Author on the Grill: Ambelin Kwaymullina The Tribe Blog Tour

The Tribe is a brilliant young adult series that blends supernatural, fantasy, science fiction and dystopian, while weaving an important environmental message and romance throughout. Book one, The Interrogation Of Ashala Wolf was incredible. Ashala is a strong and fierce young heroine, that isn't afraid to fight against an oppressive regime against a new world that is rebuilding. But in The Disappearance Of Ember Crow, Ashala's strength is tested when her best friend Ember disappears. Ambelin Kwaymullina is a magical and natural storyteller. She allows readers to immerse themselves into Ashala's world, while incorporating the Australian indigenous Dreaming.

The Tribe series isn't just to be read, it's an experience. So when I had heard that Walker Books Australia were organising a tour for Ambelin, I was desperate to take part. I was fortunate enough to interview Embelin, who I quickly realised that the sassy, strong willed yet devoted and caring Ashala is a reflection of. Ambelin shares her thoughts on Ashala, The Tribe series' environmental message and gives us an understanding of Dreaming and the Aboriginal culture. Thank you Ambelin for not only creating a strong and intelligent young female heroine, but for breaking the young adult mould.

Most Australian's have an understanding of Dreaming and the spiritual aspect of our traditional land owners, but for international readers, would you be able to describe a little about Dreaming and the significance in plays in The Tribe series?


What is the Dreaming? It was during the Dreaming that the ancient creative Ancestors formed reality as we know it now – they travelled, danced, sung, fought, laughed, slept – and by doing these things and many others, they made them manifest in the world. The Dreaming beings shaped the many homelands of the many Aboriginal nations of Australia, our ‘Countries’, and when their work was done, they went back into the Countries they created. The world they made is animate and ever-moving; for everything in it is alive, and it is the nature of life to be dynamic and changeable. Everything lives, and everything connects – all that is, links together into living networks of relationships. 

When writing the Tribe series, I had to consider, what happens when the world ends? What happens to the Dreaming beings, or to old spirits of the earth from places other than Australia? In The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, it is discovered that one at least survived – Ashala’s grandfather Serpent, who formed the mighty Firstwood and imbued it with spirit and consciousness. In The Disappearance of Ember Crow, we discover that another ancient spirit lives too – not a Dreaming being, but another ancient spirit from elsewhere on this earth.

The stories of the Dreaming teach of a complex interconnected world where there is always more to what is than what can be perceived. In The Tribe series, the earth has torn itself apart in an environmental cataclysm. But the new earth is still an animate place of many voices and hidden realities. Ashala perhaps captures it best in The Disappearance of Ember Crow, when she thinks – ‘there are layers and layers to this world’. 
Ashala is a sassy, strong young woman and a brilliant female heroine in the young adult genre. What was the inspiration behind her character?


Ashala herself. She – well, is. I never felt like I invented her; I felt like I found her, or she found me. In some ways she’s like me; enough so that we understand each other, she and I. Perhaps that is why she chose me to tell her story. It is a great privilege and a great responsibility to do so. And yes, she is strong, and stubborn, and defiant. She burns bright, my Ash, and she will need all of her courage and all of her fire to meet the challenges of the world and the times in which she lives.

But she is not the only one. As I type these words I am conscious of how many young women in this world are living in difficult circumstances; how many are struggling to protect themselves and others; to make the best choice they can when their options have narrowed to nothing. It is a great privilege and a great responsibility to tell Ashala’s story – because, in many ways, it is not only Ashala’s story.
We understand each other, Ashala and I.
What inspired you to put pen to paper and tell Ashala and The Tribe's story?


There are some stories which must be told. If you ever find such a story, you will know it; you will sense the living, breathing nature of the narrative. And to deny such a story, to leave it isolated and untold, is a betrayal of the trust the story has placed in you. Ashala’s story is like that. I hear her voice so clearly; I think what she thinks and feel what she feels. I could never do other than to tell it. 
The Interrogation Of Ashala Wolf is an intelligent read with a strong message about caring for our world. Was it a conscious decision to weave an environmental message throughout the storyline?


I think I probably wrote of the world I knew. The responsibility to care for Country is a fundamental part of Aboriginal culture, and Country is not separate from us, so in nourishing the earth we also nourish our own selves. In Ashala’s reality the world ended in environmental disaster, and it is only natural for the survivors to place a high value on environmental stewardship. But her society is far less successful at caring for human beings; anyone with an ability is labelled an Illegal and locked away in detention centres. Ashala sees the flaw in this clearly, at the end of The Disappearance of Ember Crow: ‘People were good to the Earth now, but they weren’t good to each other, and it wasn’t enough to value only one kind of connection. All life matters, or none does.’
If you could leave readers one message about Ashala's story, what would that be?


Yeah, that’s a difficult question. There’s so many aspects to her story, and I think that readers bring their own thoughts and feelings to it, too. I want whoever reads the books to be free to find their own truth, the same way I discover new insights every time I re-read one of my favourite books.

But…I was asked at a conference this year who I write for, and in answering that question I realised something for the first time. I realised I have someone in mind when I write, and it is not the person who has never known what it is to experience some of what Ashala does; who has never been frightened or in danger. I write for the vulnerable, not for the safe. And for them – yes, I do have a message.

You are not alone. 
Ambelin Kwaymullina loves reading sci-fi and fantasy books, and has wanted to write a novel since she was six years old. She comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. When not writing or reading she works in cultural heritage, illustrates picture books and hangs out with her dogs. She has previously written a number of children’s books, both alone and with other members of her family. Her first novel, The Tribe Book 1: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, was short-listed in both the Science Fiction and Young Adult Fiction categories of the 2012 Aurealis Awards.

You can follow Ambelin's tour to her next stop at Treasured Tales For Young Adults.

Join The Tribe now by visiting The Firstwood

Purchase The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf from:
Your local bookstore,  Dymocks,  Booktopia,  BookworldQBD and from where all good books are sold.

The Disappearance Of Ember Crow is available from:


  1. I MUST READ THIS SERIES. I just read about it for the first time on ALPHAReader's blog and I'm excited to try them out sometime! Thanks for the interview, I'm definitely intrigued.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. It's simply awesome. The Tribe series has the element of being spiritual, and magical. I'm sure you'll love the series as much as I do.


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