For fans of the animated show Avatar: The Last Airbender, movie buffs that loved Gladiator, and history-obsessives with a preference for the Ancient Roman era, Set Fire to the Gods should absolutely be your next big read.
Co-authored by New York Times best-selling author Sara Raasch and critically acclaimed author Kristen Simmons, Set Fire to the Gods is a young adult novel told from dual perspectives. It follows the lives of Ash, a descendent of a long line of gladiators, and Madoc, a street fighter with a dark secret. With a unique and expansive world and a host of clever characters, Set Fire to the Gods is a quick and enjoyable read for YA fantasy lovers. It has all the elements of a great historical epic: an ancient war, elemental magic, and unexpected alliances. The best part? It’s the first of two books set to be published in this vast world.
Below, Raasch and Simmons give us an inside look into what it was like to co-author a fantasy novel, how they used TikTok to market their magical world, and more.
Teen Vogue: Can you tell me more about the origins of the novel?
Sara Raasch: The first iteration of this book was actually a romance novel, but our agents convinced us to change it to YA, which meant we eventually scrapped the whole thing. But we loved the idea — and working together! — so much that we eventually came back to it and tried to figure out how we could make it a viable story. We had a revelation at a Panera Bread, and the version of Set Fire you know today was born.
Kristen Simmons: From there it really did set a fire (ha ha) in us! Emails grew longer, ideas turned to spreadsheets, and soon we were trading chapters back and forth. Who knew a mutual love of gladiators could turn into an epic fantasy series?
TV: Why did you choose to co-author?
SR: We both wanted to try it. We’d never done it before and it seemed like it could either be a ton of fun or a huge disaster and we really wanted to see which it would be.
KS: I’ve loved Sara’s books from the beginning, and couldn’t wait to meet her in person at [the Romantic Times] conference [in 2015]. We hit it off immediately over a shared love of books, and Taylor Swift, and of course gladiators. It was such an honor to share this brain child with her.
TV: I’d love more insight into your co-authoring journey, especially for a fantasy novel. What were some of the challenges? Was there anything unexpectedly enjoyable about having a co-author?
SR: Honestly, it is so much easier to co-write a fantasy novel than to do it solo. You have a whole extra brain who knows the story as intimately as you do and can instantly hop on board to unravel plot issues. I’m sad to go back to my solo projects!
KS: Ditto. Writing a book can be such a lonely venture, and when you get stuck, it’s often difficult to explain why to someone on the outside. But co-authoring means having a companion with you through the entire process. So many times when I struggled, I hopped on the phone with Sara and together we figured it out.
TV: What were some of your main inspirations for Ash and Madoc? Did one of you tend to write one character more than another?