Welcome friends to my sixth author interview as a part of my Novel19 Class! This year I wanted to do something to help boost new author voices and stories, and this is a project that I am really excited about! For more information about my Novel19 Class and the other five books that I’ve chosen, please check out my announcement post.
“I hope it’s found by people who like books that ask questions. For me, the books in my youth stayed with me far longer than the others were the ones that broke my heart while leaving me thinking. Ender’s Game, The Once and Future King, Watchmen. If readers have a fraction of the feelings for Fireborne that I did for those books, I’ll feel like I’ve done my job.”
Today I am so excited to have Rosaria Munda on the blog to talk about her debut fantasy novel, Fireborne, which released into the wild yesterday! Read on to learn how political science courses helped shape this story, how studying the Latin language broke us, with some really amazing fan art as well!
An Interview with Rosaria Munda
Hi Rosaria, thank you so much for joining me on the blog today to talk about your debut novel! Can you share a little bit about Fireborne and how this story came to be?
Hi Kaleena, thanks so much for having me on your blog!
Fireborne is about two orphans competing to lead the dragonriding fleet in a post-revolutionary world. It started as a kernel of an idea between high school and college–I think I was most inspired by Ender’s Game and, more indirectly, Dune. I wanted to write about kids making tough choices in a military setting, with flying as the main skill set. In early imaginings they were pilots–but I think the story really came alive when the fighter planes became dragons.
I am a firm believer that we need more dragons in fantasy, so of course, that’s one of the things that has me super excited to read this book! What made you want to set your world in a land of dragons?
You know, I never thought of myself as a “dragon” person but I’ve become increasingly convinced they’re one of the most powerful and versatile worldbuilding tools in a fantasy writer’s arsenal! I love that they can be everything from a cataclysmic antagonist to a wise advisor; from a nuclear arsenal to a cuddly familiar. And I think my background as a political science major makes me think of them from a particularly “realpolitik” angle–as an extension of politics by other means. Whoever controls the dragons wields immense political power, and the inevitable difficulty of checking that power opens up a lot of questions about just rule and regime corruption. I wanted to explore that in Fireborne.
As a person who studied Latin in university for no logical reason, what compelled you to teach yourself this dead language and did pluperfect ruin you, too?
I see you read my bio carefully 🙂 This is the first question I’ve ever been asked about that!
Oh wow! That means a lot because I try to come up with unique questions, since I know authors probably answer the same ones all the time. And even though studying Latin was torturous, I get excited when others share the experience.
I taught myself Latin when I was thirteen and to this day have a hard time remembering why. I can only guess I must have been rather bored and lonely, as we’d just moved! I researched textbooks online, ordered Wheelock’s from Amazon, and studied it religiously every day for a year. Later, I took Latin in proper classes and my love of the language survived–it even made it into Fireborne! Most of the “quotes” that Annie and Lee translate in their Dragontongue poetry class are adapted from my high school translations of Virgil.
And you are right–pluperfect was pretty awful. Gerunds and gerundives were my real bane though, to this day I confuse them.
If I ever write a fantasy novel, I probably would use Latin in my worldbuilding as well. Did your degree in political theory help to shape the world in which Annie and Lee live and the post-revolutionary struggle for power occurring? Are there any historical events that you drew inspiration from?
Absolutely. And somewhat intentionally–the first political theory class I took, I pretty much had the thought: this is like sci fi but nonfiction. (Any other writers out there who take classes based on their usefulness for story writing?) The new regime in Fireborne is loosely based on the one imagined in Plato’s Republic, where Guardians are trained from childhood to rule the city justly, and the populace are sorted into their stations based on their intelligence and ability according to a classification system Plato describes in the famous section on the Noble Lie.
As far as historical events go–I’ve always been fascinated by the things that happen in the aftermath of revolutions, particularly the things that go worse than planned. The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Cultural Revolution–all of these have such complicated legacies, both immediately afterward and much later. So many YA books center around fomenting a revolution but I’ve always found the aftermath much more interesting, and that was why I set Fireborne in the wake of one.
For aspiring authors, can you share a bit about what the process was like from inception to publishing? Did you participate in any Pitch events? What made you choose to traditionally publish with G.P. Putnam’s Sons over self-publishing?
I did NOT participate in any pitch events but I wish I had! Specifically, I wish I had known about the ones that do not depend on having big twitter platform–the big two I wish I’d known about are Author Mentor Match and PitchWars (the latter I incorrectly thought was a twitter pitch contest–it’s really a mentorship program and a great community to boot). Instead I queried the old fashioned way for two years and really muddled my way through. I think a big breakthrough for me was discovering Manuscript Wish List and realizing that, far more than finding agents with a list containing my best comps, my priority should be finding agents who were looking to acquire clients–and MSWL helped streamline that.
I always wanted to traditionally publish. I think being held to the standards of revision with a literary agent and an editor at a traditional publishing house were quality controls I wanted to be sure I had for my writing before I shared it with the world, so I didn’t look into alternatives–although I’m sure there are great ones out there, which would probably have been much less slow and arduous!
Are there any illustrators who you’d love to draw your characters? Has fanart emerged yet?
Do you have any favorite releases this year that you can’t get out of your head?
I really, really loved DARK OF THE WEST by Joanna Hathaway, a story of love across enemy lines in a WWII-inspired fantasy (and have the secret authority to vouch that book 2 gets even better, so get in on this series now folks) and I also loved THE PIONEER by Bridget Tyler, which is sort of like a Laura Ingalls story with space aliens. It brought back all my childhood dreams of being an astronaut.
Who did you write Fireborne for? If you had to compare your debut to any other book, what would it be and who definitely shouldn’t miss this book?
I guess the first answer is the answer that has to be true for any writer–I wrote it for myself, especially in the beginning when I had no agent and was writing with no reason to believe it would ever see anywhere but the inside of my drawer. It was a story that itched to come out of my head; it was little bits of all the things I had loved in all the stories, thrown together in a way I couldn’t stop thinking about.
I hope it’s found by people who like books that ask questions. For me, the books in my youth stayed with me far longer than the others were the ones that broke my heart while leaving me thinking. Ender’s Game, The Once and Future King, Watchmen. If readers have a fraction of the feelings for Fireborne that I did for those books, I’ll feel like I’ve done my job.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, and I hope you are having a great time on tour with Penguin Teen!
I read an early extract of the book a few months ago and adored it! Unfortunately, I’ve been in a horrible reading slump the past several weeks so I wasn’t able to pick my ARC up prior to release day, but I am excited to read it when the slump exits my body. I love books that make me think and draw from history in unique ways, so this one is definitely for me!
About the Book
Game of Thrones meets Red Rising in a debut young adult fantasy that’s full of rivalry, romance… and dragons.
Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone—even the lowborn—a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders.
Now they are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn’t be more different. Annie’s lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee’s aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship, and seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet.
But everything changes when survivors from the old regime surface, bent on reclaiming the city.
With war on the horizon and his relationship with Annie changing fast, Lee must choose to kill the only family he has left or to betray everything he’s come to believe in. And Annie must decide whether to protect the boy she loves . . . or step up to be the champion her city needs.
From debut author Rosaria Munda comes a gripping adventure that calls into question which matters most: the family you were born into, or the one you’ve chosen.
About the Author
Rosaria grew up in rural North Carolina, where she climbed trees, read Harry Potter fanfiction, and taught herself Latin. She studied political theory at Princeton and lives in Chicago with her husband and cat.
Fireborne (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019) is her debut novel.
Thanks so much for reading, friends! What do you think about Fireborne? Is this a book that is on your TBR, or have you read it yet? I’d love to chat with you in the comments below.
Let’s go on another adventure together!