Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Jennifer A. Nielsen Author Interview

Photo Content from Jennifer A. 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; the MARK OF THE THIEF series, and the forthcoming A NIGHT DIVIDED. She loves chocolate, old books, and lazy days in the mountains.


Tell us your latest news.
News!?! Mostly it’s just the crazy writing schedule I’m on right now. Today (January 31) I am releasing WRATH OF THE STORM, the third and final book of the Mark of the Thief trilogy. In August, I’ll release book 2 of Scholastic’s multi-platform HORIZON series (Book 1 is by Scott Westerfeld and it’s awesome). I’m also in edits for a new series called TRAITOR’S GAME, researching a Holocaust era historical novel, and writing a super secret project that I hope I’ll get to talk about this summer.

Phew. I’m out of breath just writing that!

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
I think the strongest influences on my writing go back to the books I loved when I was young. Most often, I drifted to books with characters in real danger, or characters with serious moral dilemmas. Books such as THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE by Joan Aiken, THE OUTSIDERS by SE Hinton, and DEATHWATCH by Robb White. I loved the way those books made me feel, as if I were living the adventure, or I were the one in danger. I try to write now for that child in me, still hoping to create stories to entertain her.

What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
One comment I hear all the time, which is a surprise to me, is when people say, “I had no idea you’d be so normal!” And I think of myself that way. I do laundry, wash dishes, try to hit the gym, and somewhere in between all that, I write books.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I completed my first novel in my early twenties, though it was awful and should never see the light of day. However, typing “the end” was a pivotal moment for me, because I realized I had it in me to be a serious writer. More importantly, for the first time in my life, it sank in that becoming a published author was a real possibility. There was no magic, no secret passwords or special connections. I only needed to continue writing until I created something not awful, and if I did, eventually, I would see my own name on a book.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
The class that has served me the best was debate. For most subjects, a good grade depends on the student’s ability to hear what the teacher says and then regurgitate it back on a test. But in debate, by definition, there are no right or wrong answers. You simply take a position and then defend it, using logic and information you’ve researched. This taught me flexibility in thinking and an understanding of how to critically listen. Beyond that, I learned to speak in public with confidence and not get rattled by distractions or emotion. In some fashion, I use my debate skills almost every day of my life.

Did you learn anything from writing MARK OF THE THIEF and what was it?
In my first week of research, I realized that everything I’d ever learned about Ancient Rome was only one millionth of what there is to know. And as I continued to research, my respect for that civilization grew so much. Most fascinating to me were the parallels between their culture and our society now. They did graffiti in public places, their arena games parallel our reality television. They even originated the shopping mall, and I particularly thank them for that.

What was your inspiration for the series?
I happened to stumble upon two different facts that came together in my mind. The first was an ancient gem-filled amulet that Roman boys used to wear for good luck, called a bulla. The second was that Emperor Julius Caesar used to claim he had descended from the Gods, Venus specifically. I got to thinking, what if Caesar was telling the truth? Then he would have had the power of the Gods. And what if his magic was contained in his bulla, which became lost after his death, and remained lost for almost three hundred years until one day it’s found by a Roman slave named Nicolas Calva. Thus, the story begins…

Which character have you enjoyed getting to know the most over the course of writing MARK OF THE THIEF?
I loved seeing the increasing depth in Aurelia as the series progresses. She’s a survivor, and she’s smart, but she also cares deeply for her friends. It was interesting to see those traits clash in the books. What to do when your survival instinct disagrees with your loyalty? The way she works out those problems evolves in the books as she grows as a person and her feelings for her friends deepen.

For those who are unfamiliar with Nicolas, how would you introduce him?
In Roman society, the lowest class would have been the mining slaves, which is Nicolas’ role when we first meet him. His frustration there is not with the labor – it’s knowing in his heart that he’s better than that, knowing he’s meant for great things. So when he has an opportunity to steal a magical amulet, he takes the chance, although he has no idea how that will upend his life. He’s loyal and courageous and determined, but also entirely uneducated and in way over his head. So it’s fun to see how he responds to the challenges that start getting thrown at him.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I’d absolutely consider JK Rowling a mentor. Aside from the fact that I admire her writing, I think she’s an amazing woman. I recall the worldwide frenzy that accompanied the release of the latter half of her books, and the insane things some people would do to try to get a hint of what might happen in the next story. They’d stake out her home, parse every word she said in public, and haunt her friends and family for information. Under so much pressure, you’d have seen most writers’ work suffer. But Rowling only got better with each book. I have absolute respect for anyone who can accomplish that.

How many books have you written?

WRATH OF THE STORM is the twelfth book I’ve published in a little over six years, and I’m currently under contract for five more. The craziest thing is that the more I write, the more that I’m flooded with ideas. I’ll never outlive all the books that I want to write.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Advise my readers? I think instead, I’d rather hear their advice for me! I think readers are awesome, just as they are.

Who was your first boyfriend?
Well, technically it was Todd in the first grade. I can say that, because for a few weeks (the equivalent of years in first grade time), we were pretty sure we’d get married. Todd and I also discovered oil in the third grade, in the dirt around second base of our playground. We know because we did serious scientific experiments on it, such as putting it in a jar and watching it until recess ended. However, after a few days, the oil dried up. Turns out it had been mud all along. That was a sad day. At least I had Todd to see me through it.

Tell me about your first kiss
It was as awkward as most first kisses are. A friend of mine talked me into buying a Valentine’s Day card that not-too-subtly suggested I would be open to a kiss, which she then gave to a boy I liked. He took the hint and kissed me on the way home from school. He was a good guy then and still is now, but I realized in that moment that Hallmark cards do indeed have consequences.

What would be harder for you, to tell someone you love them or that you do not love them back?
I never had trouble telling someone when I did have feelings for them. But if someone put the “I love you” phrase out there and I can’t reciprocate, I’m leaving them hanging from a pretty thin wire. I don’t think I ever figured out a way to fix that without serious awkwardness or hurt feelings. I know I crushed a couple of hearts this way when I was a teen, and I still feel bad for that.

What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I used to go door to door doing political surveys. When they found out I wasn’t selling anything, they’d be pretty friendly, but I was surprised by how much people A) Didn’t know; and B) Faked like they did know. I still look at elections today and wonder how many people truly understood the candidates or issues for which they voted.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?

I grew up in the 80’s, which was a great time to be a teenager. I mean, the hair was never bigger, the clothes never more neon, and the music never had so many artificial sound effects. BUT…if I had to choose a different decade, I’d have loved the roaring twenties. Society was changing so fast and opportunities for women were expanding like never before. It would have been a wonderful time to be alive. Of course, that had to be followed by the great depression, and then a world war, so…

What is your greatest adventure?
Being a mom. My kids will always be my greatest accomplishment and, since I’m pretty much winging it with them each day, parenting is always an adventure.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen delivers the action-packed conclusion to her magical Mark of the Thief trilogy!

Trouble has a way of seeking out Nicolas Calva, and it's not likely to leave him alone any time soon. With Caesar's magic bulla, the Malice of Mars, and the possibility of a Jupiter Stone in play, all the powers of Rome are circling Nic. He'll have to maneuver his way through scheming government officials and reawakened magical beasts to save the Empire. Can he manage to keep his friends and family safe, claim his own freedom once and for all, and rescue the Empire -- before the magic gets the better of him?

With twists and turns on every page, critically acclaimed author Jennifer Nielsen weaves an epic, action-packed conclusion to her extraordinary Mark of the Thief trilogy.


"The fast-paced, ingenious plot, charismatic hero and highly diverse cast of characters... make this series opener a captivating joy ride." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Vivid... [with] page-turning twists." -- Publishers Weekly


"Fast-moving fun with broad audience appeal, especially recommended for reluctant readers, Rick Riordan fans, and pedal-to-the-metal adventure aficionados." Kirkus Reviews

"The novel's Roman mythology connections... will have great appeal for fans of Rick Riordan. Heavily plot-driven with a movie-script feel..." Booklist

You can purchase Wrath of the Storm (Mark of the Thief #3) at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JENNIFER A.NIELSEN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Signed Copy of Wrath of the Storm 
by Jennifer A. Nielsen and Horizon by Scott Westerfeld 
1 Winner will receive a Signed Copy of Wrath of the Storm by Jennifer A. Nielsen

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