New Release Interview: Red Rising by Pierce Brown


Pierce Brown © Joan Allen

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is in fine bookstores today!

That’s right. The book I have been talking about incessantly is finally here! I read an advanced reader copy of Red Rising over a month ago and it captured me from the first page. It is a wonderful blend of science fiction and fantasy, gravBoots and swords, heartfelt love and absolute hatred. It pits Darrow, one of the most fascinating characters, against a caste system holding him in bondage. It is wonderfully written and it will keep people reading late into the night.

I got the same feeling reading it as I did while reading The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Name of the Wind. That desire to have the next book now angrily filed me after I finished the last page of Red Rising. That’s how I know it is a great book. And the early reviews I’ve read match my love for Darrow’s tale.

To celebrate this book’s release, I asked author Pierce Brown some questions.



Shawn Speakman: RED RISING is your debut novel. Tell Unbound Worlds readers about the book and who it might appeal to?

Pierce Brown: Red Rising is the story of a boy’s love breaking an empire, and a girl’s dream raising a people out of bondage. Darrow, the protagonist, is a sixteen year old miner on Mars. As a member of the Red caste, he toils in the tunnels of Mars, never seeing the sky. He believes he and his family are pioneers who aid in the terraforming of Mars so humanity can leave a dying Earth. Soon, he discovers this is a lie. Humanity has already come to Mars. A decadent ruling class, the Golds, rules on the surface in grand cities with vast parks and towers that scrape the sky. Darrow and his family are slaves. After tragedy strikes, he sets out to infiltrate the ruling class and bring their empire crumbling down.As for who it appeals to? Everyone. Oh, that’s not an answer? Fine. Fine. I wrote the novel for fans of science fiction and fantasy, like myself. But in the writing, I found that a book with a broader appeal was taking shape almost unintentionally. That surprised me. I didn’t think anyone but readers of imprints like Del Rey or Tor would fancy a story about a slave on Mars.

But I suppose the influences are to blame. I draw influences from Lord of the Flies, The Iliad, 1984, Utopia, Antigone, and a dozen other stories I loved as a kid. While you’ll notice the influence, I do think readers will enjoy the twist I’ve put on some of the classic tales.

Shawn Speakman: Darrow of the LowReds is a fascinatingly complex character, a man pushed into conflict. How long did you live with Darrow before he became real to you on the page?

Pierce Brown: Darrow was born on a mountain, and he danced onto the page the very next day.

I was 22, floundering in the years after school, realizing I had no purpose, no goal to reach for. I’d been reading Antigone and was climbing a glacier at 2 am with two friends. Darrow was my catharsis. I created him because he had purpose. He had a mission, and a noble one at that. I think it’s something we all look for in our lives. Darrow helped me find mine—to tell stories. I only hope I do him the favor of telling his well.

Shawn Speakman: There is a scene in RED RISING that made me misty and I had to put the book down for several long minutes. My girlfriend threw the book across the room in anger at the same scene — but quickly picked it back up. How do those kind of responses make you feel as a new writer?

Pierce Brown: Wonderful. I’m learning there’s nothing better than giving someone a creeping smile or a planting a tightness in their chest. Why? Not because I’m a sadist, but because it means they care. Not about me. If they can sense me in those moments, I’ve failed. They care about my characters. Things that came from nothing.

Red Rising and its companion novels will test the reader. Things do not come easy in Darrow’s world. The only things more dangerous than his enemies are his friends. So if I do my job right, aided by my wonderful agent, Hannah Bowman, and my brilliant editor, Mike Braff, you will throw your book. You will cry. You will care. If you don’t, well, I’d better try harder.

Shawn Speakman: RED RISING takes place on a wonderfully-envisioned Mars. What inspirations helped you create that world?

Pierce Brown: Thank you for saying so!

The influences are basically pulled from what I surrounded myself with when I was growing up—Dune, Shadow and Claw, Foundation, Starship Troopers, The Iliad, Xena: Warrior Princess, The Odyssey, Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, Harry Potter, Blood Meridian, Count of Monte Cristo, Tides of War, Gates of Fire, Mote in Gods Eye, The Prince, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man, Republic.

I mean, it really goes on in an obnoxiously long list.

I studied classics in college and majored econ and political science, so there’s a bunch of technical texts that influence my world-view pretty strongly.

Shawn Speakman: What are you working on right now? I hope the sequel to RED RISING!

Pierce Brown: Keeping my head above water. I’m swimming in edits on book 2 right now.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is in fine bookstores today! To read a 50-page excerpt, click HERE! And to learn more about Pierce, visit his website at!

Bloodydamn! Get to reading!