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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bringing Fantasy to Life: Author Interview with Jennifer Nielsen

Jennifer’s debut book was Elliott and the Goblin War in 2010. That series became known as The Underworld Chronicles. The next series she released was The Ascendance trilogy, beginning with The False Prince in 2012. She wrote the sixth book of the Infinity Ring series, Behind Enemy Lines in 2013. Her current series is Mark of the Thief. This woman never stops writing. Read on to find out how she does it.

What drew you to writing fantasy? Was there a specific author that you read that made you think, “I could write that”? 

For a long time, I was writing adult mysteries, but not having much success. I was also a big fan of the Harry Potter series. Shortly before the seventh book was released, I saw a fan fiction site that challenged people to see if they could write the final HP book. Ultimately, HP is a mystery story, and since I was writing mysteries at the time, the idea of meeting the challenge appealed to me. I had so much fun in writing it, I knew about halfway through that I was forever converted to writing fantasy.

When did you actually start writing your first book? How long did it take to write your first draft? 

I started my first book in my mid-20s, though it was total garbage. I’ve always been a fast writer, so I do quick first drafts - around four to six weeks - but then I spend a long time on rewrites. 

Who encouraged you along the way? 
I think along the way toward publication, my best encouragement came from two critique partners who refused to let me quit. I’m not working with them anymore, but they deserve a lot of credit for helping me get published.

Each of your books are current books are published by Scholastic. How did you get involved with them? 

My agent is Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Agency, and she’s fantastic. For The False Prince, she submitted to six different publishers, and Scholastic gave the offer we liked best. 

Prior to writing these books, what other writing credits did you have?
Prior to being published with Scholastic, I had a smaller series with Sourcebooks Publishers.

Other than completing your novels, what was the most difficult aspect of publishing for you?
For me, the most difficult part of publishing is waiting. Waiting to announce news, for a release date, for acquisition meetings to happen - I’m not the most patient person, and it’s sometimes hard to play the waiting game.

What is the status of bringing your book, The False Prince to the movie screen?
A new screenwriter has been hired to continue with revisions. Once he’s finished, the studio will evaluate the new script and determine if they want to bring it to the big screen. My next official update will be sometime in late August, although the update could be “no news.” My fingers are crossed though!

What is the best advice you could give a new author in reviewing a contract before signing?
Regardless of whether an author is agented or not, it’s important not to sign something if you don’t understand it. A lot of contract language might seem innocent on the surface, but has greater implications for an author’s career than they might realize at the time. 

Unfortunately, there are some publishers out there with contracts that are heavily lopsided against the author’s best interests. So if there’s something you want clarified, make sure you get that done before you sign.

What do you know now about publishing that you wish you knew sooner?

I think with my debut release, I wanted so much for that book to break out. When it didn’t happen, I wondered if I had a career ahead of me at all. I understand now that in most cases, an author’s career grows slowly, one book at a time.

What’s been your best promotion for selling books?

Promotion is sort of like the chicken and the egg quandary. If you have fans, it’s easy to reach them to broaden your base. But until you have a broad base of fans, how can you reach them? I’ve always considered it important to interact with my fans, to care about them, and respect their time in contacting me. Because I do this, I’ve had very loyal fans. I think investing in them comes back to me when I ask them to consider reading my next book.

What advice would you give someone who wants to indie-publish? What is the best advice you’ve been given or learned?

I’ve never indie published, so I’m not the best spokesman for giving advice here. However, I will say this, which I think is true for all authors: Identify your career goals now. How do you define success as an author? Is it to have a certain income, to win a certain award, to get on a bestseller list, to have a movie deal - whatever? The goal itself doesn’t matter, but it is important to know what you want and then only make the decisions that will take you closer to the goal. Otherwise, it’s very easy in this industry to wander onto other paths that look appealing at the time, but take you in directions that are ultimately unsatisfying.

What other works do you have in the process?
I’m up to my eyeballs in other works right now. I’ll release a standalone fantasy in August called The Scourge, and the third book of the Mark of the Thief trilogy in January. In fall of 2017, I’ll release book 2 of the Horizon series, a multi-platform series from Scholastic that’s headed up by Scott Westerfeld. Then in winter of 2018, I’ll open a brand new series called The Traitor's Game, which I think is going to be awesome - I can’t wait to share it.

That's it for today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about Jennifer's writing, here's the link to her website:

Her next book, The Scourge, can be ordered now! Here's the  Amazon link:

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