We sat down with New York Times Bestselling Author Pierce Brown to ask your questions surrounding the release of the much-anticipated addition to the Red Rising series, Iron Gold! Here’s what he had to say…
(From Trish) At the Morning Star release, you said you wrote the book with the knowledge that readers now had an expectation of the story and storyline. Now with Iron Gold already in the New York Times Bestseller List, did you go into this with the same weighted expectations?
PB: To a degree but the biggest challenge for a new series is always how to create something new and evolve it without disrespecting the original material.
I think we see that now with Star Wars – people are having problems with the trilogy as it’s maturing – how do you not have that response from fans? It’s important for me to be able to really explore new territory without changing or demeaning the actions and sacrifices of the first one. I went into it with some trepedations but I knew I had the answer by being able to look at the republic democracy and Darrow, and dirty them up, without completely destroying them because that’s the point – you want to see your heroes challenged and face difficulty and I can do that without being nihilistic, and I think I can do that as long as I respect the original books and respect the fans for loving who they loved without spitting on them just to go in a new direction, then that challenge can be met with a smile on my face. So, to a degree, yes.
(From Tracy) When Mustang takes Darrow to meet Pax in the final scene of Morning Star, is the setting based on a real-life location? They think that it’s a beach in the Pacific Northwest?
PB: It is indeed. I used to have a cabin in the Northwest and it’s very much a rainforest up there. There are these trees that are bent like witch fingers from the coast because they get these 100 mile an hour winds. It’s based on a beach called La Push, Second Beach. Have you ever seen Forks in Twilight? That’s where it’s shot. I used to go up there all the time and there’s actual werewolf signs and vampire population signs up there because the community’s really embraced it. It’s kind of a magical place, it’s incredible up there and really inspirational.
Ellie: Did you feel a bit gutted when you saw it on Twilight?
PB: It was definitely conflicting emotions – it represented the beautiful soul of the area; however, it was a bit disillusioning that she [Stephanie Meyer] had never actually been there until the books had been published. If you want the true experience, read the final scene in Morning Star.
(From Sandy) Can you tell us more about the symbolism behind the burning feathers on Iron Gold cover?
PB: I’m answering this for the super nerds – so in the original Red Rising book, there was a wing on the cover and that represented Darrow’s transition into Gold Society, the Gold Society has gold feathers in their sigils and this represents that wing burning. But, it is also a representation of Icarus getting too close to the sun, too high. In many ways, it shows and reflects the line that Karnus said to Darrow: “Rise so high, in mud you lie” in book two.
(From Jacob) How many pinks are there as of the beginning of Iron Gold and how many are male?
PB: That’s a very difficult question to answer – I haven’t looked at the census report in quite a while… the answer is however many the market demand stipulates.
(From David) Of the numerous political speeches throughout the books, Nero’s speech to Darrow about the necessity of tyranny to help humanity reach its potential was surprisingly passionate and well argued. Where did you get the inspiration and source for writing that argument?
PB: You know, from my innermost belief in fascism. No! (laughs). The fun thing about being an author is that you get to display your villain’s ideas as rational, you get to look into the darkness and see their logic. Particularly in the Red Rising world where you have a lack of a binary good and evil system – you have these shades of grey between, you get to really explore the motivations of these characters. I think the greatest villains are those who see themselves as heroes, I think a lot of villains see themselves as martyrs to their own morality and the morality of the world. They’ll be able to bear the burden of condemnation so long as they progress in their goals.
So, with Nero that was the case. It’s really important to have a book with people who believe in different things for rational reasons, it’s tempting to presume that anyone that disagrees with you is an idiot, evil or a demagogue but many of them are rational individuals – not all – but there’s variation on them and I think that villains are inherently rational are much more compelling; much more devilish when you get down to it.
If you say that anyone who did something wrong was crazy, then you’ll never learn anything by trying to understand them, so I think it’s our duty to try and understand the people that do things differently from our own morality.
Ellie: When writing that, did you feel a lot of pressure to make sure it came across the right way?
PB: No, as long as it came across my way. Having complete ownership of a character in a book is very pleasant. There’s no interpretation of it, there’s no actor interpreting or changing it; it’s purely the character’s words on a page and what that means to the reader.
Nero’s belief for example, is that the sacrifice of an individual’s human rights is fine, so long as humanity is progressing, then the individual’s rights don’t matter because it’s more about the species than it is about the human individual. Which, to be honest has some merit, from his perspective, I think personally the entire goal of humanity is to improve human rights.
(From James & Thomas) The most voted for question…would you ever revisit the first book and write some from Sevro’s (in between Red Rising and Golden Sun) or the Jackal’s point of view?
PB: Probably not, mostly because it’s not an act of exploration to the degree that I want to sacrifice time that I could tell others. While I think there’s merit in certain authors performing that function, for me, I really want to see the world more and see other aspects of it. I might do it in a novella sort of form, but I wouldn’t revisit it on the same scale, like three books.
(From Ryan) Does house Barca’s Latin motto? Because, Ryan has been trying to spearhead “escalates Stercore” meaning shit escalates, but has Fitchner made one for himself?
PB: I love that! I’m not a big fan of printing canon of what’s outside of the books so if they do have a motto, you will see it in the books.
(From Bonny) So this is an interesting one, did you really have a girlfriend in the 5th grade named Bonnie?
PB: I did. We played footsie while watching a National Geographic. I think I told a girl called Bonnie at an event in London – you know when you’re just talking – that I had a girlfriend in 5th grade called Bonnie.
Ellie: One person specifically asked us not to ask you which character resembles you the most, because you say that that is the most annoying question. In that thread, about 20 people said we definitely had to ask you. I guess it goes back to the howlers and that relationship with your fans – it sounds like they like to tease you and challenge you. Did you ever expect that kind of fanbase around the series when you first started?
PB: Not really. These howlers are this rather unctuous group of people and you don’t expect other people to actually start inhabiting those qualities – they’re pretty rambunctious and it’s amazing to see how dedicated they are but the best thing to see that they’re not mean to each other. They’re polite to everyone else and they’re nice to each other and there’s such an aura of positivity about them, and that’s so important to me because the books are about a bunch of weirdos and I felt like a weirdo growing up, so the fact that they find shelter, strength, and home in these books is everything to me. So expect it? No. Delighted by it? Yes.
Travis: Would you rather see the series turned into a movie or a TV series?
PB: So originally, we had it being turned into a movie with Universal, however, two years ago I got the rights back and have been sitting on them developing it for TV. Because long form means you can get a bigger budget these days, and to be honest, you get to experience the world more so, do I want to see a glimpse in big budget action or do I really want to get to explore the world more? And that’s so much more fun. Also weaving the characters in and out of each other, bringing out characters from the third book into the first season is so much fun. I have been talking to a high-profile director who I’m packaging it with – I can’t say his name yet – but he wants to make it into a TV show. I’ve been incrementally getting to the point where I can execute it, which is great because I’ve learned the pitfalls and fortunately, this one has a lot of momentum now and a lot of content to build on.