Aurora: What was your inspiration behind Empire of Dreams?
Rae Carson: My readers inspired me! A little orphan girl named Red first appeared in book 3 of the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy. I immediately began receiving fanmail and social media messages about her, asking for more of her story. I’m so pleased and honored to be able to give my readers the book they wanted.
What character in the book do you most relate to and why?
Like me, Red experiences lingering affects from childhood trauma. I admit, it was cathartic to write about someone who shares a lot of my struggles with PTSD. Red is unequivocally heroic and strong in The Empire of Dreams, and I think that describes a lot of us with mental illness. We have challenges sure, and those challenges are an integral part of us. But we are more than our mental illness, and like Red, we are capable of profound greatness.
Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?
Books with powerful and relatable characters have always been popular, and they always will be. We often look to fiction for the things we have shortages of in real life. Like hope, goodness, or even to fulfill our intellectual curiosity. As a little girl, I found role models in fiction that I couldn’t find at home, characters like Nancy Drew, Frodo Baggins, or Princess Leia—who showed me it was possible to be smart and brave and determined even if no one expected it. It was life changing for me. That’s why diversity in fiction is so important. Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected on the page the way I did.
Please tell us what readers can expect from Empire of Dreams.
Action, adventure, betrayal, poison, secret chambers, sword fighting—and I guess a little thematic stuff too about family and painful pasts and healing power of community and acceptance.
What’s next for you in the book world?
I have another book on the way from Greenwillow/HarperCollins! But I’m afraid it’s top secret for now. All I can say is that it features another strong, complicated teenaged girl, and I enjoy writing her very much.
What is a favorite recent read?
I read and absolutely loved A Game of Fox and Squirrels by Jenn Reese. It’s a beautifully written fantasy tale about the aftermath of family violence, and how healing is the most powerful magic of all.