Friday, March 30, 2012

Interview with Jennifer Nielsen, author of THE FALSE PRINCE

We’re so excited to have a chance to discuss the first book in Jennifer Nielsen’s Ascendance Trilogy. Jennifer is a member of the Enchanted Inkpot, and we are thrilled about this wonderful new series written by one of our own!

THE FALSE PRINCE is a fascinating mix of impersonations and machinations. Could you tell us a little bit about the journey from the inspiration for THE ASCENDANCE TRILOGY to the actually writing it?

THE FALSE PRINCE in six words: Lose the Game, Lose your Life.

Without giving away any spoilers, what was the one thing that surprised you most while you writing THE FALSE PRINCE? (Did Sage behave?!)

Sage came to me as a complete character, so writing him was really more about letting the story reveal who he was rather than me creating new traits in him. So yes, a lot of things surprised me as I was writing.

In particular, there is one scene in the book where Sage gets into a considerable amount of trouble, which he could avoid if he would just back down. But he doesn’t –he won’t. Even as I was writing it, I was so frustrated with him for continuing to push, because I knew the awful consequences that were waiting for him.

Then I realized that Sage could not back down. No matter how foolish it is to stay on his course, he will never move backward. I hadn’t known that about him until that scene, and it was a fascinating discovery.

What draws you to fantasy?

I can really get geeky about`worldbuilding. I love doing research and then interweaving those details with things of my own creation.

For me, what’s wonderful about fantasy is that the world is limitless. If you can dream up the idea, then you can find a way to build it into your story. With fantasy, anything is possible.

What does your usual writing space look like? Do you listen to music? Do you have any rituals you observe--listening to music, eating or drinking specific things--while you're working?

My writing space is wildly unglamorous. There’s a loveseat near a warm window that I enjoy curling into as I write. And I almost always bring pages to bed with me and work on them before I fall asleep at night. However, one thing I’m nearly compulsive about is always having paper and a pen somewhere nearby, because I’ll get ideas all the time, in totally random places, and if I don’t write them down I risk losing them – and I hate that!

I can listen to music at certain phases of the process. For the first draft, I really need a quiet home. But in edits, I often set my playlist to “Writing Music,” and that’s really nice. I wish I could say that I had a ritual of eating dark chocolate as I write. But really, that would be a disaster, so it’s a good thing I don’t.

Did you decide to categorize THE FALSE PRINCE as a young adult novel at the beginning stages of working on it? Why do you think YA fantasy is so popular with both young adults and old adults?

The story tumbled out of me so quickly that I didn’t really make a choice for how to categorize it. Some people see THE FALSE PRINCE as a YA, and others as a middle grade. I think it’s really wonderful that people feel it might cross over to either genre.

I think part of the fascination with YA fantasy is that the teen years and the few years after that are often the most pivotal in one’s life. It’s the beginning of decisions that determine who a person will become. It’s also a time of feeling immensely powerful, when we’re stretching our wings, and before we fully appreciate our mortality. So YA writing inherently contains all of these elements that make for great story material.

How did you feel when you finished the last draft of THE FALSE PRINCE? What did you do to celebrate?

To be honest, I didn’t really celebrate. It was the Christmas season and so I planned to send the manuscript off to my agent right after the New Year (literally right after: I think I almost waited to midnight before I hit send). But by the last draft, I loved this story so much that I had this pit in my gut. What if my agent didn’t like it? What if she felt there was no market for the book at this time? What if she submitted it, but couldn’t find any takers? I’m not normally a worrier about that, but my heart and soul was in the manuscript, so I hated the thought that it might not find a home. I saved my celebrations until after Scholastic so enthusiastically bought it, at which time I couldn’t shout out my happiness loudly enough.

What's your favorite thing about being a writer?

I love the readers – the teens and tweens who are internet savvy enough to find ways to connect with me there, or who want to talk with me about the plots and their favorite characters. I love the younger kids who draw scenes from my books, or enthusiastically raise their hands at school visits to tell me about the story they’re writing. Writing can be a very solitary business, but when I hear from readers who love my books, I begin to feel connected with people everywhere.

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