NAW Interview with Jennifer Nielsen

Jennifer Nielsen

New York Times Bestselling author, Jennifer Nielsen, was born and raised in northern Utah, where she still lives today with her husband, three children, and a dog that won’t play fetch. She is the author of The Ascendance trilogy, beginning with THE FALSE PRINCE; Book 6 of the Infinity Ring series, BEHIND ENEMY LINES, The Underworld Chronicles, beginning with ELLIOT AND THE GOBLIN WAR; and the forthcoming PRAETOR WAR series. Visit her here. 

NAW- Tell us about your book, ‘The Shadow Throne.’ How did you get the idea for it? How long did it take to finish the book?What is it about?

THE SHADOW THRONE is the third book of the Ascendance Trilogy, and is the war that has come to the land of Carthya. They are surrounded by hostile countries who will surely destroy Carthya if young King Jaron cannot figure out a way to win the war.

This book was the natural progression from the first two, THE FALSE PRINCE and THE RUNAWAY KING. It took about five months to write and edit and I think it’s a great way to complete the series. Readers have certainly been enthusiastic.

NAW- How did you develop the character of Jaron? The series is also being developed into a film, right? Can you divulge any details about it?

Jaron first came to me in the song, Guaranteed, by a singer named Eddie Vedder. The lyrics said, “I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me, guaranteed.” And the more I turned those lyrics around in my head, the closer I came to imagining a character who knows exactly what game he is playing, but the other characters don’t know that all the rules are being very quietly rewritten. Once I had Jaron, I had my story.

Paramount Pictures is developing a screenplay, though a final decision has not yet been made as to whether a movie will be made. I haven’t seen the script, but the screenwriter also writes for HBO’s GAME OF THRONES, which I think is awesome!

NAW- Tell us aboutyour forthcoming book, ‘Mark of The Thief.’ What is it about?

MARK OF THE THIEF is the first book in a trilogy that takes place in Ancient Rome with an escaped slave, some stolen magic, and a battle to control the fall of an empire. I love the main character, Nic. He is in a lot of trouble and really has no idea how to save himself, much less save an empire, so I think readers will really enjoy him. MARK OF THE THIEF releases in the United States in February 2015 and hopefully will become available elsewhere in the world soon after.

NAW- Is writing for youth any different? How difficult (or easy) is it than writing for an adult readership?

I think good stories attract all ages, so really the challenge any writer has is creating something that gets inside the reader’s imagination and won’t let go. There are differences between books for adults and for children, of course, but I wouldn’t say one is any easier than the other.

NAW- Do you carry out any research for developing your characters and your stories? How do you go about it?

I strongly believe in research, even for fiction stories. Readers are very smart, and if a writer is faking their information, readers will know it. Most of my research is done online or in books, or I spend a lot of time studying pictures or videos that help me better understand the things I’m writing about. For MARK OF THE THIEF, I traveled to Rome because although I could learn about the different places online, I wanted to see it for myself and get a sense of scale. Rome is an amazing city in a beautiful country. I can’t imagine the thrill of living in a country  surrounded by so much history.

Jennifer Nielsen books

NAW- Which authors have influenced you?

Several authors have influenced me in different ways. I learned about suspense from Mary Higgins Clark, about strong characters through Madeleine L’Engles WRINKLE IN TIME or Joan Aiken’s THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE. I am a great fan of JK Rowling’s, not only because of her HARRY POTTER books, but also because of her example as an author. I’d hope that if I were ever under even a tenth of the pressure she faced, that I could maintain the dignity she did. And finally, when I was in sixth grade, I was a fan of THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton. I loved that book so much, I decided I wanted to try writing too. S.E. Hinton is a great reason I ever became an author.

NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?

I am a mom to three great kids, so they get most of my time. I also enjoy reading (of course!), walking in the mountains, and watching movies. Oh, and dark chocolate – everything in life is better if there is dark chocolate nearby!

NAW- Do you have any strange writing habits (like writing while eating)?

Hmm. I tend to “perform” a lot of the key scenes while I’m writing. Not a full performance (because that would be a little too strange), but maybe when I’m in the car alone, I will say the dialogue aloud and try to get inside each character emotionally. I think that comes from my acting background, where the way to understand a character is to become that character. So if you pass me in my car and see me talking to myself, that’s probably why!

NAW- How important are names of characters in your books? How do you name the characters?

Some names are important. In THE FALSE PRINCE, Sage’s name was chosen because in English it also means “wise.” Jaron was a boy I actually knew once, and he was such a good person I always thought if we had royalty in this country, he would’ve been a prince. Some names I make up, such as Amarinda or Roden. Others come from baby name books or phone books. There’s no magic in choosing – just as a parent knows when they have the right name for their baby, I know when I have the right name for my character.

NAW- What is your least favorite part of the publishing process?

The waiting. Publishing is a very slow boat, and everything takes a long time. It can be months between the sale of a manuscript and the time to announce it, months for the editing process to be complete, and long waits afterward until the book is actually released. I have other projects to work on while I wait, but I am often so excited to let the reader have a chance to get the book that sometimes waiting is hard for me.

NAW- What is the one thing that your readers don’t know about you?

This is a hard question because I think what readers don’t know about me is rather uninteresting. I will say that as a child, I was definitely a tomboy, and a reckless one at that. I did so many things that I would never let my own children do now, such as climbing trees with power lines running through them or surfing on moving cars. I used to play in the upper floor of a barn with a broken out floor, and I would take almost any dare from my brother’s friends. (Note to readers: Don’t do any of those things!) So when I write about Jaron’s reckless nature, though I was never as bold as him, I do understand his instincts.

NAW- What are your upcoming projects?

Other than MARK OF THE THIEF, I am also editing another project right now called A NIGHT DIVIDED, which will release in the US in fall 2015. This is a historical story about a girl living in cold war East Berlin,  whose family is divided on the night the Berlin Wall goes up. I love her courage and the risks she takes to get them together again. I’m also excited for readers to learn more about a time in history that should never be forgotten.

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