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Kidsday interview: Author Rick Riordan

We met author Rick Riordan at the Barnes and Noble store in Huntington recently. We are big fans of his Percy Jackson book series.

What made you think of the Percy Jackson series?

It was my son. When he was in the second grade and he was having trouble reading. The only thing that he liked was Greek Mythology. So I started telling him stories and when I ran out I made up a new one for him and that became the Percy Jackson stories.

What inspired you to write?

The first thing that inspired me to write was my English teacher in eighth grade. She told me to send in a story, and because she did that I started thinking maybe I could be a writer. So even though it took me a long time, I never forgot that. In fact, "The Last Olympian," is dedicated to that English teacher.

Do you have any new ideas for any more books?

The Percy Jackson series wraps up in "The Last Olympian," but next year I am going to start a new series with a different group of demigods. It is sort of like the next generation of demigods. That is going to be another five book series I hope.

Do you do a lot of research for the books?

I do a lot of research on Greek mythology. I knew a lot of it anyway because I was a middle school teacher for a long time. I used to teach Greek mythology in sixth grade. When I started writing the series I went back and read a bunch of books and started getting on Web sites on Greek mythology and I found out about a lot of monsters in Greek mythology that I never even heard of before. There is a lot of great stuff out there. And I still do read it a lot.

What made you decide to write about Greek mythology?

It has just about everything you could want in a great story. It's got monsters and magic and mystery and action, and heroes and villains. Its got everything you could want.

Where did you get the names for all the characters?

Well, some of the names were made up. Some of them have a reason like Percy is short for Perseus who is one of the old Greek heroes. Some of them are people I know like Mrs. Dodds is an evil math teacher. She was named after a real math teacher I used to teach with. Some of the students I used to have, they have demigods named after them, like Travis and Connor are former students.

What was your reaction when you got your first award?

I was really amazed. I never expected to win awards but the cool thing was that a lot of the awards are voted on by kids and that is my favorite thing because it is the kids who are saying that they like the books. I am very honored.

How many awards have you won and what kind?

Most of the awards are state library reader awards. Like the Mark Twain Award in Missouri, the Sunshine Award in Florida, all the states have them. I think I have won about 17 of them from different states.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was like 12. That was the first time I ever did a short story, but it was never published. I have been writing books since I was about 29. I have been published for 12, 13 years now.

Did you think you would be able to write books that would be good enough to make it to the New York Times Bestseller's list?

It is hard to write good books. You have to have a really good idea and write it in a way that kids will enjoy it and that could be tough. What helps me is I read it to my sons. I have two boys who are 14 and 11, and I read all my books to them out loud. That helps me to figure out if they like it or not. If they don't like certain parts, I change those parts.

Have you ever met Jeff Kinney who also has a book that was on the New York Times best seller's list for children?

"The Diary of a Wimpy Kid," yeah! That is one of my son's favorite series. I have met Jeff several times. In fact I was just talking to him last week. He is a good guy.

Was your family your inspiration to become a teacher?

Both my parents were teachers. I kind of always knew that I wanted to be one.

What made you write "39 Clues"?

"39 Clues" was kind of different because Scholastic books came up with the idea for it, and they were looking around for someone to write it. And they said, "Hey would you be interested?" And I said yeah that sounds pretty interesting. I didn't come up with it but I sure did enjoy doing it.

What are your hobbies that do not include writing?

I like to play the guitar, I like to swim, I like to travel and I like to play video games. My sons and I play a lot of video games together.

Other than being a writer, what else did you want to be when you were a kid?

I wanted to be a teacher and a writer and I am real lucky because I got to do both.

My favorite book is "Sea of Monsters," which is yours?

It is hard to pick. I kind of see the Percy Jackson series as one big story, but I think my favorite is "The Last Olympian," the new one, because it got to wrap up the whole series. It was a lot of fun to write.


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