Thursday, August 29, 2013

Author Interview: Jennifer A. Nielsen, Author of the Ascendance Trilogy

Hey guys! I've got an interview with Jennifer A. Nielsen for you guys. Enjoy!

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always had stories in my head, and for a long time I thought that was a normal thing for everyone. Maybe it is, but maybe there are some people who just keep that story turning in their minds until they finally give in and write it down. For me, if I don’t write, then I don’t get much of anything else done because the characters that get in my head just won’t leave me alone.

What was your first idea for The False Prince, and did you think of that fabulous twist ending prior to writing most of the book or did you just come up with it right when you were writing the end? 

No, I knew from the beginning how The False Prince would end. I always know the endings to my stories, just not necessarily how I’m going to get there.

Do you organize the plot before writing a book or do you just go with the flow? 

I used to go with the flow a lot more, but now I do a lot more outlining in advance. The better I get at outlining, the more I’m committed to it as a writing tool. It saves me a lot of time and helps me pull stronger moments from the plot. Tomorrow, I’m going to start work on another technique often used by screenwriters – that of writing plot elements on color-coded cards and sorting them around on a board. Should be fun!

Did you intend for The False Prince to be a stand-alone novel at first? 

It was written as a standalone novel, but the further I got into the story, the more I realized how big Sage’s world was, and how much story remained to be told after the new king is crowned. When I approached Scholastic with the idea of possibly making this a trilogy, and they responded enthusiastically, I could not have been happier.

Can you tell us a bit about The Shadow Throne?

 Definitely! There is a place at one point in the book where Jaron gets a bite to eat. It’s riveting. Other than that, there’s not much I can say. However, everyone who has read to the end of The Runaway King should have a good idea of where the story has to go. War is coming…

Which one of your characters, in all the books you've ever written, can you relate to the most, and in what ways? 

I think I put a little of myself in all my characters. I may not have a lot in common with all of them (or with any of them, really), but there are some where I have an easy time getting inside their heads, knowing how they tick. So of my books already released, I think I probably relate most to both of the girls in Ascendance series. I admire their strength and courage and the different ways they each handle Jaron. He needs them both in his life and has a lot to learn from each.

What, in your opinion, is the best thing about being an author?

 I am constantly amazed that I get to write the stories in my head for a job. That is an absolute dream come true, and with every new day I am increasingly grateful for the opportunities this career gives me. But the very best thing about being an author is when I get letters from young readers or their parents or teachers. Letters that say things like “yours is the first book that John has read start to finish.” Or “your book has inspired me to write my own story.” I love those. I save them and re-read them at times when I need encouragement.

And the worst? 

I love building new fictional worlds and populating them with characters that I also love. Then eventually that book or that series has to end, and by that time in a book’s lifespan, I know it all as well as if it were real (yes, many authors are partially schizophrenic, in case you were wondering). So it is hard to say goodbye. I am so excited about what’s coming next, but I will always miss the excitement and challenge of every book that has come before.

Where do you like to write? 
I can write nearly anywhere as long as it’s quiet. My favorite places are on the couch in front of my front room window, in my bed at night, and alone in the mountains near my home.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Sometimes there are people who want to get published, but they freeze up because they are afraid of failing at it. In other words, they prefer quitting to failing. So here’s my advice:

Do not fear failure. There’s nothing wrong with failing – nearly everyone who is great can give you a very long list of their failures, and certainly most authors can. Myself included.

If you have a great story idea, write it. Even if it might not work. Even if it might not be any good. And even if you have no idea who would ever want to read it.

If you’ve written a great story, sell it. When you get a rejection (and you will), send out a new query. Send out five. And if those get rejected, send out some more. I once talked with a writer who gave up for years after his eighth rejection. Eighth? That’s like giving up on the race while you’re still tying your shoes.

And if you never sell that story, then put it away and write another one that’s even better. Most writers do exactly that. Figure out why your first didn’t work and fix the problems. Then sell that one.

And once it sells, prepare yourself for good sales numbers…or bad. Good reviews…or bad. Or worse still, no reviews. Because in your writing career, you’ll get all of that. And it’s not failure. It’s just the business.

There’s nothing wrong with failing. There is, however, something tragic about giving up. So don’t.

Only if you are unafraid to fail can you ever hope to succeed.
Thanks to Jennifer to her very thoughtful answers!

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