There is no shortage of talent coming out of the Queen City. Charlotte is home to various musicians, athletes and writers including Charlotte native and The New York Times best-selling author, Renée Ahdieh. In 2015, she took the publishing industry by storm with her popular novel, The Wrath & The Dawn. Ahdieh recently debuted her new work, Flame in the Mist,and is currently promoting it on a book tour. We had an opportunity to chat with Renée last fall and got her take on favorite local spots and hometown memories.
Tell us about yourself. How did you get to where you are today?
Circuitously! I was born in Charlotte and then my family moved to Seoul, South Korea, when I was only two weeks old. We lived there for a few years before moving back to North Carolina. As a child of mixed race, I often sought to bridge the gaps I faced through books, which quickly fostered a love of the written word. I studied English composition and political science at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before returning to Charlotte. My first novel, “The Wrath & the Dawn,” was published last year with Penguin Random House and recently became a #1 on The New York Times best-seller list. It’s been the culmination of years of work and a great deal of struggle, so I’m just thrilled to see where everything’s headed right now. I feel beyond lucky to have a career doing something I’ve been so passionate about!
What’s your favorite Charlotte meal?
There are so many amazing restaurants around Charlotte. I’m a huge fan of Indian food. Tamarind on Independence Boulevard is one of my favorites. But if I had to pick a favorite meal in the Queen City, it would have to be a home-cooked one. I’d probably start by heading over to the Kings Drive Farmers Market to pick out whatever vegetables were fresh and in season. Then I’d head home to make either a pasta or bibimbap—a Korean dish with an assortment of stir-fried vegetables and sauteed beef tossed on top! Of course, this meal would involve family and friends, followed by a great movie.
If you only had 10 words, how would you define Charlotte?
Vibrant and bold. Definitely surprising. Charmingly Southern yet undeniably urban.
Describe your perfect day in the city. What would you do, see and experience?
I would get to sleep in and have brunch someplace wonderful, like Another Broken Egg Cafe or Reid’s Fine Foods. A perfect day would involve a leisurely walk. If the weather is nice, perhaps a park or maybe the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art or the Mint Museum Uptown. If it’s hot outside, then gelato at Va Da Vie Gelato is a must. A chilly autumn day would mean it’s time to find a cup of cider or maybe some hot chocolate. In case you can’t tell, any perfect day for me involves the senses and food, so an excellent dinner would be of absolute necessity. I just tried out Babalu Tacos & Tapas on East Boulevard with some friends, and it was amazing. The Cuban sandwich was fantastic!
Loved this pic from tonight's #flameinthemist tour event with @blackholly!! 🌸🔥 Repost from @windridersoul @TopRankRepost #TopRankRepost @laurendestefanoauthor Tiny novelist Emma got to meet @reneeahdieh !! The first book Emma read when she got to my house was The Wrath and the Dawn so this was kind of a surreal moment. So glad Renee came to the area and it was so much fun hearing her and Holly Black talk (and Cassandra Clare asked the best question of the night). It's always funny to me. I like to think I am fairly articulate and I got over my fear of public speaking years ago but put me in front of an author whose work I adore and I forget how words work, how to spell my name (yes, seriously), and I shake so much it's amazing I ever get a decent pic at these things. Still, it was amazing and fun and I'm glad we have a local store that hosts so many author events. Also, I ended up with the best pin from the signing, if I ever get it back from Emma. #flameinthemist #flameinthemisttour #reneeahdieh #tinynovelist #emma #booksigning #booknerd #bookstagram #fangirlmoment
Why is Charlotte “home” for you?
Pliny the Elder wasn’t wrong when he said, “Home is where the heart is.” My family is in Charlotte. I grew up here, and I almost feel as though I’ve watched the city grow up with me.
What is your favorite Queen City memory?
The first one that pops into my mind actually happened right before the last Super Bowl (cue requisite moment of silence). A very, very foolish young man was walking down Central Avenue wearing a Broncos jersey, and this stately, elderly woman stood up from her bench and shook her cane at him, yelling, “Why, my boy, why?” Everyone on the street starting laughing. It was pretty great.
Her latest novel, Flame in the Mist, is available now. To learn more about Renée Ahdieh, visit http://www.reneeahdieh.com/.
This article was featured in the October 2016 issue of Charlotte Happenings. Updates by Brigitte Acosta.