I first heard about Red Rising at an after-party during Comic-Con last July. I'll admit I was a little preoccupied at the time: E.L. James was on one side of the room being lovely and effusive. George R.R. Martin was on the other side of the room being surrounded and elusive. "You've really got to read this book," I was being told. And so I filed the info away, as I couldn't very well sit down then and there. I had three places to be at one time, I hadn't even really slept in two days, and it was dark.
But now, it's time. And this knuckle-whitening dystopian page-turner has not only earned my undivided attention, it's garnered an incredible pre-release buzz amongst our team, on Goodreads, and beyond. In fact it's not only one of our Science Fiction and Fantasy picks for February, it's among our February Best of the Month, as well.
Set on Mars, the story follows Darrow -- a member of the lowest classes in a deeply entrenched social hierarchy (Reds) -- from his daily drudgery to his, yes, "rise" beyond the life he's always known. But as the last page is turned, the story has only barely begun. This first installment of a trilogy left me impatient to begin the next. And the fact that this is a debut novel left me curious about the man behind it all.
Author Pierce Brown tells us what he's reading, why he'd put restrictions on time travel, and how the seventh time can be the charm.
What's the elevator pitch for your book?
Red Rising is the first installment of a trilogy that follows a young man's quest to overthrow a government that stole his freedom and the woman he loved.
In the far future, humanity has spread itself across the Solar System, changing the faces of planets and moons to sustain human life. But humanity is divided. Not by race or creed, but by Color. Golds, paragons of beauty and genius, rule with an iron fist over the rest of the Colors -- Blues, Greens, Whites, Grays, and the lowest caste, Reds. This is the story of one Red rising against injustice by infiltrating the halls of the Golds, intent on destroying their cruel reign.
What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?
Oh man. The piles grow like weeds. There's one pile by my reading chair, another by my bed, another on my bed, another by my desk, another in my car...you get the point. But for simplicity's sake: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Gaiman), Children of Dune (Herbert), Aesop's Fables, Red Seas under Red Skies (Lynch), Ulysses (Joyce), Macbeth, and T.S. Eliot Collected Poems.
Top 3-5 favorite books of all time?
The most important work to me is The Iliad. I can't count it as a book, though. My classics professor from Pepperdine would throw a fit.
Important book you never read?
Ulysses by James Joyce It's been at my bedside for six years. While I've been assured it is wonderful, I'm fifty pages in and have discovered it wonderful only for curing insomnia.
Book that changed your life?
Everyone Poops. At two, I worried it might have just been me.
What's your most memorable author moment?
I am now encouraged to talk in libraries. It's like a super power.
Preferred reading format: print? digital?
Print. I'm analog at heart.
What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?
Time travel. But not the kind of time travel that everyone thinks about when you say, "time travel." I would want the power to travel just one minute back in time.
Who needs the power to jump back 300 years? That would be terrible. I'd be the guy who scared a cat that ran into the street where a man was riding his horse, which avoids the cat and instead barrels into a young Colonial chap named George Washington, thereby precipitously ending his potentially important life. Because of me, we'd all still be drinking tea. I can't have that on my conscience.
But jumping back one minute at a time? Harmless. That, and dates would also go much smoother.
What are you obsessed with now?
Now? Severely, limited time travel!
What are you stressed about now?
What are you psyched about now?
Increased government accountability due to increased access to information by all social classes. Seriously. This makes me giddy. To information, all tyrants fall.
What's your most prized/treasured possession?
My dog, Oswald. Though I think he thinks I belong to him. He's six pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal. He also wears fuzzy sweaters, which is a bit of an indictment against his masculinity. Or maybe mine...
Author crush - who's your current author crush?
Gene Wolfe. He's just that damn brilliant.
Pen Envy - Book you wish you'd written?
A Song of Ice and Fire. George R. R. Martin astounds me. The scope is incomparable, as are the voices of the characters.
Anything by Hemingway. The clarity and depth of his writing continues to startle and affect me. Every time I re-read a book of his, I find new meaning and new emotions.
What's the last dream you remember?
I keep a dream journal. Let me reference it. Let's see here...
December 15th, "Leaves in the desert. Motorcycle with a lance and my dad is watching myself (sic) fly at a dragon who is a frien (sic) from middle school, but is really Mitch McConnell."
I should note that I'm not fully awake when I write these notes down…
What's favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?
Food. And lists. My New Year's resolution is actually to stop reading lists online. 10 Most Quotable Movie Lines? 25 Epic Cat Fails? I will click every time.
What do you collect?
When I lived in North Carolina, I collected musket balls. The woods in our backyard ran up against the battlefield of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, fought during the American Revolution. I'd spend whole days digging there. When I was five or six I found half a dozen musket balls. I ran home to show them to my dad, who insisted I take them to the park ranger, because that was the moral thing to do. The ranger made a show of inspecting them, verified their authenticity then gave me two more, saying something like "honesty always rewards in the end." It was one of the best moments of my childhood. And I still collect artifacts. Recently I found a Roman coin in the ruins of an old outpost above Ephesus in Turkey.
I also collect scotch and old books.
Best piece of fan mail you ever got?
I haven't really gotten much fan mail as of yet. So instead, I'll say the 120 letters from literary agents rejecting my request for representation.
I wrote six novels before Red Rising. None were quite up to snuff, so I don't fault the agents for passing on the material. In fact, had any accepted me as a client, Red Rising would never exist. I count myself lucky.
No one really likes rejection, but for me it's always served as an effective motivator, much more so than compliments. That said, please don't send me hate mail.
Favorite line in a book?
"Not all who wander are lost." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
Book that made you want to become a writer?
Harry Potter. Before reading Rowling's work, I didn't know an author could very literally shape my dreams.