana only dreams of returning home and creating a peaceful life for them both.
When they discover the emperor has a new, more terrible mission than ever for their kind, Pran and Oksana vow to escape his tyranny once and for all. But their methods and ideals differ drastically, driving a wedge between them. Worse still, they both soon find that the only way to defeat the monsters that subjugated them may be to become monsters themselves.
Sam Taylor grew up in Arizona’s deserts and now lives among Connecticut’s trees. She spends her days writing, being mom to the world’s cutest boys, whirling through dance workouts, and baking too many cakes. She does not possess fire magic, but does have one fire-colored cat. We Are the Fire is her debut novel.
And now, a Books, Tea, Healthy Me exclusive interview with Sam Taylor!
Is there something special about the book you are currently promoting that you want everyone to know? Your inspiration maybe? A fun hidden fact?
In WE ARE THE FIRE, the Demon’s Tongue chemical weapon—an incendiary blend created by the Imperial Alchemist—was inspired by Greek Fire. That legendary compound was said to burn on contact with water and was used to attack other ships in sea battles. The recipe for Greek Fire was such a closely guarded secret that no one today knows how it was made, but I had fun reimagining it for the characters in this fiery fantasy.
From where do you get your ideas for your books?
For WE ARE THE FIRE, I was angry and wanted to watch something burn. My day job at the time was run by some corrupt people. I felt powerless to fix the situation, and often wasn’t sure what were the right choices. I wanted a story with fire magic, to vent out my frustrations. I wanted a story where the right decisions weren’t always clear, because sometimes they aren’t. I wanted a story with unlikely allies coming together—something that got me through my own struggles. Above all, I wanted a story that ended with hope.
Where do you begin when you develop new characters? Physical characteristics, personality, plot? What comes first and how do you go from there?
I’ll start with their struggles, whatever they’re up against in the story. I plan both an external arc (the story events) and an internal arc (who they are as a person, how they change and grow over the course of the story) and make sure those two are interwoven, contribute to, and build off each other. That makes for the most compelling and relatable story for readers.
Does writing exhaust or energize you? Why?
Both! I need my space to be creative and explore new magical worlds. It’s a breath of fresh air for me, and without it I definitely struggle. But writing is also hard work, and I have to be careful to pace myself, set goals and limits, and be satisfied when I meet them—I can be a workaholic otherwise.
What is your writing kryptonite? And what is the cure?
The worry that I’m not enough: not writing fast enough to keep up with other authors (whatever that means), or not doing enough to promote my book so that it has a good chance of selling well. To counter it, the best thing is to make reasonable, well-thought out goals, stick to them—and recognize when I do, that I’m doing all I can to succeed in my own writing. All along the publishing journey, writers will hear, “Don’t compare, keep your eyes on your own paper.” And that’s true! But it gets harder and harder, the further along you go.
What book are you reading right now?
I just finished an ARC of Ashley Shuttleworth’s A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR. It’s a YA fantasy that also releases in February, packed with faerie magic, a fallen Fury, alchemy, lots of banter, an underground Fae court in the heart of Toronto, and disaster queer teens trying to solve a string of mysterious and dangerous murders. Definitely add it to your TBR!
What do you do to keep yourself healthy? What is your #1 healthy lifestyle tip?
I make sure to get a little exercise every day. It’s become hard—I also have two small sons—but as long as it isn’t raining, I’ll get us all outside every day for a walk around the neighborhood. The fresh air and change of scenery are refreshing when we’re stuck at home during this pandemic, and pushing around the two of in the double stroller is a good workout for me.
What is your go-to recipe when you cook at home?
We eat lots of Indian food—even my three-year-old loves it! A family favorite is the dal makhani I make in my slow cooker. But I also love to bake. I’m always trying new cake recipes… but confetti cake is one of my favorites, because a part of my heart is still five years old.
Favorite snack to eat while you are writing
Cake! Also kettle corn.
If you were a WWE Superstar, what would your entrance music be?
“Missile” by Dorothy. My editor Emily Settle said this would be a great theme song for my book, and she’s right!
What would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
An arctic fox. Small, swift, clever, and resilient.
If you didn’t write, what would your occupation be?
Something with books still—either a children’s/young adult librarian, or an editor—or maybe a graphic designer. I did quite a bit of graphic design with my former day job and really enjoyed it.
What do you enjoying doing when you aren’t writing or reading?
Dance workouts and baking. Before the pandemic, I also loved traveling and seeing new places. Aching to get back to that as soon as it’s safe again!
How do you take your tea??
Herbal tea for me! And honestly, I’ll take it as is—nice and hot, with no added milk, cream, or sugar.
GIVEAWAY for a print copy of We Are the Fire.
Ends February 25, 2021
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