Book Nerd Interview
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
There definitely was. When I was in 6th grade, I decided to become a “serious” writer, working on a story about a girl who begins to believe her daydreams are real. Okay, as an adult, I understand that I was actually writing about a girl with a serious mental disorder – but at the time it was just a great adventure. I came to a point in the story where this girl had become locked in a closet and had to pick the lock to escape. This was eons before the inventors of Google were even born, so I did research the old-fashioned way: I called a locksmith and asked him how to pick a lock. He reacted as you might expect, by scolding me and telling me I needed to tell my mother what I was up to. I hung up the phone and ran away. It was years before I took the idea seriously again of becoming a writer.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I believe that stories are hardwired into our DNA. They’re far more than entertainment. They’re a universal medium for understanding ourselves and others, for predicting the future and interpreting the past, and for vicariously living out adventures we may never get to experience any other way. I cannot imagine a world without stories.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
The best writing advice I ever received was to keep my focus on creating the next book. Being an author can be an incredibly tumultuous experience – like riding the waves based on reviews, sales numbers, Twitter mentions, and that awkward moment when someone finds out you’re an author and asks, “Oh, have I heard of your book?” Keeping the focus on the next book helps navigate all of that so much easier because it holds your attention where it always should be: your ultimate career goals.
In your new book, The False Prince can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
The False Prince is the story of a clever and defiant orphan named Sage who is taken away one day by a scheming nobleman named Conner. He finds himself caught up in a twisted competition with three other boys. The winner will assume the throne as an impersonator of the king’s long lost son. It’s an act of treason that Sage wants no part of. But the losers – the boys who are not chosen – are certain to be killed so they cannot reveal the plan.
What part of Conner did you enjoy writing the most?
Conner is a fun character to write because in his mind, he is absolutely the hero of the story. If he was the narrator, he’d talk about the noble goals of his plan, the advantages to the kingdom if he was successful, and about his misfortune to be burdened with someone as difficult and obstinate as Sage. In many ways, Conner and Sage are similar personalities. Both are stubborn, both willing to do whatever is necessary to win, and if they discussed what is necessary to save the kingdom, they’d probably agree. The only fundamental difference is that Sage has a strong compass for right and wrong. Conner does not.
If you could introduce Sage to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Maybe Sage should be introduced to Harry Potter. Because at first he’d see Harry and think, “I could totally take this guy.” And then Harry would pull out his wand and immobulus Sage until he gets more humble. Then that night, Sage would steal Harry’s wand and probably sneak a chocolate frog into his bed, and pretty soon there’d be a whole international book incident. So on second thought, I don’t think it’d be a good idea to introduce Sage to anyone. He barely gets along with the characters in his own book.
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
Right now, I’m working on the sequels for The False Prince. Book 2, The Runaway King, will be out next spring and I’m very excited for that. I’ll also be writing the sixth Infinity Ring book, which is Scholastic’s new multiplatform series. Book 1 of that series, A Mutiny in Time, by James Dashner, comes out at the end of August, and I know young readers are going to love these! It’s a great honor to be included as one of the authors.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
Actually, it’s this exact question you just asked. Well that’s created a juicy paradox, hasn’t it?
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Voice is like a writer’s unique music. When you’re first starting out, the trick is to find that music for yourself. But there are so many rules, so many pieces of advice, so many do’s and don’ts. It’s important to know all of those, but I sometimes think that also sometimes clogs up the music. So ignore the rules – just until you know you have your voice. Then you can start to work the rules back into your writing.
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
My husband, Jeff. He’s an amazing support for me because he can see through drama and discern temporary blips of bad news from real problems. But he’s also honest with me, even if it’s not the opinion I want. That means I can trust him and know that when he says the person who soured my day is just a stupid dork-face meanie, that he’s right. J
What is your favorite room in your home and outside environment?
At home, I love my kitchen. I’m not a great cook and there’s nothing extraordinary about how it looks, but it just happens to be where the yummy stuff hangs out. It’s also the center of family life. My favorite place outside is a particular spot up in the mountains near my home. I could sit there for hours listening to the wind brush through the tall aspens. If I close my eyes, it sounds like I’m right next to a river. Just perfect.
When was the last time you cried?
I’m a wimp for crying – it doesn’t take much, truly. I haven’t gotten through singing the national anthem in years. If it’s a movie or book where a cute animal dies, I’ll avoid it like the plague. I rarely cry when I’m sad or injured, but for sweet and mushy moments, I’m just pathetic.
What is the one, single food that you would never give up?
Chocolate. Um no, wait, healthy food. Healthy food, of course!
Where can readers stalk you?
I discourage people from stalking me at the grocery store, mostly because they’d be horrified by the amount of chocolate in my cart. Better is to find me on my website at www.jennielsen.com, “like” me on Facebook (or just like me at all – that’s fine too), or follow me on Twitter @nielsenwriter.
THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.
In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.
As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.
An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.
Jennifer puts together a very witty and enthralling story filled with highly intriguing characters. Like any fourteen year-old, Sage is cleverly witty, but at the same time reckless. He easily gets frustrated but readers will get to see him grow throughout this book. Although he is the hero, he possesses weaknesses, which made the story feel real.
There are plenty of twists and surprises throughout the book. Jennifer’s writing style is capable of pitting her readers into the magical world she created. Each moment of Sage’s journey is described in rich details that readers will feel like they are right beside him. This is a book for anyone seeking adventure with a story unlike anything before. Lead by a strong protagonist, readers will find satisfaction in The False Prince and a strong urge for book two.
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