Sabaa spent her childhood in the Mojave Desert, where she didn’t have cable and thus chose to entertain herself with books and radio. Her parents assured her that she wanted to become a doctor, but a brief stint working in a hospital changed her mind.
She left the desert for university at 17, graduated from UCLA a few years later, and went to work for The Washington Post directly after. Five years later, she left the Post and started working on a book.
Development Of An Ember In The Ashes
While working at The Washington Post, Tahir read a story about Kashmiri women whose male family members are thrown into prison by the military and never seen again. She asked herself what she would do if she were one of those women. This was the kernel from which An Ember in the Ashes grew.
To characterize Elias (and other warriors in the story) authentically, Tahir interviewed a West Point cadet, police officers, soldiers and an FBI agent. These people helped her understand the mindset of a warrior. She used what she learned to inform Elias's actions, dialogue, skills, thoughts, etc. She wrote by iteration, and her characters revealed themselves over time. In the book, Laia is forced to become a slave. Tahir read about slavery in ancient Rome as well as in the U.S to make the experiences in the story more authentic.
The book's Martial Empire system is based on the social stratification of Ancient Rome.
Tahir got the idea for An Ember in the Ashes in 2007 and wrote the book over a period of six years. She cites music as a key inspiration.