Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Author Thursday: Interview with Jennifer Nielsen!

Hey!  I hope you're having a great week.  My week was made with the arrival of an author interview in my inbox a few days ago.

I first read The False Prince in April.  In one night.  I loved it.  I think I might have said that when I mentioned the book on a What I'm Reading Wednesday.

A few weeks ago, after I got the interview from Sarah Prineas, I found to nerve to ask Mrs. Nielsen for an interview.  And boy am I glad I did, because she said yes!

Please welcome Jennifer Nielsen, the author of The False Prince.

Mrs. Nielsen, when did you start writing?

My first attempt at being a serious author was in the 6th grade, with a story about a girl who becomes stuck in her daydreams and believes they’re real (translation: character with serious schizophrenia written by 11-year-old who thinks it’s a cool fantasy story). When I needed to “research” how to pick a lock and called a
locksmith, he misunderstood my reasons for calling and became angry with me. I was deeply embarrassed and hurt, so I put aside the story, and put aside any idea that writing was a real career option for me. I continued writing afterward, but only as a hobby and never with the intention of actually becoming an author.

I've also thought about asking my librarian about lock picking, but I thought I might sound shady.  When did you know you wanted to be an author?

After my first child was born, I quit my job as a teacher and began staying home full time. It didn’t take very long before I started looking for a creative outlet. Between diaper changes and during cuddle times, I read everything I could get my hands on, but soon it wasn’t enough to live in other people’s stories. So I picked up writing again. About midway through that first story, I knew that this was the career where I belonged.

How much did you write before you were published?

There’s a common belief that the average writer has to produce a million words of crap before the good stuff starts to emerge. I started with that, produced another awful million or two more, and then finally began to create some stories worth reading. Seriously, I have a lot of unpublishable manuscripts buried deep within a
secret underground cave, where they belong.

Wow!  Writing that much takes a lot of dedication.  
What are a few of your favorite books or authors?

I love the Artemis Fowl books and several of Eoin Colfer’s other books, and I really enjoyed Brian Jacques’ Redwall and Chris D’Lacey’s Last Dragon Chronicles. I was glued to every new release for the Harry Potter and Hunger Games books. I also enjoy everything from Jane Austen, Robin LaFevers, Shannon Hale, and Lisa McMann. There are a few authors whom all readers ought to know, including Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Joanne Rocklin, and Ruth McNally Barshaw.

I love Artemis Fowl!
What is your favorite part of writing?

I love the creative brainstorming phase – where anything is possible and I can really let the characters speak to me. There are no right or wrong choices, just the exploration of possibilities that consume my thoughts and keep me awake at night. There are moments when I stumble upon “the answer” – the element in a story that I know will set readers on a terrific ride. Those moments make writing extraordinary.

It is a great feeling when you think up something that will add another perfect layer to your book.  What's you least favorite part?

Forced patience. I tend to be a “now, now, NOW” person, and publishing is a slow moving boat. There are many elements to the process of releasing a book, and each part takes time. But publishing is definitely forcing me to develop more patience, even though it’s a virtue in which I've never had much interest.

Can you describe The False Prince for us?

The False Prince tells the story of a clever and defiant orphan named Sage who is one of three boys taken by a nobleman named Conner. The royal family has been murdered, and Conner has a plan to install a puppet king on the throne. All he needs is a boy able to impersonate the king’s long lost son. Sage wants no part in Conner’s plan, but all of the orphans know there is only one choice: become the false prince, or follow the royal family to the grave.

What does your writing process look like?

During the writing process, I dive in thoroughly, which means I’m writing every minute I can in the day, editing at night until I fall asleep, and thinking about the plot whenever I can’t be doing one of the first two. It’s a pretty obsessive process, but also really exciting for me.

How did you come up with the idea for your amazing plot twists in The False

Some of the twists were ideas I’ve had for a long time, and a few of them were ones I discovered along the way, as I got to know the characters better. I tend to think of plots as webs, not as a single line of story. So with every plot development, I’ll look at how they might tie in to other elements of the story and try to keep everything knitted together. That webbing is what creates twists.

If you could meet anyone in the world from any point in history, who would it

Gosh, just one?

I would love to talk with a few of the people who really made a difference in the world and ask them at what point they understood that was their role – or maybe they never did. Did Rosa Park know what she was starting when she kept her seat? Could Abraham Lincoln foresee the civil war when he took his oath of office? Did Joan of Arc understand the consequences if she refused to recant the stories of her

I’ve always been fascinated by people who had the chance to turn back, or who could’ve made the easy and forgettable choice, but never did. I’d love to spend enough time with them to understand their thoughts at the moment of decision.

How did you get published?

I was lucky to find my agent, the amazing Ammi-Joan Paquette, through an online group where she was lurking. I had posted to the group about a manuscript titled Elliot and the Goblin War that I was working on. Joan wrote me offlist to say that she’d love to see my project. I sent her the manuscript, she loved it and signed me, and very soon after sold it as a three-book deal to Sourcebooks.

Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?

I firmly believe it’s vital for pre-published authors to have specific career goals. The number of options for a writer is limitless, and it’s easy to get off course with choices that provide short-term payoffs, but don’t necessarily get the author where she wants to go. There is no single definition of success, nor a single road to be traveled to become successful, but all writers should make sure the road they choose is taking them to the destination they most want.

Are there any hints you can give me about the next book in The Ascendance

Book 2 is called The Runaway King, and it will be out in April 2013. For those who have read Book 1, they know there is a very clear direction where the story should go, but I do think Runaway King will surprise them. All I can say right now is that for Sage, things definitely get worse.

Anything else you want to say?

I’d like to add that in a perfect world, chocolate would be a health food, where it would be considered irresponsible not to eat some every day. And I’m very, very serious about that. Thanks for having me here!

Thank you for answering my questions!

Have a great weekend!  If you want to make my week even more, leave a comment.  I would love to know what kind of questions I should include in future interviews.
Also, if there are any author's you'd like to see on Inklined, drop me a comment.  The more the merrier!


  1. Awesome interview, Sarah! You are so lucky to have gotten Jennifer Nielsen!

  2. Thanks Hannah! I was over the moon when she said yes.

  3. Just wanted to let you know that I loved this post and the interview was awesome. I'm also a teen writer, so it's wonderful to meet you. *bows* :)

    1. Great to meet you, too! Do you have a blog?

  4. I will have to pick The False Prince up!! I read her The Cowboy Way and loved it!! Thanks for the review and interview.


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