Courtesy of Random House LLC
Alumnus Pierce Brown (‘10) has gained massive admiration for his novel “Red Rising” over the past month. Called “a dark and twisted power of its own,” by the Library Journal, “Red Rising” powered its way to the 20th spot on The New York Times best-seller list for three weeks after being released Jan. 28. The exact number of copies sold was reported confidentially to The New York Times.
Set almost 700 years in the future, the novel delves into a dystopian world, ruled by a color-based hierarchy of specialized beings. It follows the life of Darrow, a low-ranked Red, who disguises himself as a highborn Gold to aid in the deterioration of the empire that has suppressed his class for far too long.
When discussing the immediate praise “Red Rising” has received, Brown said it never felt anything like instant success because of the six previous novels he had written. None of those works had been published, but with the accomplishment of his seventh, he “realized how incredibly lucky I am.”
“It feels really good to be validated,” Brown said in a phone interview. “[‘Red Rising’] is the validation I’m doing the right thing with my life. It is massively humbling because you see how long writers take to get where they want.”
With a nomadic childhood, a sports-centered background, and an undergraduate degree in both political science and economics, Brown said much of his writing is influenced by various life experiences. Brown has been writing since the age of 18, he did not seriously begin “Red Rising” until after his graduation from Pepperdine. Immediately after graduating, he began working on a political campaign for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) “It redefined the meaning of hard work for me,” Brown said.
While Brown acted as a personal driver for Murray during the Senate race, he gained crucial knowledge about fundraising and the power associated with politics. He used this influx of information as inspiration when creating the world and power structure of “Red Rising.”
“[‘Red Rising’] is most certainly politics,” Brown said. “Office politics as much as macro politics. All politics are about power relationships between human beings.”
The color-coded ranking in the novel’s society can also be connected to Brown’s involvement in politics.
“I thought [color] was a very visual way to impact the reader, Brown said. “Humanity likes creating hierarchies and systems on how we rank things. People like lists; people like structure. Dystopian fiction offers things that humans already do.”
When comparing Brown to his main character, Darrow, Brown believes assurance and a tangible mission is what connects him to his revolutionary character.
“I didn’t initially write him to be my doppelgänger,” Brown said. “I wrote him at a time when I was graduating college, and Darrow was a way to clarify my own objectives and goals. As a generation, we’re left to our own devices to find what we’re seeking. Darrow has a mission. It’s the assurance he has. I found my North Star.”
Brown said his time studying in Heidelberg, Germany had significant influence on “Red Rising.” The city’s Renaissance-inspired buildings that dominate the skyline and tell of once power-hungry knights and kings played a big role in the direction of the story. These old-world influences in the novel attracted the attention of German-born director Marc Forster, who contacted Brown’s agent to discuss the creation of a screenplay. Together, Brown and Forster conceptualized the deal, while Brown wrote the script. Forster then took the deal to Sony and Universal, who competed in a bidding war for the film rights. Universal won the bid, and now the script is awaiting the green light. If all goes according to plan, Brown said the film will be released in 2016.
Preceding the release of the film will be the publishing of “Golden Son,” the second novel in the trilogy. Brown will be traveling to New York to work with his publisher, Random House, on the final edits.
Correction: March 19, 2014
In the March 18th online version of this article, it stated Pierce Brown worked on the Senate campaign for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Brown worked on the campaign for Dino Rossi (R-Wash.), Murray’s competitor, and also served as Rossi’s driver.
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