Author Interview: James Riley

Hello everyone!

What a better way to restart my Story Monday format than with my Author Interview segments! I love getting to know other writers better, and I know you do, too. In all of my Author Interviews, I follow a simple format: I email the author 5 questions specific to them, their work, and who they are.

For this Story Monday Author Interview, author James Riley has been kind enough to participate.

Who is James Riley?

Capture+_2020-05-07-16-52-37James is the best selling author of multiple Middle-Grade series, including one of my favorites: Story Thieves. He has a new series, Revenge of Magic with its third book out now, that you will love!

From his website:

James Riley is the New York Times bestselling author of the HALF UPON A TIME series, the STORY THIEVES series, and the REVENGE OF MAGIC series. Contrary to what previous biographies have stated, he is a) real and b) not the character Nobody from his STORY THIEVES books. Where would people even get that idea? (Spoiler: From him. He totally made it sound like he really was Nobody. He thought it’d be funny. We’re sorry.)


He was born in Connecticut, where he lived for only a short time before moving to … well, quite a few states. He currently lives in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C., because that’s where his cats are. He has four of them. Other people think that’s a bit much.


James is currently working on getting REVENGE OF MAGIC books out every six months, so he might be a little busy. But feel free to e-mail him with questions at, or ask on his blog.


Russell Fellows:

Every author has another author, or multiple authors, that they say influences their own work. Is there an author, or more than one, that you can say has influenced you? What about their work inspires/impacts you most?

James Riley:

Probably way too many 80s fantasy authors, like David Eddings and Robert Asprin, to be honest. Though I had an editor tell me she could see some Lloyd Alexander influences in my writing, which I took as a huge compliment, as I’m always recommending the Chronicles of Prydain to kids! As for what appeals to me about all of the above, I think it’s the fact that all include humor throughout their stories, no matter how grim things might be getting, and I can’t resist doing the same in my own work.


On your About page of your website, you mention that you have lived in a lot of states. What reason did you move around so often? Are there states that you would like to live in again?


Oh, my father just got switched jobs a lot, and that meant moving to new cities each time. I spent a big chunk of my teenage years in Iowa, and still love the state (and Iowa City has such a great writing program at the University of Iowa!), so that might be nice to go back sometime.


You seem pretty excited about your latest series, The Revenge of Magic. What excites you most about it? What do you find most challenging?


Revenge of Magic is something that’s out of my comfort zone in a lot of ways. It’s actually my editor’s favorite work of mine, and I consciously tried to do something challenging, just to see how it went. That challenge, then, was that it’s darker, less overtly humorous than my other series: I wanted to see if I could do something more serious. Readers will decide if I can or not, but I found myself actually missing that humor (like I said in my first answer above, it’s nice to cut the tension), so I ended up sneaking some slightly more ridiculous characters in as the series goes on. Fortunately, the plot, magic returning to our world, and the government opening a school to teach kids magic, has room for all kinds of things. Plus, now isn’t really the time for something too dark.


What do you love most about writing MG books? Do you think you will ever delve into YA or Adult fiction?


There’s a sense of pure possibility that I love in MG, due to the characters’ age … they aren’t quite as cynical as they’re probably going to get! YA has more adult themes and a lot more fun angst, which I’d love to play around with, but MG to me takes on an all-ages quality, appropriate for kids, but also something adults can appreciate too, depending on the book. But yes, I’d love to do something in YA, or even adult at some point, but probably YA first. I’ve got some ideas floating around already …


What is your favorite part about doing author events? Do you enjoy conferences, solo events at bookstores/libraries, or school visits more? Why?


99% of writing is sitting by yourself in front of a computer, or daydreaming in your head about your story, without any way of knowing if it’ll be good or not, or if anyone will read it. So events are just incredibly energizing solely because we get to meet readers, and hear from them. And to hear someone’s actually enjoyed a story you wrote is the greatest honor I’ve ever known. As for what type of event I prefer, I’m not sure I actually can compare them, as they all have their own unique advantages. Typically at bookstores or book festivals, I’m interacting with people who’ve read the books already, and have come because they’re fans, whereas school visits, I get to introduce the books to kids, and tell them about writing, which I know from my own experience of having an author come to my elementary school when I was a kid can be truly special for them, no matter who the author is. I wouldn’t trade any of them away for anything.

Thank you, James, for taking the time to answer my questions and participating in this interview! I enjoyed your answers, and I’m sure your readers (and those who will newly discover you) will enjoy them, too.

Readers, go, and visit James’s website to learn more. Grab a handful of his books while you’re at it, too. You will not be disappointed. My kids love them, especially his latest series The Revenge of Magic.

If you are a writer and are interested, or know a writer that would be interested, in participating in my Author Interviews, leave a comment and I will get with you. I love connecting with other writers and letting the world know about their work.


Published by Russell J. Fellows

#Writer of multiple genres, with a strong leaning toward #MGlit/#YA #Fantasy. Always pointing toward #hope.

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