Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Interview with Jennifer Nielsen Author of The Runaway King

When I saw the cover and read the description for The False Prince last year, I knew it was a book I was going to love. I felt like I was in the presence of greatness since the author, Jennifer Nielsen, was also a fellow Inkie. So when the opportunity came up to read the sequel and interview her, I jumped at the chance. Here is the resulting interview with author Jennifer A. Nielsen.

At the end of The False Prince, you mentioned that a major influence was an Eddie Vedder song and two of your students. Was there another major influence for The Runaway King?

To write that story, it was back to music again, and for that matter, back to Eddie Vedder. His song, Rise, did a lot to drive the story of THE RUNAWAY KING. Nearly everything in that song has meaning, but I particularly love these lines:

Gonna rise up
Burning back holes in dark memories.
Gonna rise up
Turning mistakes into gold.

How long have you been writing? Did anything inspire you to become a writer?

Looking back, I’ve always been working on story in one way or another. My first real attempt to become an author was in 6th grade, but I didn’t become serious about writing until I was an adult. At that point, I knew there was no way to get the stories out of my head other than to put them down on paper.

Do you have any writing rituals? Do you listen to music while you write? Do you have a certain area or time of day that inspires you most?

I used to have my rituals, but things have been so busy in the last year that now I’m just happy to sneak in some writing whenever I can. I have a writing playlist that is great for some stages of writing: songs from Last of the Mohicans, Chronicles of Narnia, and music by T.J. Morgan.

What authors or books have inspired you?

The first author who made me want to write was S.E. Hinton for her book, THE OUTSIDERS. I inhaled that book – multiple times – and when I learned she had written it as a teenager, I thought there was no reason I couldn’t do the same (um, not true for me, by the way). Now as an adult, I draw inspiration from so many authors for various reasons, the way they turn a phrase, or their use of imagery, or the emotions they can dredge out of me as I get sucked into a great story. But I don’t know that I could name just one.

Have you ever encountered writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?

To me, writer’s block is almost always one of two things: first, that the writer just isn’t in the zone. If that’s the case, I’ve learned not to force the art because I’ll only hate it later on. I have to step back and remind myself what I love about the story, or skip ahead to a scene I’ve been dying to get onto paper, or just plain step away for the afternoon. The second cause of writer’s block, I think, is when the author is trying to force their character into a behavior that they never would do in real life. Characters may not be real, but they feel that way when I’m writing, and they will balk if I’m forcing them down paths they would never go. So sometimes I have to look at the scene and remind myself that character comes first, not plot. Then the writing flows again.

I really liked Imogen’s character in The False Prince…and I’m pretty sure Sage did too. Can we expect to see more of her in The Runaway King?

I’m a fan of Imogen’s too, but as to whether Sage likes her…time will tell. You will see more of Imogen in THE RUNAWAY KING, and her strength and courage really get a chance to shine in this book.

While reading The False Prince, I couldn’t help feel bad for Sage’s family situation. I imagine he must feel so completely alone in the world. Do things get any better for him in The Runaway King?

Sage has had it tough in his family situation, and there are some major issues he has to resolve if he is ever to be at peace, particularly with his father. He will learn more about his family in the second book, some of it good and some of it not, and you’re right, it does keep him feeling rather alone in his world.

Since this is a trilogy, did you have an idea of what would happen in books 2 and 3 as you were writing book 1?

Not so much during the writing of Book 1, but the more I revised it and the deeper that Sage burrowed into my conscious thinking, the more I realized that his story was far from complete in only a single book. The fact that Scholastic was interested in turning this into a trilogy was some of the happiest news I’ve ever had as an author. 

Do you have a title and a release date for book 3 yet?

There is a working title for book 3, but it’s still hush-hush, and I think the tentative release is set for March 2014.

Are you working on anything else besides this trilogy?

Right now, I am writing the sixth book for Scholastic’s multi-platform series, INFINITY RING. The other authors on this series have already written amazing stories and so I definitely want mine to be just as exciting, funny, interesting, and fun for kids. I’ve got to work fast though – it’s due for release in December!

Jennifer lives at the base of a very tall mountain in Northern Utah with her husband, three children, and a perpetually muddy dog. She loves the smell of rainy days, hot chocolate, and old books, preferably all at once.


  1. Awesome interview. I SO can't wait to read The Runaway King. Loved hearing Jennifer's tips on overcoming writer's block. So excited that this series has really taken off.

  2. I always find it fascinating where inspirations for story come from, lovely interview. Happy to hear Imogen will play a part in the next book. I hope to see Mott too.

  3. Great interview! I'm so eager to read The Runaway King. The first book really left me hungry for more.

  4. Thank you for the lovely interview Sybil! And yes, Brenda - Mott will be back also!

  5. I was very lucky to snag myself an ARC of THE RUNAWAY KING and I can say quite confidently that you will LOVE it. Book 3 NOW PLEASE.

  6. Listening to Eddie Vedder as I read this post, and I SO wish I could listen to music while I write! Great choice of music, Jen.

    And I completely agree about writers block/characters. Best way to stall is to force your characters out of character!

  7. Great advice about writers block, Jennifer. I am a huge fan of The False Prince, and I can't wait for The Runaway King!


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