Wednesday, November 20, 2013

INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER NIELSEN AUTHOR OF BEHIND ENEMY LINES!

Jennifer Nielsen is the author of BEHIND ENEMY LINES, the sixth book in THE INFINITY RING SERIES: (From Scholastic’s press release 12/20/11)  History is broken, and a long-feared Cataclysm seems imminent. The capital of the United States is Boston. Lincoln’s face is nowhere to be seen on Mount Rushmore. Everyone’s buzzing about the French royal wedding. And an international group of men and women known as the SQ is more powerful than kings, richer than nations, and more fearsome than armies. When best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste stumble upon the key to time travel – a hand-held device known as the Infinity Ring – they’re swept up in a centuries-long secret war for the fate of mankind. Recruited by the Hystorians, a secret society that dates back to Aristotle, the kids learn that history has gone completely, and disastrously, off-course. Now it’s up to Dak, Sera, and teenage Hystorian-in-training Riq to travel back in time to fix the “Great Breaks”… and to save Dak’s missing parents while they’re at it. 

From the Goodreads Summary of Book Six: BEHIND ENEMY LINES:
Fix the past. Save the future.
Dak, Sera, and Riq involve themselves in one of the most bizarre spy missions in history . . . and the outcome of World War II hangs in the balance.

And now, it is my great pleasure to introduce fellow inkpot member, and one of my favorite authors, Jennifer Nielsen!

I really enjoyed BEHIND ENEMY LINES, Jennifer, and the fascinating history behind it! I had never heard of Operation Mincemeat before.  Can you tell us more about it?

I think this is one of the great spy stories of all time, possibly because the idea was conceived by one of the greatest spy novelists, Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond), who was then working in Britain’s spy department. Fleming’s idea was to get a dead body, give him a fake background as a military officer, plant fake battle plans on him, and then get him into Germany’s hands. Which is a great idea…for a novel. Once you get into the practicality of actually pulling this off, it becomes much more difficult. Where do you find a body (with no discernable cause of death so that you can insert your own “fake” cause, unknown to the world in case of a background check, and at the right age for an officer)? How do you build the backstory for his life, including the last few days of his fake life? And how to you get him into enemy hands while all the time trying to make it look as if you’re trying to keep that body out of enemy hands? Operation Mincemeat was incredibly risky for the allies. If we succeeded, we had a chance of winning the war, but if we failed, it could have been our last stand.

That is a great spy story! When you think about all of the different pieces, as you point out, it’s amazing that it actually worked!  THE FALSE PRINCE and THE RUNAWAY KING are two of my favorite books, and I’m sure that your fans will love this book, too, which is also filled with suspense, intrigue, and people who are not always what they seem. Is that what drew you to this particular story in the series?

I think I’m drawn to dangerous stories, and characters who are willing to risk everything for the things they believe in. In THE INFINITY RING, these characters are already dealing with a lot – one with missing parents, another with parents who might not be who they seemed, and the third who must come to terms with what this changed history will mean to his own life. But on top of this, in BEHIND ENEMY LINES, they also come to the realization that not succeeding will mean the end of freedom in the modern world.

That is one of the things that I love about the INFINITY RING SERIES, the books really makes history come alive. So many times, kids memorize dates and important people and battles, but they don’t really understand how important the past is to the present, and to the future.  Have you always been interested in history?

I actually minored in history in college (though I confess, it was largely because I had taken so many AP history classes in high school that it only required two more classes to get the minor), and as an adult I enjoy it even more. The better I come to understand history, the more I understand today’s world, and can predict tomorrow’s. As I see the world repeating mistakes of the past, I wish kids were taught more of history, so that we could avoid the pitfalls of our ancestors.

I agree entirely. I've noticed that some of my kids teachers are assigning historical fiction as part of the curriculum. It’s a great way to make history – and the lessons it teaches us -- more real.  Although this is a great historical time-travel story, my favorite thing about the book is the friendship between Dak, Sera and Riq. Since the series is written by six different amazingly talented authors, was it challenging for you to write a book where the characters were already developed?

All of the Infinity Ring authors met together very early in the process and discussed what we would like to see happen for the overall story arc. Part of that included our collective wishes for the relationships between these characters. Dak and Sera were already best friends, and we liked the idea of testing that relationship. As the newcomer, Riq already felt on the outside, and he and Dak were competitive from the start. I love the way they gradually come to trust and rely on each other – even if neither of them will admit it aloud, it’s a great friendship. I think that as fun and adventurous as this plot is, the bottom line for all readers is we want to get to know great characters.

That must have been such an interesting process! Dak and Riq do have a great relationship. Even though you all collaborated from the beginning, as I read this book I thought Yes! This is a Jennifer Nielsen book – it’s fast paced, with plenty of twists and turns, and snappy dialogue. Did you find yourself running into ideas by one of the other authors?

Because we had all formed the overall character arc together, there wasn't really a problem of running over anyone else’s ideas. Each author coming up the line was very communicative to the later authors about their plans. In fact, one of my favorite parts of this process was getting to work with these other creative, talented writers, and have the privilege of picking up their story threads to continue them in my book.

What are you working on now?

The third book of the Ascendance series, THE SHADOW THRONE, will release in February (I’m so excited for that!). I've also started work on my next series, called THE PRAETOR WAR, which involves an escaped Roman slave, some stolen magic, and a fight to prevent the fall of Ancient Rome. It’s epic in scale and will take readers through all the best parts of that great civilization. I hope that by the time people finish the series, they will feel as if they have stepped back from actually being there.

I can’t wait for THE SHADOW THRONE! And THE PRAETOR WAR series sounds fantastic!  Ancient Rome is such a fascinating time period – I’m really looking forward to reading it! Speaking of stepping back in time, if you could go back in history and change one thing – what would it be?

There are so many great tragedies in history, so many senseless deaths from bad choices, evildoers, or simple mistakes. One of the issues we had to deal with in the Infinity Ring series is, if the kids are holding this time travel device, why don’t they go back and fix these tragedies? Why not stop Hitler as a baby, warn the Titanic before it sets sail, foil the assassinations of Lincoln or Kennedy, or use our knowledge of the past to make things right? But what we decided is that with all its good and bad, history unfolds as it should. Fixing one tragedy may only spawn another, like a butterfly effect. That’s only theory, of course. I would like to think that in any time in which I found myself, I would try to make the world the best place it can be. I would hope that’s what I do now, in my own time.

And now, a few questions for our readers to get to know you better!

Favorite Book: Too many from which to choose. But the most important book in my history is THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton. It’s the book that first got me writing.

Favorite Quote: “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch, but in her own wings. Always believe in yourself.” – Author Unknown

Favorite Food: Sweet and Sour anything (well, not anything, but you get the idea)

Favorite Ice Cream: Peppermint Stick

Favorite Place: Home 

Thanks so much, Jennifer!

Jennifer Nielsen's book, THE FALSE PRINCE was number 2 on YALSA's Teen Top Ten list, and the second book in that series, THE RUNAWAY KING, has been nominated for Goodreads' Best of 2013 in the category of Middle Grade and Children's. If you want to see all the other nominees (or cast a vote), you can look here:  https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-childrens-books-2013)



4 comments:

  1. Oh, my son is reading this series. I love that advice: Always believe in yourself.

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  2. Haven't started this series. But I love Jennifer's other series and can't wait to read The Shadow Throne and her new series, The Preatorr War. So excited for the awards Jennifer received. She so deserves them.

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  3. Can't wait for Shadow Throne and The Praetor War sounds wonderful! I've only read the first in The Infinity Ring series but now have some catching up to do!

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  4. Awkward prose gets in the way of the story of three time traveling kids dropped into the thick of Nazi Germany, which should feel harrowing and real. Feels quickly done instead, sadly.

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