In this interview, Elizabeth Fabian from Random House Library Marketing chats with bestselling author Pierce Brown about the genesis of his runaway debut, RED RISING—embraced by Adult and Young Adult readers alike—and what readers can expect from the conclusion of the trilogy, hitting shelves in January.
ELIZABETH FABIAN: When Red Rising burst onto the book scene, it earned fantastic reviews and won comparisons to The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, and Ender’s Game. What would you say are the inspirations behind the series?
PIERCE BROWN: There are common themes that thread themselves through much of my writing. I’m intrigued by the concept of power and destiny. Much of that comes from my obsession with everything Greek as a kid. My first coloring book was one of the Trojan War. I also draw on a pretty large catalogue of influences that range from classics like The Count of Monte Cristo to Harry Potter and Star Wars. But those are the superficial influences that shaped Red Rising. The real soul of the book series comes from my own life. I’ve always felt like an outsider. We moved pretty often when I was young. I joined new schools every couple years, most times in the middle of the year. Made me feel like an alien, and the only way to cope or get along was to assimilate. But I never really felt part of anywhere I lived. I felt like I was pretending, living an interior life while everyone else was running around living moment to moment, happy as daisies. Darrow, the main character, has this same sort of inner-presence. He’s an outsider. I relate to it, and I think many people in the book community do as well.
ELIZABETH FABIAN: Did you always know that this story would be a trilogy?
PIERCE BROWN: Red Rising was always a trilogy. It’s a story of a young man choosing to fight for something instead of against something. That story has always had three parts.
ELIZABETH FABIAN: How have the characters evolved from one book to the next?
PIERCE BROWN: If you can stand a little hyperbole: massively. Poets become warlords, victims become conquerors, conquerors become fugitives. The books are about transformation, not just of the protagonist, Darrow, but of the world, of society, ideas, and the characters themselves. In the Red Rising world everyone is clever as hell. They’ve all got their little schemes, their grand master plans. But everyone has a plan till they get hit in the mouth. I like to see how getting hit changes my characters. Does is make them better? Does it make them wicked? Does it stiffen their spine and make them ascend? Or do they crumble?
ELIZABETH FABIAN: Have your characters taken you in directions different from what you expected or intended at the start? Or did you always know where Darrow’s path would lead?
PIERCE BROWN: Darrow’s war isn’t just against the oppressive Society, it is with himself. He loves hard and he hates hard. And in order to make the change that he wants in the world, he has to do horrible things. That’s the baseline. Now when you throw in characters who he loves and hates, each with their own motivations, things start going haywire. Many times I can’t predict where that will go. I always had a sense where Darrow would be at the end of his journey, but much of the writing process for me is exploring how he gets there, deciding it if it’s believable, then rewriting till I’m content with the road taken to reach the end I’ve always had in mind. I’d love to claim I’m a genius who had everything mapped out, but I’m sure my editor will read this and roll his eyes at that little charade. Making sausage is messy. So is putting together a story, for me at least. But that’s what makes it pulse and breathe and have that organic quality.
ELIZABETH FABIAN: What can fans expect in the concluding novel, Morning Star?
PIERCE BROWN: The tide is rising. Everyone must choose a side. Duty will war against friendship, and the readers will have a front row seat to seeing scores settled, Solar War, and the Reaper riding to war at the vanguard of a billion screaming slaves.
ELIZABETH FABIAN: Any plans for a new trilogy in the future?
PIERCE BROWN: You ever see a meme of a cat scheming like a Bond villain? That’s pretty much how I am. Plans within plans within plans within plans. Maybe I’ll revisit the Red Rising world. There are so many characters to play with. Or maybe I’ll dabble with some magic and fantasy for a little while . . .