Interview: Jennifer A. Nielsen

With author Jennifer A. Nielsen’s second book in The Ascendance Trilogy, “The Runaway King“,  hitting the shelves this Friday, I thought it would be a perfect time to chat with her about the role of music in her life, and how it has impacted her writing.


1. What is your favorite band/artist and why?
That’s so hard to answer! I’m listening to a lot of Mumford and Sons right now. I’m not super loyal to any one group though. I might like one song and play it nearly on a loop, but not connect to any of the band’s other songs.

2. If we were to peek at your iPod, what bands/artists would we see the most of?

I actually just did peek at it and decided my tastes are pretty diverse. I have four main playlists: soundtracks, musicals, writing music, and listening music. Of the latter, I’m all over the map for music choices. My top ten listens include Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, Eddie Vedder, U2, Snow Patrol, Simon and Garfunkel, and Linkin Park.

3.  Do you own any vinyl?
No, but I have great memories of huddling around a record player as a child and listening to my mom’s albums. As clean as the sound can be for music these days, nothing replaces the memories I associate with the needle on vinyl.

4.  Do you listen to music when you write?
I mentioned having a playlist just for writing. It’s pretty inconspicuous music, no lyrics, so it can just meld into the scenes as I work on them. T.J. Morgan is my current favorite artist to write to, but I also write to the soundtracks for Last of the Mohicans and Chronicles of Narnia. In my mind, when the new king is crowned in the end scene of The False Prince, music is playing from The Chronicles of Narnia.

5. What is your special connection to Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam? 
My husband actually introduced me to Eddie Vedder’s solo album for Into the Wild. I was immediately hooked on the music, but one song on that album became life changing. Guaranteed has a line in it that says, “I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me, guaranteed.” At the time, I was working on a story idea but couldn’t quite pull it together. I felt the attitude of the song’s narrator was exactly the type of character my story needed. That story became THE FALSE PRINCE. Another song on that same album, Rise, had a big impact on the book’s sequel, THE RUNAWAY KING. Those who read the book and listen to the lyrics of that song should have no problem seeing the connection. Rise is actually my ringtone right now.

6.  Do your musical interests have a direct impact on your writing?
Very much so, I think. There are certain songs that hit me so strong I know they’re going to form a story one day (Run by Snow Patrol, for example), or that almost turn into movie trailers for me where I can close my eyes as I listen and see certain scenes from the book play out visually (Clocks by Coldplay). Music, in fact, probably has a stronger external influence on what enters my writing than anything else I might be exposed to.

7.  What did you listen to while you wrote the sequel to The False Prince, The Runaway King? 
The strongest musical influences for THE RUNAWAY KING probably came from Eddie Vedder’s Rise, What I’ve Done by Linkin Park, Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol, and Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford and Sons. For the latter, there is one verse in particular that stuck with me throughout the writing:
It seems that all my bridges have been burnt,
But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works.
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart.

8. Is there a concert you will never forget?
This is my horrifying confession – I have actually never been to a concert. (Long pause while your readers pick themselves up off the floor.) I have no excuse for it – it’s just something I’ve never done.

9.  Is there a band/artist you wish you could have seen?
Which makes this a perfect follow-up question. Someone recently told me about having been at an Eddie Vedder concert where he played some of his Into the Wildsongs and they said it was an unreal experience. Maybe if he does another tour, I think his would be the place where I would love to repent for Question #8.

10. Have you ever found a song you just couldn’t stop listening to?
All the time! And if I love a song, I won’t quit listening until I’ve memorized the lyrics because then I can replay it in my head even when I can’t hear the music. That current most obsessive song for me is Carry On by Fun.
11. Do you like listening to mixes of various artists, or full albums?
For rock music, I rarely listen to a full album, and if I do, that is true love. But I almost always do full albums for soundtracks and new age stuff. But there are a few albums I really enjoy – for example, even though it’s been around for a while, I don’t think there’s a single song on U2’s Joshua Tree album that I don’t like, and several that are all-time favorite songs.
12. Is there a songwriter you wish you could write with?
Ooh, what a cool question! Yeah, in a perfect world, I would love to write something with Muse. Their stuff is so different from most of what’s out there, and there’s so much depth in their lyrics, I think even if they only let me sit in a corner and watch their process, it would be a fascinating experience.

13.  Are there any bands/artists that you would like to recommend to everyone? 
I think Grouplove has put out some interesting and unique songs recently. Their Colours is so different, it’s worth hearing just to see how it’s put together. I’ve also just discovered Agnes Obel and she’s quickly rising as a favorite singer when I want something more ethereal to listen to.

14.  Is there a band/artist today you think Sage, your MC in The Ascendance Trilogy, would enjoy?
Hmmm. I think a modern day Sage would be a music guy. I don’t know about specific groups, but he likes to dance and I think he’d prefer music he can move to. Also, having created him, I’m going to endow him with an innate love for REM. Just because I can.
15. Do you have a favorite album cover?
I love the self-titled album cover from The Airborne Toxic Event (2009). It’s spare, beautiful, and tells a story in itself.

THE GIVEAWAY!
This week, Jennifer has graciously offered all of our readers a chance to win a SIGNED, I repeat, SIGNED hardcover copy of “The Runaway King“, the sequel to one of my favorite reads of 2012 “The False Prince“. If you aren’t the lucky one to win, or just can’t wait, “The Runaway King” hits store shelves this Friday and can be purchased at any local indie-book store, or through Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. If you want to connect with Jennifer about the Trilogy or her previous books, you can visit her on her websiteTwitter, or on Facebook .

Jay Spencer is a MG/YA writer, Visual Art teacher, music blogger, an extremely tall husband, and father to two amazing kids. If not at the rink or on the court with his young kids, he would gladly talk to you about any genre or decade of music, and anything Marvel or Star Wars.

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Now we know Jennifer chose Muse as someone she would love to collaborate with, what about you? Leave a comment below, we’d love to know.