Rick Riordan’s writing space is not decorated with images of mythical creatures or epic battle scenes—what one might expect from a teller of fantastical, dramatic tales like The Kane Chronicles trilogy.
The first book in the best-selling series, The Red Pyramid, debuted last year, and book two, The Throne of Fire, was released May 3. But despite the book’s title, there is no fiery throne—the author sits on a regular desk chair. “My office is pretty nondescript,” he says in an interview from his home in San Antonio, Texas, “just a room with a computer.”
"It's a typical week in the life of the Kane family," Riordan laughs. "Gods are annoying that way."
And he laughs when asked if he’s an exceptionally organized person. He’d have to be, in order to write two children’s book series at once (The Kane Chronicles and The Heroes of Olympus), hard on the heels of an earlier series (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), plus helming a multi-author series (The 39 Clues), not to mention doing plenty of signings and events, right?
“Not really,” Riordan replies. “I’m very easily distracted and don’t normally sit for 10 hours at a stretch staring at the screen. I do hit-and-run writing.” He adds, “I’m writing a book every six months now. I wanted to see if I could pull it off. It’s made me a lot more disciplined and productive.”
Riordan is no stranger to such brainbending scenarios—before he started writing for kids, he was a middle school teacher and the author of the award-winning Tres Navarre adult mystery series. “When I got the contract to write kids’ books as well, I didn’t want to leave teaching, but I felt like I had one too many balls in the air,” he says.
And so, after some 15 years as an English and history teacher, Riordan left to pursue writing full time. Thanks to his books’ popularity, though, he’s found himself in classrooms, libraries and bookstores all over the country, meeting eager young fans that often number in the thousands.
“I’ve had amazing crowds,” Riordan says. “Thanks to my teaching background, I like to give every kid my attention, and I don’t always get to spend the one-on-one time I used to be able to have. But the kids are so great—even if they have to wait in line for a long time, they’re so excited to be there, they jump up and down.”
Books didn’t make a young Riordan jump for joy, however; at least, not at first. “I really was a reluctant reader in elementary school,” he says. “Dyslexia runs in my family. I was never diagnosed, but I have a feeling it maybe was part of my struggle.” Eventually, book recommendations from his teachers (“I had wonderful English teachers—they got me into mythology”) and maternal encouragement turned Riordan into an avid reader. “My mother got me interested in storytelling; she was really instrumental in my path as a reader and writer,” he says.
It’s fitting, then, that a character inspired by his mother is at the heart of The Kane Chronicles: Sadie Kane, a confident and clever 12-year-old raised in London by her grandparents after her mother’s death.
“My mom was an Air Force kid who grew up in London and moved back to the U.S. in high school,” Riordan says. “She felt she didn’t really belong in either country and was caught between two cultures. It was an interesting dynamic for me to play around with.”
Sadie’s 14-year-old brother, Carter, stays with their father, a globe-trotting Egyptologist who, after six years apart, reunites the siblings on a Christmas Eve trip to the British Museum. No boring excursion, that: It touches off a series of ever-wilder events and revelations, including the fact that they’re descended from ancient Egyptian pharaohs and have special powers that they must harness so they can use them to save their father from the angry Egyptian gods he has unleashed.
And that’s just book one! In book two, The Throne of Fire, the Kanes discover that Apophis (who’s even more evil than the kids’ nemesis, Set, in The Red Pyramid) wants to “come back, rule the world, swallow the sun and ruin everybody’s day,” Riordan says. The only way to stop Apophis is to bring back his archenemy and find the Book of Ra . . . in one week. “It’s a typical week in the life of the Kane family,” Riordan laughs. “Gods are annoying that way.”
The gods may be, but the books sure aren’t—whether it’s sibling rivalry, talking animals or learning that parents are only human (or are they?), The Kane Chronicles are exciting, edifying and enthralling. Readers will learn about mythology and geography, ponder family and identity, and thrill to the suspense that builds with the turn of every page.
As readers join Carter and Sadie on their adventures in The Throne of Fire, Riordan will be working on book three of The Kane Chronicles and book one of The Heroes of Olympus (a sequel series to Percy Jackson and the Olympians). He’ll also be spending time with his family and fitting in book tours, too.
For now, though, most of Riordan’s time will be spent in his nondescript office. “I’ve had to cut back on the amount of visiting I do,” he says. “For now, the best way I can communicate [with my readers] is writing the best books I can as fast as I can.”