Rick Riordan, in full Richard Russell Riordan, Jr., (born June 5, 1964, San Antonio, Texas, U.S.), American author and teacher who was perhaps best known for his hugely popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series, which blends Greek mythology with modern-day characters and settings.
Riordan attended North Texas State University (now University of North Texas) in Denton before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin, from which he graduated with bachelor’s degrees in history and English. He then received his teacher’s certification from the University of Texas at San Antonio. After teaching middle school in Texas and California for about 15 years, Riordan quit to dedicate himself to writing full-time.
Riordan began his professional writing career with a mystery series centring on private investigator Jackson (“Tres”) Navarre. The first book, Big Red Tequila, was published in 1997, and the seventh and final installment, Rebel Island, appeared in 2007.
He began writing for young adults after his son asked him to tell bedtime stories involving Greek gods. Once he related all the myths he knew, Riordan began making up stories, and the idea for Percy Jackson was created. Percy is a 12-year-old boy with both attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia, and he embarks on various adventures after learning that he is a demigod. The five-book series included The Lightning Thief (2005; film 2010), The Sea of Monsters (2006; film 2013), The Titan’s Curse (2007), The Battle of the Labyrinth (2008), and The Last Olympian (2009).
Continuing to explore mythology, Riordan wrote the Heroes of Olympus series. Although it features a new set of main characters, individuals from the Percy Jackson series occasionally make appearances. The five books in the series are The Lost Hero (2010), The Son of Neptune (2011), The Mark of Athena (2012), The House of Hades (2013), and The Blood of Olympus (2014). A sequel series, The Trials of Apollo, began with The Hidden Oracle (2016). The second installment, The Dark Prophecy, was published in 2017.
During this time, Riordan also wrote the Kane Chronicles, a trilogy involving Egyptian mythology: The Red Pyramid (2010), The Throne of Fire (2011), and The Serpent’s Shadow (2012). He then turned to Norse mythology with the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy: The Sword of Summer (2015), The Hammer of Thor (2016), and The Ship of the Dead (2017). In addition, he created the overall story line for the 39 Clues series, about two children who race around the world searching for hidden clues. The adventure series features books written by different authors—Riordan penned the first book, The Maze of Bones (2008), and cowrote the 11th installment, Vespers Rising (2011)—and includes additional cards and Internet gaming activities.
I’ve been lucky enough to read an advance copy of your new book Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer. It’s based on Norse mythology so first of all I’m desperate to ask you some questions about that. My favourite God in your book is Thor, I love how he watches TV on his hammer. Which is yours and why?
I always love the villains, so I’d say Loki is my favorite. He’s so charismatic and yet so malicious!
Why did you decide to make Hearth deaf? The book gives the message that anyone can be a hero regardless of disabilities. Was this intentional?
As with many of my characters, I drew on my experience to create Hearthstone. Years ago, I worked at a summer camp (like Camp Half-Blood, but mortal) and one of our counselors was training in American Sign Language. She used to translate the lyrics of songs in sign language and I was struck by what a beautiful way of communicating ASL was. I liked the idea of making Hearth a powerful character who was also hearing impaired. It makes him more interesting and relatable, I think.
What is the origin of the nine ducks of Boston and where did you get such an amazing idea?
It just so happens that there are nine ducks in that sculpture, which really exists and is based on the old children’s book Make Way For Ducklings. I decided to make a happy coincidence not a coincidence at all!
Can you tell us more about the three children of Loki and how you have constructed their personalities?
Free read! Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
Hel, Fenris Wolf and Jormungand have always fascinated me. The World Serpent is just sheer, nasty power. It’s a good thing he sleeps at the bottom of the sea most of the time. Hel is cold and conniving and horrible with her half-corpse appearance, but I’ve always felt sorry for her. She’s not all evil. She’s just tossed into the cold netherworld and left there to make the best of it. Fenris is the most dangerous. To me, he’s not about strength so much as cunning. The idea of a talking wolf just terrifies me! I think that’s why he has continued in our fairy tales such as Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs.
In the book you say that Thor is nothing like the Thor from The Marvel comics. Did you base Loki on the comic book character?
No. I grew up on Thor comics and I like the Marvel movies, but they play fast and loose with the Norse myths. I wanted my version to be closer to the original. Loki is a great character in the old Viking stories. I tried to bring him into Magnus Chase the same way he acts in the myths: clever, funny, capricious, silver-tongued and quick to anger.
Do you plan to write a book where all the characters from Percy Jackson, The Kane Chronicles, The Heroes of Olympus and Magnus Chase join forces to fight one final battle?
Ha. I think that would be very, very confusing and difficult to write. I have no plans for that, though I like doing crossovers with the various characters from time to time.
The Percy Jackson books are 10 years old this year. What inspired you to make the Percy Jackson series in the first place?
It started as a bedtime story for my son, who was seven years old at the time and struggling with ADHD/dyslexia. Amazingly, my son Haley just turned 21. He’s doing very well in university and is hoping for a career in writing. I never would have thought it, all those years ago.
Reading lots of Percy Jackson stories has inspired me to find out more about Greek mythology. Have you always been interested in myths and legends or was it a recent discovery?
Rick Riordan answers your questions
Oh yes. I’ve loved mythology since I was a child. They were my gateway into reading, and writing!
Do you plan your stories in advance or does the story shape itself as you write?
I do a quick outline of the chapters before I start, but it always changes as I write it. It’s good to have both a little organization and a little spontaneity.
My favourite character from your books is Coach Hedge because he is bloodthirsty, humorous and a Pokemon fan (sort of). Of all the characters that you have created who is your favourite?
I really like Tyson because he is so sweet and genuine. He’s also had a hard life. It’s not easy being a good Cyclops.
Do you draw your ideas of characters from real people? Anyone we might know?
Not usually, though sometimes I use names of people I know. I actually worked with a maths teacher named Mrs Dodds, and a Latin teacher named Mr Brunner. Beckendorf, Miranda Gardiner, Travis and Connor Stoll, Nico — those are all names of former students when I was a classroom teacher.
The idea of a pen that changes into a sword intrigues me. Where did the idea of Riptide come from?
When I was a student, I used to daydream in class that I could uncap my pen and it would turn into a sword. Fortunately, it never happened. I would have been sent to the principal’s office.
What are the best books on Greek myths for young children?
What were your favourite books as a child?
I must admit I was a reluctant reader, but I liked Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach and Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. When I was about twelve I discovered The Lord of the Rings. That was what really got me excited about books.
Which authors do you admire and why?
Oh, so many it’s hard to pick. I’ve always been a big fan of Suzanne Collins, even before she wrote The Hunger Games. I love Jeff Kinney’s sense of humor in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Of course I admire J.K. Rowling, not just for her brilliant series but for all the doors she opened for both readers and writers of children’s literature.
Finally if you were a cartoon character which would you be and why?
Bugs Bunny. No contest. I wish I could handle life with as much panache and confidence as that wascally wabbit.
Check out the epic trailer for Rick Riordan’s latest novel Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer, which is available to order at the Guardian bookshop.