Questioning AUTHORity is a weekly blog feature here at Bookish Serendipity involving—you guessed it!—YA and MG author interviews. This week’s featured author is Jennifer A. Nielsen, author of the Ascendence trilogy (The False Prince, The Runaway King, The Shadow King). I’m a huge fan of all of these books. Thanks so much to Mrs. Nielsen for participating!

About The Author:

Website| Twitter | Amazon

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.  


  • Q. Can you tell us a little bit about how the publishing process has been for you? How has it changed from your debut to your most recent?

A. This is an interesting question! The publishing process hasn’t changed much, but I certainly have. I released my first book pretty wide-eyed about the industry and my expectations didn’t reflect the way the things really work. But now I know what to expect, about the wait times between each step, the editing process, and the journey a book takes once it enters the world. I’ve learned to trust myself more than I once did, which is probably more valuable than any other skill. Above all, I hope that with each release, I’ve become a better author, and that this will always be true for me.

Q.  World-building is one of the more challenging aspects of writing fantasy, yet it seems to be something you do exceptionally well. What advice would you give to writers about creating a fantasy world?

A.  I think when creating a fantasy world, that it’s important to start with what your world has in common with our world, rather than what is different. Readers are going to immerse themselves more completely when they get a feeling of familiarity first. Then I like to choose carefully what details I change. With The Ascendance Trilogy, for example, I looked at the religion of Carthya, and created an idea of good and evil as people are basically trying to do good, but the devils make things harder on them. I liked how the characters worked within that ideology. I consider my world building a success when the reader says they know it’s not real, but it feels like it could be.

Q.  If you could meet one of your Ascendance trilogy characters in real life, who would you pick? Why?

A.  Jaron would be the obvious choice, though it’d be interesting to see him function in the real world. But another character I would very much like to meet is Mott. I have a great admiration for his loyalty and honor – a real life conversation with him would be fascinating. I would love to hear what he says about Jaron behind Jaron’s back (though I already know – there’s nothing that he wouldn’t be equally likely to say right to Jaron’s face.)

  • Q.  What is the best (or funniest) experience you’ve had since the publication of your debut novel?

A.  I will tell one experience that almost happened (and thank goodness it didn’t). I was presenting to an entire 6th grade in their library. This library had an unusual layout – behind me a kiva was built below floor level. About halfway through my presentation, the librarian stopped me and said, “I’m sorry, I just can’t stand this anymore.” I guess whenever I stepped back, my heel would cross about halfway over the kiva, and I hadn’t realized I was that close. All it would’ve taken was maybe another inch and I’d have tumbled backwards into the pit. As bad as that would’ve been in any situation – falling like that in front of the entire 6th grade – well, all I’d have been able to do was get up, hobble out of the school, and never, never, never go back. I am so lucky that’s not what I’ll be remembered for.

Well not yet anyway. I can be pretty clumsy at times.

  • Q.  What advice would you give to teen or aspiring writers?

A.  Get a book that you love – one you think about after putting it down, and one you’ve probably read over again, or wanted to. This time, go through it again like a writer would. Make notes in the margins to figure out how the author made it work. Study the book, for dialogue, the emotional arc, descriptions, etc. Once you know why that author did it right, you will know what to bring into your own writing.

  • Q. Can you tell us about any current or upcoming writing projects?

A.  Gosh, I’m doing a lot right now, but all of it so exciting! My next release is MARK OF THE THIEF (2/24/15), which takes place in Ancient Rome with an escaped slave, some stolen magic, and a battle to control the fall of an empire. I’m writing book 2 of that series now. I’m also doing edits for a middle grade historical that I’ll release in September 2015 called A NIGHT DIVIDED, about a Cold War era girl whose family is divided on the night the Berlin Wall rises. And then I’m outlining a contemporary thriller to release a year after that. I hope if readers enjoyed The Ascendance Trilogy, that they will check out MARK OF THE THIEF!

 Another big thank-you to Ms. Nielsen for participating. I can’t wait to read Mark of The Thief!



3 Comments on {Questioning AUTHORity} Jennifer A. Nielsen

  1. Ana @ Butterflies of the Imagination
    November 11, 2014 at 3:02 am (2 years ago)

    I’ve never read any of Jennifer Nielsen’s books, but maybe I’ll check them out. The advice about studying a really good book in order to improve your own writing is great advice. The only problem is actually choosing a book to annotate, because there are way too many good books out there.
    Ana @ Butterflies of the Imagination recently posted…The Candy Book TagMy Profile

    • Samantha
      November 12, 2014 at 12:15 am (2 years ago)

      You should! The False Prince isn’t strictly MG in my opinion, so you should definitely try them. I love the advice too!

    • Fidelia
      March 8, 2015 at 7:25 am (2 years ago)

      Back in school, I’m doing so much lengainr.


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