Hello everyone and welcome to another Saturday Spotlight– where every month I feature an author and their recently released work.
Today I’m thrilled to have Rosaria Munda back on the blog to discuss the sequel to Fireborne, Flamefall. You can check out book recommendations based off of key themes from the book as well as a spoiler-free review.
*Warning: This interview may contain spoilers for Fireborne..
About the BookFlamefall (The Aurelian Cycle, #2) by Rosaria Munda
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on March 23, 2021
Revolutionary flames ignite around Annie, Lee, and a brand new POV character in the second book of the Fireborne trilogy.
After fleeing the revolution and settling into the craggy cliffs of New Pythos, the Dragonlords are eager to punish their usurpers--and reclaim their city. Their first order of business was destroying the Callipolan food supply. Now they're coming for the Dragonriders.
Annie is Callipolis's new Firstrider, and while her goal has always been to protect the people, being the government's enforcer has turned her into public enemy number one.
Lee struggles to find his place after killing kin to prove himself to a leader who betrayed him. He can support Annie and the other Guardians . . . or join the radicals who look to topple the new regime.
Griff, a lowborn dragonrider who serves New Pythos, knows he has no future. And now that Julia, the Firstrider who had protected him, is dead, he is called on to sacrifice everything for the lords that oppress his people--or to forge a new path with the Callipolan Firstrider seeking his help.
With famine tearing Callipolis apart and the Pythians determined to take back what they lost, it will be up to Annie, Lee, and Griff to decide what to fight for--and who to love.
About the Author
Rosaria Munda grew up in rural North Carolina, where she climbed trees, read Harry Potter fanfiction, and taught herself Latin. She studied political theory at Princeton and lives with her husband in Chicago. Her debut young adult fantasy, Fireborne, was published in 2019.
1- For readers who haven’t read Fireborne or Flamefall, can you summarize what the series is about the inspiration behind it?
Fireborne was inspired a bit by the French Revolution, a bit by How to Train Your Dragon, and a bit by the Blitz. It follows two teens rising to the top of a revolutionary regime in the dragonriding corps, competing for leadership of the aerial fleet, and navigating their own shared secrets and difficult pasts, as they prepare for a coming war.
2- Flamefall adds Griff’s POV. What was it like developing his character? What was the process like for adding a POV from New Pythos?
Griff was an accident! I had intended the POV to be Delo’s all along, but when I wrote out that first scene with the two of them, it didn’t work. So I tried Griff on a lark and he sprang onto the page with a lot more attitude than I was expecting! Very characteristic of him, I think. ☺
3- This is a deep cut, but when Annie takes a body back to New Pythos, she recites a quote from book 24 of the fictional dragontongue epic The Aurelian Cycle. Anyone who is well versed in ancient Greek history and myth knows that in book 24 of the Iliad Priam crosses enemy lines and supplicates the body of his son Hector from Achilles in a very moving scene. Is this coincidence or intention?
Good catch 😉 Yes, this is an intentional reference—and the line Annie quotes from the Aurelian Cycle in that scene is adapted from a line in Book 24 of the Iliad.
4- I loved so many of the behind the scenes tidbits that you shared on Instagram about Flamefall! Can you share more in depth about how some characters’ names can be traced back to myths and legends? How did these connections shape the development of these characters?
I think Antigone is the big one—I’ve always loved Antigone (the character and the play) and wanted to have a character that thematically walks in the shoes of her namesake—which I did a bit more of in Flamefall.
Atreus is somewhere between a Dune reference (Paul Atreides was definitely inspiration for Lee) and a Greek reference. In original drafts, Atreus had a son that he deliberately sabotaged in the name of his own ideals (echoing the curse of the House of Atreus with the sacrifice of Iphigenia) but that ended up getting cut because it didn’t work for other reasons.
5- One of the many themes in Flamefall is dealing with and grieving over trauma, both communal and individual. Can you talk about the role literature plays in processing pain and difficult experiences?
I think literature allows us to work through emotional areas from a place of safety, as Lee himself does during Fireborne when, grieving on the anniversary of his family’s death, he reads about the sacking of another city in the Aurelian Cycle. I wanted it to be a moment of ecphrasis much like Aeneas finding the depiction of the sacking of Troy on a wall in Carthage—a moment where the emotions are there but safe and distant and the grief can be filtered through an aesthetic experience.
It’s also interesting to note that writers often talk about a character’s arc as a wound that they have to face, and once they face it they find healing, and then the story is over. As I understand it, this progression is similar to the process of trauma treatment in cognitive behavioral therapy. I think there is a case to be made that the very structure of stories—or at least character arcs inside them—is a form of trauma therapy.
6- I find the metal caste system in both novels so interesting. How did you come up with it? What was it modeled after?
Credit here goes to my man, Plato—this is the caste structure he imagines in the Republic. (Callipolis is the Greek word Republic translates from—literally “beautiful city”). Gold are the intellectual class, Silver are the spirited military, and so on. Guardians are Gold and Silver combined, as they are in Fireborne. In the Republic, the caste system is supposed to be fitting and fair, and a “Noble Lie” (origin of the phrase) must be used to convince everyone to put up with being sorted by their abilities. But Plato is open-minded in his way—there’s no reason a Gold child couldn’t be born to Bronze parents, or that women couldn’t be Guardians (so generous of him). What he’s most hazy about is how you would go about sorting people, which is where I got inventive with the idea of a sort of SAT-meets-IQ test.
7- What surprised you most in your writing of Flamefall compared to Fireborne?
Flamefall was much, much harder to write. They tell you sophomore novels are hard, and they’re right. There’s just a lot of pressure you aren’t used to, in a lot of new ways, when you’re both writing under contract for the first time also while publishing a book for the first time. I think what I didn’t realize at that time, was that even if it was harder, I had grown as a writer and was writing a better book, regardless of how hard it was.
Third novels, on the other hand, really flow out! (That’s what I’m working on now.)
8- Without any spoilers, can you share anything about book 3 or any other projects you are working on?
It’s hard to say much about Book 3 that isn’t spoilers. As for my next writing project, I’m thinking it will involve teaching myself Old English. I’ve already learned a few declensions!
8- More broadly, what has it been like publishing and promoting a book during a global pandemic?
You know, there have been upsides. Book clubs have gone online, which means it’s very easy for me to join them no matter where they’re physically located. I’ve had some really delightful conversations with readers from all over the country and even the world—I was a guest with one book club of teens based in Lahore, Pakistan.
9- Are you a mood reader or a TBR maker?
I make TBRs but I am an extreme mood reader. I go for months without reading books at all (I don’t want to when I’m drafting) and then as soon as I turn in a draft I go on a reading bender. I’m never sure what I’ll pick up, though.
10- As an author, what would you like readers to know about author life, writing books, etc?
The role of a writer is to accept criticism—and that isn’t the same as selling out. Listening to the criticism of my editor and critique partners is what makes the book better. I think there’s this impression that if you’re an “artist”, being “true to your vision” means ignoring feedback. In reality the opposite is true—the best way to get your vision on the page is to listen to what others are finding there. If you want to write for an audience, you need to have the humility to recognize you are not the best authority on what you have created.
Rapid Fire Questions
- Favorite season?
Spring. As a teacher this is the season you really know your students, and can have fun with them, but also vacation is just around the corner ☺
- Character driven or plot driven stories?
I think in the best stories, character and plot are inextricable ☺
- What was the last book you read?
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison and it was fantastic.
- What are your reading essentials?– outside of a good book of course!
My phone and laptop somewhere far, far away like in another room.
- What are some 2021 releases you are excited about?
Girls At The Edge of the World by Laura Brooke Robson is delightful—and it’s the first book I’ve ever blurbed!
- What do you hope readers will take away from Flamefall?
Perfection is the enemy of the good.
- Lastly, where can readers learn more about you and your books?
Find me online at rosariamunda.com
My books are available where books are sold, and I always appreciate purchases from my affiliate page on Bookshop.
What About You?
Do you have any questions for Namina? Have you read The Gilded Ones yet? Share your thoughts in the comments!