Percy Jackson is Back!

TIME For Kids spoke to Rick Riordan, the best-selling author of the Heroes of Olympus series

Oct 05, 2011 | By TFK Kid Reporter Linda Tong
COURTESY CATHY WANG

On Saturday, October 1, hundreds of people gathered at Greeley Square, in New York City, to join the celebration of author Rick Riordan’s newest book from the best-selling Heroes of Olympus series, The Son of Neptune. The crowd was filled with Rick Riordan fans dressed as demigods, monsters and other characters from his books. Those who didn’t dress up stopped by the wrap-your-own-toga station. A toga is a type of Greek clothing.

Riordan answered the audience’s questions from a stage, and gave fans some clues about what’s to come in Neptune. All participants received free posters and bookmarks with the cover of the new book on them and many other giveaways. There were even actors dressed up as the Greek gods Ares, Aphrodite, Athena, Hades, Hephaestus, Poseidon and Zeus. They entertained the audience with Greek mythology trivia and gave fans a sneak preview by reading a chapter from The Son of Neptune.

Fans who were lucky enough to receive a yellow wristband while waiting in line at the event were able to get their books and posters signed by Riordan at the autograph tent. The party wrapped up with the “Best Costume Contest,” won by a fan who dressed as Poseidon, the god of the sea.

The Son of Neptune was released on October 4. Riordan will be traveling to seven cities across the United States this week. (To see where he’ll stop next, visit rickriordan.com.)

TFK spoke to Riordan about his inspiration for The Son of Neptune, why he enjoys writing fantasies and how he still gets excited when his newest book arrives in the mail. (Click here, or scroll down to watch a video interview with Riordan.)

TFK:

What inspired you to write The Son of Neptune?

RICK RIORDAN:

It’s a really important book for me because it’s the return of Percy Jackson, who was my main character in The Lightning Thief. But he returns in a totally different way. He doesn’t remember who he is. He shows up at a different demigod camp, and it’s for Romans. So it’s kind of like I had to reinvent his world all over again, from scratch.

Author Rick Riordan’s fans arrived in character for a party celebrating the release of The Son of Neptune, in New York City.
COURTESY CATHY WANG
Author Rick Riordan’s fans arrived in character for a party celebrating the release of The Son of Neptune, in New York City.

TFK:

Is there a message you want kids to get from reading The Son of Neptune?

RIORDAN:

My main hope is that I am always writing books that kids want to read. So if kids finish the book and they are really excited to read the next one, I feel like I’ve done my job. Keep reading!

TFK:

Why did you give Percy Jackson learning disabilities?

RIORDAN:

I gave Percy Jackson learning disabilities because my son has learning disabilities. My son is 17 years old now, but when I started telling him stories of Percy Jackson at bedtime many years ago, he was having a tough time in school. I wanted to make Percy Jackson a character he could relate to. So if you have these learning difficulties, it’s a pretty good sign that you might be a demigod. I turned something that some people see as a weakness into strength, and I think my son appreciated that.

TFK:

Who are the characters based on?

RIORDAN:

Most of the characters are just made up. Occasionally, I’ll use different personalities of people I know. Some characters are based on ancient characters, like Annabeth, who is loosely based on the Greek female hero Atlanta. Some are based on real people, like Mrs. Dodds, the evil math teacher. She is actually based on a teacher I used to teach with at a middle school. But most of the characters are just made up.

TFK:

Which part of writing Neptune did you enjoy the most?

RIORDAN:

I think it’s the same with every book. The part that I enjoy the most is when I’m done. Writing is hard. It’s a lot of hard work, and the revisions are really tough. But when it’s all done, I get to read it to other people, and they enjoy it, and that’s just the best thing ever.

TFK:

Why do you write fantasies? What do you like about the genre?

RIORDAN:

I’ve always liked fantasies. I like realistic fiction, but if I am going to pick up a book, I tend to pick up a fantasy. The first book I remember reading that I really loved was The Lord of the Rings. That got me into Norse mythology and Greek mythology.

TFK:

In your blog, you said that you get really excited when your new books arrive at your house. How was the experience with Neptune?

RIORDAN:

When I got The Son of Neptune a couple of weeks ago, it was so exciting to open the box. There it is. It’s a real book, it’s got a beautiful cover on it, and it’s awesome. I walked around the house with it, just looking at it. My son made fun of me.

TFK:

Can you give TFK readers some clues about what’s going to happen in The Son of Neptune?

RIORDAN:

They’re going to go to the land beyond the gods, which is very, very far in the north. Just guess where that might be. But that’s the place where the giants hang out. It’s so far north that it’s even out of the realm of the gods, so even the gods can’t help you there, and they can’t reach you there. They have to go there to finish this quest. The cover of Neptune has a picture of Percy holding a golden eagle on a staff, and I can tell you that the eagle is going to be really important in the quest they have to do.

TFK:

How long did it take for you to finish writing this book?

RIORDAN:

It took about six months. It used to be that it took a year to write every book, but I am really trying to speed that up. Now I am trying to write one every six months, so I can finish two books a year. That’s hard, but I can do it. I don’t think I can write any faster.

TFK:

What’s your favorite part of Neptune?

RIORDAN:

My favorite part of the book is when Hazel meets a magical horse whose name is Arion. Arion is from Greek mythology, but he is not as well known as Pegasus. He is an amazing horse. I don’t want to spoil the scene for you, but when you find out what he is capable of doing you will think it’s very cool. I wish I had a horse like that.

TFK:

What will you work on next?

RIORDAN:

I am finishing up the third Kane Chronicles book, and that’ll be out in May. After that, I’ll enter the third Heroes of Olympus book, which will be out a year from now.

TFK:

Do you have any advice for aspiring young authors?

RIORDAN:

First, you have to read a lot. Second: practice, practice, practice! The best way to get better at writing is to write a whole lot. The third thing is don’t give up. Every writer gets rejected. The first book I wrote was rejected 14 times.