28 July 2012

Interview: Jennifer Nielsen (The False Prince)

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

Today, I have the honor of presenting my interview with Ms. Jennifer Nielsen, author of The False Prince, an incredible new find that has captured my imagination and my heart.  So, now we have Ms. Nielsen here to answer a few questions!

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How do you get inspired; get yourself going, ready to write for the day?
First of all, thank you very much for the interview. That is much appreciated!

Odds are that sometime during the night, I woke up with an idea or edit about the current project. That’s really common for me in every stage of writing. So it’s really not hard to get going and write it down. On days when I’m less inspired, I don’t force it. I’ll read, or research, or just give myself the day off with a great movie and a chocolate bar (hmm, somehow the word “housework” never got into that sentence. That’s strange…).
Can you give us a rundown of your writing schedule?  Also, do you write everyday?
I try to write every day, though some days are more productive than others. If it’s a school day, after I get the kids on the bus then I will dive into the writing. Nothing much gets done after school, so that’s when I interact with the rest of the world. Then at night, I print out the papers that I’ve worked on that day and edit them in bed until I fall asleep.
You mentioned in your book that Sage's character has aspects of two boys you knew.  I'm curious.  Could you elaborate?
Sage definitely has his own personality – thank goodness, because one fictional Sage is enough trouble. But in a previous job, I was a high school debate teacher. I had a student who was brilliant, popular, and also an impressive thief. He’d board the bus on the way to a tournament, shake the bus driver’s hand, and steal his watch. Just because he could. At the end of the ride, he’d thank the driver for the trip, then hand him back the watch and ask if he might’ve lost it. Because he was so charming, he always got away with it. Every time.

The other student was equally bright and always entertaining. He could roll a coin over his knuckles exactly as I describe Sage doing it. He used to do the coin roll during a debate round. It was a huge distraction to the other team during their speeches, and I’ve never seen anyone do it as well. They were both great students to have in class.
Did you initially start out writing The False Prince knowing it would be a series?
I always hoped it would become a series, because in my mind the story was much bigger than a single book. But it was offered to Scholastic as a standalone book. When they liked the suggestion for a trilogy, it was the same emotional high as when you get diamonds for your birthday and then find out that’s not even your best gift (which, by the way, has never happened to me – I’m just speculating).
How long have you been writing?
My first serious attempt at writing was in 6th grade, with the story of a daydreaming girl who one day becomes stuck in her dreams and believes they are real. As an adult, I can understand that this was a character with some serious mental disorders, but at the time, it was just a fun story. At one point, she had become locked in a closet and I needed her to pick the lock to escape. Since I was 11, and since Google was still as fictitious as wookies and low calorie desserts, I had to call a locksmith for help. Instead of seeing me as the serious novelist I was, he told me to hang up the phone and tell my mom what I was trying to do. I hung up the phone and ran away, scared and embarrassed. It was the last word I ever wrote on that story. Although I dabbled in writing afterward, it was more than ten years before I took it seriously again, before I considered it a viable career option.

I’ve learned since then that no matter what your dream, there will always be people to mock it, to tell you it’s impossible, or to tell on you to your mother. I don’t listen to those people anymore. Well, except my mother.
Do you have any must-haves while writing?
I must have quiet while writing. I can edit to background noise and actually enjoy later drafts with the right kind of music. But during the initial writing stage, I step into the scene, look at the events through the eyes of whichever character is driving the scene, and try to feel the emotional arc. For that, I just need it to be really quiet.

I also discovered last spring that my writing really picks up if I have a glass of Diet Mountain Dew nearby. It gets even better if I drink it. However, I’ve never been a big soda drinker, so I’m trying to convince myself this is a “sometimes have,” not a must.
How do you record your ideas?
Most of my writing is on the computer, but I also fill several notebooks a year with early drafts. I am obsessive about always having a pen and paper nearby in case an idea strikes. If I find myself without one of those, I’ve written on my arm, on napkins, and on my kids’ homework. I’ve used lipstick, eyeliner, and have even rehearsed sentences aloud in the car over and over until it’s memorized for later use.

I’m not sure how normal authors record their ideas.

Or is there such a thing?
What books inspire you, or maybe inspired you as a kid?
Jennifer lives at the base of a very tall mountain in Northern Utah with her husband, three children, and a naughty puppy. She loves the smell of rainy days, hot chocolate, and old books, preferably all at once. She is a former speech teacher, theater director, and enjoyed a brief but disastrous career as a door-to-door pollster. In her spare time, Jennifer tends to panic, wondering what she has forgotten to do that has allowed her any spare time.
My absolute favorite book as a child was THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE by Joan Aiken. I reread that book more times than I could count and thrilled each time with the danger, suspense, and heroism of Bonnie, her cousin Sylvia, and their friend, Simon. I was also a big fan of the HARDY BOYS books (not NANCY DREW – she was never in “real” trouble), THE OUTSIDERS, and A WRINKLE IN TIME.  Looking back, it was the danger that lit my imagination more than anything else, but also the mystery, the strong characters, and the intensity of action. That definitely has carried over into my own writing.
Do you recall what kick-started the idea for The False Prince?
I’d had the general idea for THE FALSE PRINCE in mind for a long time, but my attempts at writing it always fell short because I didn’t have the right protagonist. One day I discovered the song, Guaranteed, written by Eddie Vedder for the movie Into the Wild. There is a line in the song that says, “I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me, guaranteed.” That line stayed with me – the idea of a person who knew exactly what game he was playing, but who was quietly changing all the rules.  From that song, I had Sage, complete and in control. And once I had Sage, every detail of THE FALSE PRINCE fell into place.
What can we expect in the sequel, The Runaway King?
For national security reasons, there is very little I can say about Book 2. All I can tell you is this: For Sage, things definitely get worse. THE RUNAWAY KING will be released next spring.

Thanks again for the interview!
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About the Author


Jennifer lives at the base of a very tall mountain in Northern Utah with her husband, three children, and a naughty puppy. She loves the smell of rainy days, hot chocolate, and old books, preferably all at once. She is a former speech teacher, theater director, and enjoyed a brief but disastrous career as a door-to-door pollster. In her spare time, Jennifer tends to panic, wondering what she has forgotten to do that has allowed her any spare time.
Jennifer Nielsen on the Web

Enjoy The False Prince

From the Authoress

The Runaway King, sequel to The False Prince, is expected to release April 2013 from Scholastic Press.