The latest Percy Jackson novel, The House of Hades, introduces a character who is gay. Author Rick Riordan tells Harshini Vakkalanka the idea that we should treat sexual orientation itself as an adults-only topic is absurd
Most Percy Jackson fans, would have most likely read The House of Hades (Penguin Books, Rs 499), by now, some even twice and will be ruing the fact that they have to wait for another year before The Heroes of Olympus series concludes next Fall.
Even after two best-selling series, seasoned Percy Jackson fans, may not have had their fill. And his English teacher-turned full-time author Rick Riordan, also known for the Kane Chronicles and the Tres Navarre series, it seems, has not had his fill of crafting gripping tales around mythology. First there was Greek mythology in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, combined with Roman mythology in The Heroes of Olympus and Egyptian mythology in the Kane Chronicles series.
Here is the man of the moment, for fantasy aficionados, talking about his latest work, his motivations, his characters and his plans.
Did House of Hades, turn out the way you had planned or did the story take an unexpected turn while you were writing it?
I plot all my stories in advance, so I know the main points of the plot, but small details always surprise me — how the characters will interact develops organically, for instance.
What can we expect in the last of the series, The Blood of Olympus? Are there any clues in this book?
Certainly there are clues, but I can’t give away too much! Of course the storyline will wrap up. The battle between the demigods and the villain, Gaea, will occur. The Roman and Greek camps will face off. I’ll try to give the readers a satisfying ending and answer their burning questions.
Are you planning to take the Percy Jackson series forward after the Heroes of Olympus series ends? What next, after Percy Jackson?
Next up I will do a modern take on Norse mythology – something I’ve wanted to do for years. After that, I’m not sure.
What made you bring in the Roman side of Greek mythology in Heroes of Olympus? How was the series conceived?
As I wrapped up the first series, I realized I had many more myths to explore and other characters I wanted to write about. I launched Heroes of Olympus to explore the Roman side of the stories.
The storylines in the Percy Jackson movies are different from the book. Why have they been modified? Are you happy with the changes?
I am not involved with the movies and don’t watch them, so I’m afraid I can’t answer.
What fascinates you about Greek mythology? Why did you choose to weave stories from Greek mythology for kids?
The stories are timeless because they have all the elements of great adventure – magic, monsters, heroes, villains, mystery, romance. They run the full range of human emotions.
One of the characters in your latest book is gay. What made you introduce homosexuality in a book meant for young readers?
I am committed to writing appropriate books for the middle grades. This means no bad language, no gratuitous or explicit violence, and no sexual content beyond what you might find in a PG-rated movie – expressions of who likes whom, holding hands, and perhaps the occasional kiss. The idea that we should treat sexual orientation itself as an adults-only topic, however, is absurd. Non-heterosexual children exist. To pretend they do not, to fail to recognize that they have needs for support and validation like any child, would be bad teaching, bad writing, and bad citizenship. Once I realized this character’s life experience was informed by his sexual orientation, I would’ve been doing a disservice to the readers and the story to simply sweep it under the rug.
Could you describe your creative process?
I start with the locales I wish to visit and the monsters or gods my heroes will encounter at each place. Then I craft the book from there, chapter by chapter, going through several drafts.
What do you love about writing? Did your work as a teacher contribute to your writing?
Sharing stories with my young readers is its own reward. I love to see the light in their eyes when they really get excited about a new book.
Is there anything you are trying to communicate through your books?
I don’t consciously put messages in my books because my job is to be a storyteller, not a preacher. However, lots of timely issues are raised if I think they are relevant to young kids and what they experience.
What role does love play in your books?
The same as in real life, I imagine! It’s a primary motivator for most characters. In House of Hades, we meet Cupid himself, the god of love, and he’s a rather intense, frightening guy.
How would you describe your relationship with Percy Jackson? What do you think has made him so popular?
Percy is partly me. He shares my snarky sense of humor and my irreverence. He’s partly based on my son, who also has ADHD and dyslexia. Percy is like a camera lens through which I can see the world whenever I write in his voice.
Who are your favourite characters in the series (in both the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus) and why?
I love Gleeson Hedge the satyr because he’s so funny to write about. Tyson and Grover are also favourites of mine. They make me laugh whenever they appear in a scene.