There’s a stereotype that writers live romantic lives, creating worlds in coffee shops, meeting interesting people while weaving through old bookstores or whatever seedy place they find themselves at twilight. An air of mystery always seems to float around them — or at least that’s how the movies portray them.
But that’s not the case at all, so it seems, at least from the case of novelist Pierce Brown. Pierce is the kind of guy who has a try-and-try-until-you-die kind of outlook, and to be fair, he makes it seem like failing isn’t a bad thing at all. Sure, fairytale endings are always more pleasant and are easier to sell to impressionable readers, but there’s just something real about the struggle that’s never gonna go out of style.
This struggle is all too familiar for Pierce, who had written a bunch of novels before getting his writing off the ground with Red Rising, the first of a sci-fi trilogy that’s done considerably well, and has been compared to the likes of The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game. The Red Rising series, which includes Golden Sun and Morning Star, follows the story of Darrow, a lowborn miner living in a caste system who seeks to take revenge on the ruling class, in what Pierce describes as “Game Of Thrones meets 1984 and Star Wars on crack.”
We caught up with the author at National Book Store’s Readers and Writers Festival at Raffles Makati, and talked about his creative process, failures, and his favorite sci-fi novel.
YOUNG STAR: Where did you get the inspiration for the Red Rising series?
PIERCE BROWN: I was reading this Greek play Antigone. When I was writing Red Rising, I wanted to make it feel like I was building a myth, more so than I was telling a science fiction tale, if that makes sense. I think that other influences came in from War Hammer, Four Thousand, Star Wars, and a lot of things like that. Also Game Of Thrones is an influence in itself as well, because I’ve always been captivated by the idea of feuding families, that Shakespearean idea of backstabbing and betrayal, forbidden love, et cetera.
What was your favorite sci-fi story when you were growing up?
I loved Ender’s Game, I loved Ender’s Shadow. But I would say it would be Dune (by Frank Herbert). Mostly because I felt like I was reading a history book, in a good way, an engaging way, much more so than I was reading a fake, fantastical story. It felt as though I’d been plopped down into a world that had been shaped, a myth that had been shaped by one man’s hands, and I had fallen into it, it just carried me away, and I was so captivated by that idea. To be honest, that’s why I became a writer. It’s because I saw people crafting worlds, and it felt like something I wanted to do.
You’re working on the sequel to the Red Rising series, Iron Gold. Without giving too much away, what can readers expect from it?
Iron Gold is another trilogy, set in the Red Rising world, 10 years after Morning Star. It follows many of the same characters as the original trilogy, but with new characters woven into the story, because I want to show more perspectives. I wanna show the aftermath and effects of Morning Star.
What’s your advice for someone who wants to get into writing?
Don’t be afraid of failure. And if you do fail, realize it’s bound to happen. The first draft of anything is gonna be bad. Anyone who says that the first draft made it on the page is kind of lying. It takes at least four drafts — at least for me. And I wrote six books before I wrote Red Rising. I had to learn my lesson through failure, and build a foundation on that failure. I think that a lot of times we have a tendency to get down on ourselves because it’s such an emotional process. No one is a bigger critic than you are. Especially when you write something at night and read it in the morning, you feel like an idiot, you know? That’s constantly gonna happen. You just start writing. You find out if it doesn’t work pretty soon.