Jennifer Lynn Barnes is the critically acclaimed author of over a dozen YA novels. She has an impressive back catalogue of literary work and an even more impressive number of degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science; it is no surprise that her unique voice is so highly regarded in the YA contemporary field. Her newest book, The Inheritance Games, is a dark and twisted tale based loosely on the Cinderella story. Aimed at fans of One of Us is Lying, this YA thriller is full of intrigue and suspense with a multitude of mysteries and puzzles that must be solved before reaching the conclusion.
The Inheritance Games is a twisted mystery about an eccentric billionaire who dies and leaves virtually his entire fortune to a teenage girl that no one in his family has ever met. The girl has no idea who this billionaire is, let alone why hed leave her billions. Per the terms of the will, shes required to move into his palatial Texas mansion, where she must live for a year alongside the family whose fortune she just inherited. She soon discovers that the deceased billionaire was obsessed with puzzles, riddles, and codes, and comes to believe that she is now his final puzzle, and that following a complicated sets of clues that he has left behind will answer what is now the biggest question of her life: why her?
I had spent years wanting to write what I called my puzzle house booka book about a sprawling mansion, filled with secret passages, with puzzles, riddles, and codes built into every detail of the house. I had come up with multiple different premises with a house like this at its core, but none of them ever quite took. Then one day, for a different project, I asked myself How could a totally normal teenage girl suddenly become world-famous overnight? And of all the answers I came up with, a famous billionaire leaves a stranger his entire fortune was my favorite, so I started brainstorming ways to weave together that premise and my puzzle houseand Averys move into Hawthorne House (and the mystery at the core of the book) was born.
My process is a little different every time. For The Inheritance Games, once I had the general premise, I started by figuring out the cast of characters, since I knew I wanted all of the Hawthornes to be a little bit larger than life. Once I had the cast, I set about developing the three mysteries at the core of the book. The big mystery was entailed in the premise: why did Tobias Hawthorne leave Avery his fortune? I knew that mystery would be solved in an almost National Treasure-esque fashion, with clues built into Hawthorne House and the surrounding estate leading to more clues, more questions, and finally answers. I also wanted two secondary mysteries, which were more character-oriented. Once I had the premise, the characters, and the three mysteries, I wrote up a brief proposal for my publisher. They bought the book, but then I had to contend with the one thing that was missing from the proposal: answers to the big mystery questions Id posed. I took several days and brainstormed different possibilities, then selected the ones I liked most. So then I knew what mysteries the book was posing and how those turned out. I spent some time figuring out the puzzle sequence involved in the big mysterywhat the different puzzles and clues were and how each one led to the nextand then I started writing.
For me, premise comes first, then characters, then the details of the plot. When Im working out characters, I like to start by figuring out the dominant archetype or trope(s) that describe each character, and then I start delving into their past or childhood to figure out how they became that person, which leads to their characters inevitably deviating from the general archetype in ways that are consistent with those backstories.
I relate to the question Avery is asking: why me? On one hand, she deeply wants to be special and to believe that Tobias Hawthornes reasoning in choosing her will confirm that she is, but shes also aware that it would be literally impossible to be special enough to deserve the lucky break that she has been given.
It feels wrong to admit this, but I do! Xander is my favorite Hawthorne, because he is the most fun to write.
I am decent at puzzlesbut much better at codes.
My two favorite things about being an author are (1) the readers and (2) getting to know so many other authors. Its amazing to hear that my books meant something to someone, and I personally love watching readers reactions to different plot twists. I always want to know what people saw coming! I anticipated loving that part of being an author, but I didnt realize going into this career how much getting to know other authors would mean to me. I have always been a little weird. In high school, I felt like the ways that I was different felt off-putting to other people. In college, I met wonderful friends who loved me for my weirdness. But it wasnt until becoming an author that I met a lot of other people who were weird in the exact same ways!
Inheritance Games 2! Im doing the last round of line edits right now, but cant say much about the project without spoiling book one!
The Truly Deviously series by Maureen Johnson!
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