Alwyn Hamilton

Author of: Rebel of the Sands

Author Alwyn Hamilton with her book Rebel of the Sands


Alwyn Hamilton was born in Toronto and spent her childhood bouncing between Europe and Canada until her parents settled in France. She grew up in a small town there, which might have compelled her to burst randomly into the opening song from Beauty and the Beast were it not for her total tone-deafness. She instead attempted to read and write her way to new places and developed a weakness for fantasy and cross-dressing heroines. She left France for Cambridge University to study History of Art at King’s College, and then to London where she became indentured to an auction house. She has a bad habit of acquiring more hardcovers than is smart for someone who moves house quite so often.

Alwyn's New York Times-bestselling debut, the YA fantasy REBEL OF THE SANDS, was published by Viking Children's Books in the U.S. and Faber Children's Books in the U.K., and in Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Israel, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Iran. Its sequel, TRAITOR TO THE THRONE, was published in spring 2017. Alwyn was named the 2016 Goodreads Choice Award winner for Best Debut Author.

To learn more about Alwyn, visit her online at


+ What is something that readers can expect from Hero at the Fall (Rebel of the Sands, Book #3) that they wouldn't gather after reading the summary?

AH: Walls made of fire.

Ships sailing on Sand.

Bargains for life and death.

+ It is so refreshing to read a western style series that isn't traditional. Did you have any background in Arabian or Persian culture before you started writing Rebel of the Sands? What obstacles did you face setting your book in a foreign fantasy world?

AH: I actually used to work in Islamic Art, I have a background in Art History, so some influence comes from there. I think any time you create a fantasy world the challenge is making it fully fleshed out. Making sure there are things beyond the borders of what your characters and readers will see on the page. Other countries, other people, a long history etc. That’s what will make it feel most fleshed out.

+ Where did you get inspiration for the type of magic that exists in Rebel of the Sands?

AH: The magic started with knowing I wanted Amani to be the daughter of a Djinn, and for her to have some powers inherited from their immortal fathers. From there the Demdji were born, who resemble the Demigods of Greek Mythology more than anything. But for their powers, and for the rest of the lore, it made sense to build that around the Djinn, who are creatures of smokeless fire, inexorably tied to the elements and the desert. And it kind of developed naturally from there.

+ I absolutely love how fierce you made Amani while still making her very real and filled with flaws. Did you have these aspects of her personality nailed down from the start, or did it develop along with the story?

AH: Amani came together in the first line of REBEL OF THE SANDS fully formed. I only had a vague idea of her while I was dreaming up the book, I knew some of her path, but not much of her personality. But when I launched myself into writing the book I wrote the first line of REBEL describing Amani “I wasn’t up to no good, but I wasn’t exactly up to no bad neither.” And in that line I suddenly knew EVERYTHING about her.

+ Are there any unexpected characters that you ended up loving throughout the series? Who is the most challenging character for you to write?

AH: I don’t think I expected to love Sam as much as I ended up loving him by the end of TRAITOR THE THRONE.

Hala was probably the trickiest to write. She’s the only one who I don’t really know what she’s thinking when I’m writing her. Whether she’s being sarcastic when she’s being mean, or if she really does HATE someone.

+ Has your approach to writing changed as the series has continued? What was different about writing the final book in the series vs. the first?

AH: I think there have been two main differences. The first was how collaborative with my editors building books 2 & 3 was, whereas Book 1 was very much a finished project when they got it.

The second thing was that a Book 2 and 3 are, naturally different beasts than a Book 1. A Book 1 is about setting up character and a world, and a Book 2 is about amplifying all those things, and then 3 about gathering them up and tying them up. So every book was very different.

+ What has been your favorite part of becoming a published author? Do you have any plans to celebrate the completion of your first series?

AH: My favourite part has definitely been interacting with readers! Writing is so isolating but I do think of it as a performative act, since I am telling the story to an audience. So interacting with that audience is pretty special.

Aaaand to celebrate, I may have gone out and bought myself a Kate Spade Handbag. But the biggest celebration was definitely my London Launch!

+ What is the last book that you've read that you would rate 5/5 stars?

AH: I am currently reading ROYALS by Rachel Hawkins. It’s about the little sister of the girl marrying into the fictitious Royal Family of Scotland. The Pippa Middleton of the family if you will. I haven’t finished yet, but I already know it’s going to be a 5 star read. Rachel’s writing is Laugh Out Loud and I can’t wait for everyone else to read it come May.

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