'The Ones We Burn'

"The Ones We Burn" by Rebecca Mix.

Magic, murder, betrayal, and more betrayal are what Rebecca Mix wanted to include in "The Ones We Burn."

What was your inspiration behind your most recent book?

Honestly? I just genuinely love YA fantasy. “Girl is sent to kill the prince she’s been ordered to marry” is a YA trope I've always loved, and I thought the idea of this girl being sent in as a political assassin and then accidentally falling for the prince's sister would be a lot of fun to write. A lot of the darker stuff bubbled up later, but this really started as me writing a love letter to the books I was obsessed with as a teen.

What does "Reading Rainbow" mean to you?

I think for me, it means reading stories that remind us we're all worthy of love, even if you’ve spent your entire life being told the opposite.

Why do you feel representation of a variety of people is so important when it comes to writing books? 

I feel like as a writer, particularly a children’s writer, it’s my job to tell the truth, and to try to tell it with hope when I can. The world is so much bigger and brighter than so many of us were led to believe as kids. There are terrible things and people in this world, yes; but there is also so much love, and hope, and wonder out there for all of us. Everyone deserves stories that tell them they’re worthy. Everyone deserves to know they're allowed to reach for joy. And kids deserve to see themselves in those stories, too.

Tell us a little more about the book and why you decided to write it.

So while this book honestly just started as me trying to write a fun, queer twist on a common trope in a genre I love, the "why" really changed when I hurt myself very badly in November 2019. Two weeks after my now-editor called to say she wanted to make an offer, but I had to do some heavy revisions first, I slipped on ice and sustained a traumatic brain injury that really forced me to recalibrate most of my life. I was only 24, and suddenly I couldn’t read, write, or even talk on the phone. I cried randomly, and constantly, and experienced moodswings that made me feel like I was possessed. I was a flicker of my former self, and I was so angry all the time. A lot of this story changed alongside me as my injury worsened, because I needed something to cling to, and because my injury had made it impossible to ignore a lot of childhood trauma I'd been putting of dealing with. Many of Ranka’s feelings about her blood-magic and her relationship to her body – her self-loathing, her confusion, her rage, her fear of herself – was pulled from me grappling with what it meant to have suffered a total betrayal of my body and brain overnight. And I guess as I got better, I was able to help her get better, too. It’s a messy, dark story, following a girl who has terrible things done to her and does terrible things in turn – but it’s ultimately a story of healing, and hope. I wrote that hope for me when I needed it most. I wrote it for kid-me, who needed to know getting through things like this was possible. And I guess I kept writing it for anyone else that might need to hear that, too.

What can fans expect from your book? Magic, murder, betrayal, and more betrayal! Magic as an allegory for trauma and chronic illness! The feeling of watching a car crash in slow motion, but instead of a car crash it’s a traumatized teenage lesbian with terrifying magic making terrible decisions! References to Avatar: The Last Airbender that some readers have found very funny and some have found very not funny (I stand by them)! Plus a cameo from my cats, the true stars.

What's up next for you in the bookish world? Middlegrade! My middlegrade debut, THE MOSSHEART'S PROMISE, is out this fall. It follows twelve-year-old Ary Mossheart, the unremarkable, anxious granddaughter of her world’s last great hero. When Ary wakes one morning to find her mother filled with the very mold eating her world alive, she sets out in search of a cure – only to learn that her entire world is trapped inside a giant, rotting terrarium they were meant to leave a hundred years ago. Worse, her Gran knew, and never told anyone. Now Ary has five days to find the exit, or they’re trapped forever. It’s a love letter to the middlegrade that turned me into a reader – REDWALL, CITY OF EMBER, GREGOR THE OVERLANDER, etc. And it's sapphic! I love it, and I hope readers do, too!


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