The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A with UNC graduate, author Renée Ahdieh

Buy Photos

Renée Ahdieh is a UNC graduate and the author of "The Wrath and the Dawn," a New York Times Bestseller. Her sequel, "The Rose & The Dagger" comes out May 3. Staff writer Emily Perry spoke with Ahdieh via email about her first book, her success and her time at Chapel Hill. 

Daily Tar Heel: How has it been publishing a second book? Is this old hat for you now? What’s been different?

Renée Ahdieh: I really hope this never becomes old hat for me! It's still so surreal to walk into a bookstore and see my own book on the shelves. As trite as it sounds, it's like magic!

The second time around has definitely been different, but in a good way. It's nice to know what to expect, and it's wonderful being able to sit still and revel in the experience a bit more. Nerves are less an issue with the second book because I'm no longer dealing with something unknown; it's almost like breaking in a favorite pair of shoes. Now I get to wear them!

DTH: Tell me about about what it's like for you to have so much success coming out of the UNC writing program?

RA: That is such a kind thing to say! For me, I find success to be a moment in time. A moment in which I take a step back and savor an achievement. Almost like watching a soap bubble float on the air. I know this sort of success is transient, so I'd rather focus on fulfillment. Nothing I've ever done in my life as a job has felt more fulfilling than being a writer. UNC's English department helped me build an amazing foundation. The tireless efforts of the professors and the passion everyone around me exhibited for the written word were such a driving force behind me seeking to make this my chosen field.

DTH: What did you learn from UNC that has helped you?

RA: I really hope this article doesn't read like a series of Hallmark quotes, but being a student at UNC taught me how to live. It taught me what I sought in life and what to seek in people. I met my husband at Chapel Hill, and some of my closest friendships in the world were made hanging out on the eighth-floor balcony of Hinton James my freshman year.

DTH: Why do you think your books have gained so much recognition? What do you think resonates with people?

RA: I think, ultimately, people are looking for a good story. The fact that "The Wrath & The Dawn" highlights a different culture and a different period in time is a wonderful selling point, but even the hook-iest (I think I just made up a word) pitch will fizzle out if it's not grounded in a good story.

I also hear a lot of readers saying how much they admire the main character Shahrzad — she's strong in many different ways. Sure she's not bad with a bow and arrow, but I like writing well-rounded characters, and I especially appreciate it when a female character is strong in ways that aren't strictly based on traditionally male notions of strength.

DTH: Where is home for you now? What does it mean to you to return to Chapel Hill to promote or your second book?

RA: I live in Charlotte, which isn't too far from here. The entire experience of getting to share my work with other people is the culmination of a dream. And bringing it back to Chapel Hill? It's immensely gratifying.

DTH: What would be your advice to young writers?

RA: Never stop trying to be better. And don't quit when things get tough!

DTH: Any author idols or writing role models?

RA: I'm a huge fan of Isabel Allende and Anne Rice. I also love the poetry of Rumi. In terms of impact, Maya Angelou and Rabindranath Tagore have always stood out in my mind as role models. 

DTH: Anything I didn't ask that you would like to add?

RA: "The Rose & The Dagger" will be out on April 26th! It's the sequel to "The Wrath & The Dawn," and I hope everyone loves it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.


Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel's 2024 Music Edition