Exclusive: Rick Riordan on finding Percy Jackson’s voice again, preparing for ‘Chalice of the Gods,’ and why Aryan Simhadri is such a fantastic Grover

Rick Riordan sat down with us to talk about the latest addition to the Percy Jackson universe, Chalice of the Gods, as well as the follow-up, Wrath of the Triple Goddess.

With nearly every new book that Rick Riordan puts out these days, he goes on a whirl-wind seven-day book tour chock full of slideshow presentations, laughter, and shenanigans thanks to his editor Stephanie Lurie.

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to the Chicago stop and got to experience the tour firsthand. You can listen to a full breakdown of the event on Prophecy Radio episode #103, “It’s Giving Greek,” along with the audio version of this interview.

Not only did Rick talk about his inspiration for Chalice of the Gods, as well as the major characters we’ll be seeing this time around, but he also had a chance to talk with Daniel José Older, the Rick Riordan Presents author of Ballad & Dagger and Last Canto of the Dead, who joined him at this particular stop.

After previewing the upcoming Rick Riordan Presents titles (my most anticipated are A Drop of Venom by Sajni Patel and It Waits in the Forest Sarah Dass), Rick also played the Percy Jackson and the Olympians trailer for the show that will hit Disney+ later this year. We’ll be covering the series in more detail on Prophecy Radio once the SAG-AFTRA strike is over!

Prior to the event, I got a chance to sit down with Rick to talk about Percy Jackson and the Chalice of the Gods, including how he prepared to write this novel, when he got the greenlit for the sequel Wrath of the Triple Goddess, and if he knew exactly who the antagonist was from day one.

If you haven’t read Chalice of the Gods, feel free to check out my spoiler-free review before jumping into this interview—but note the spoiler-section after the editor’s note.

Be sure to follow Prophecy Radio on Twitter and Instagram for a special giveaway which includes a copy of Chalice of the Gods and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians tote bag given away at the tour stop.

Interview with Rick Riordan for ‘Chalice of the Gods’

chalice of the gods book review

With all of the projects you’ve got going on, how do you set aside time to focus on writing?

That is a great question. And if I ever figure out the answer, I’ll let you know [laughs]. Unfortunately, I don’t have any kind of secret formula. It’s always hard to make the time for it and to focus on it. I guess the best I can say is that I try to identify when I am most productive and where I’m most productive, and try to cater my schedule to that as much as I can. For instance, I found out the hard way over the years that I don’t write well in the afternoon because my brain does not function well. I’m good in the mornings. I found that I cannot write to music unless it’s maybe instrumental music. And so I take those things, and I try to use them. I try to set aside the times that work best for me during the day. And I have to say, the other thing that really helps is deadlines. Deadlines are wonderfully motivating. And when you know that something is due and people are waiting for it, it helps me, anyway, stay on task.

Would you say that you’re more of a plotter or a pantser? Do you have the process down to a science, or does it change depending on the book?

It does change a little bit depending on the book, but I do plot a rough summary every time. It’s very, very broad. It’s only, maybe, a page or two. But it does give me a kind of road map to follow. And I find that’s really helpful. Even though I may diverge from it a lot, still just having a plot [helps]. And then once I have that very rough plot, the most important thing for me is just getting the first draft out there. Not stopping. Not revising. Because if I do, my wheels will get stuck in the mud. And I will just churn and churn and not be able to get out of it. So get the whole thing done and then go back and revise and revise and revise until it makes sense, hopefully.

How did you approach preparing for this book, particularly when it came to making sure it fit between the Heroes of Olympus and Trials of Apollo series and stuck to the canon?

Well, that was the biggest challenge. I hadn’t done this voice in a very long time, and I was nervous. Can I go back and find it again? Obviously, I read the original series again. And the other thing that really helped was working with the TV show at the same time. Because that was all about deconstructing The Lightning Thief, finding the voices, writing the lines for television. And I found that that process really helped me recapture what I had done in The Lightning Thief and apply what I knew to The Chalice of the Gods. So, one thing kind of helped the other.

You had talked about conceiving this originally as a trilogy but waiting until you saw how it was received before moving forward with any sequels. We found out recently that you’ve been working on Wrath of the Triple Goddess. When did you find out or decide that you definitely wanted to start writing the follow-up?

Well, I did have three ideas that I originally pitched when we were talking about making the TV show, so I knew that it was conceived to be a trilogy. I didn’t know if I was going to write any of them or—it was kind of an optional thing in my mind. But my publishers were, as it won’t surprise you to hear, they were very curious and very interested in more Percy Jackson books. And so [Stephanie Lurie whispers yessss in the background]—yeah, there’s one now. And so, I did the first one. And it was fun and interesting, and I enjoyed it. And it felt fresh after such a long absence. So, it seemed only fair that since I said there were going to be three recommendation letters Percy has to get, and he only gets one in this book, that I should let the poor kid graduate high school.

Like you said, it has been a while since you’ve written from Percy’s point of view. Do you think anything has changed for you, or was stepping back into his shoes exactly the same as it was years ago?

Well, in real life, a lot of things have changed for me. I mean, fourteen years, fifteen years, is a long time. I’m not the same person I was back then, and my voice is different. My outlook on life is different. I think, to some extent, Percy, even though he hasn’t aged as much as I have, he is seventeen now, and that’s a very different age than twelve or even sixteen. He’s got real life things on his mind. He is thinking about college and his girlfriend and his family and moving across the country. There’s a lot going on in there. So yeah, I think it is a little bit different. Even though the stakes of the world, the stakes of the fantasy, may be not quite as apocalyptic, there are a lot of things on his mind, and the stakes emotionally for him are still really high.

You’ve also described this as a slice of life story, which is a bit different from some of the other books. Did that offer any particular challenges for you?

One of the interesting things I learned working with Mark Oshiro on The Sun and the Star, which was the first time I’d ever collaborated on a novel, was that Mark is really good with character development, and there’s a sense of emotional intelligence that I don’t always bring to my work. I’m usually more plot-driven—keep the pages turning—but Mark is really good about letting the scenes breathe and giving room for the characters to process what’s going on and talk about it. And that’s really valuable. So I tried to take that lesson working with Mark and apply it a little bit to Percy, and I found it was really, really wonderful to put in a few more moments of daily life—hanging out in the park, having dinner with your family, setting the table. I liked that. And I’m gratified that, so far anyway, the readers have told me they really like it, too.

Yes, definitely. That was one of the questions I was going to ask because, when I interviewed you both in Boston, you had talked about how Mark brings a lot of that emotional depth to the story. And I could really feel it in this book because Percy is just so reflective and introspective and wistful in a lot of ways, and as an older reader, that really hit me pretty hard. I loved it.

I’m so glad.

[Editor’s note, some of the following questions contain major spoilers for The Chalice of the Gods.]

Was Garus always the one who stole the chalice, or were there some runner-ups that you had been considering?

No, Garus was always the—I don’t want to call him the bad guy—but he was the thief that took it. It made sense to me, and it makes sense that Percy is wrestling with age and nostalgia and the loss of youth. And that behind all that, that the god of old age would be the big bad made total sense to me. And that we all have to come to terms with that and resolve how we feel about getting older.

After all of these years, you’ve written about so many stories and so many figures from mythology. Are there any that you’d like to explore that you haven’t found room for yet in any of your books?

You know, it’s weird. I’ve never done the Orpheus story. And I love the Orpheus story. I don’t know that I can do it as well as Hadestown does, but I do love the myth of Orpheus, and it’s weird to me that I’ve never really put that in any of my books. Maybe someday.

Can you talk a little bit about how you approached Grover in this story? He’s grown so much over the course of these books, and he’s dealing with seeing his two friends go off to college together. What was it like getting into his head for Chalice of the Gods?

Grover is an interesting character, and he really did resonate with me in a different way as I was writing this book. It occurred to me that because satyrs age twice as slowly as humans, that now he’s actually younger than Percy and Annabeth. Whereas before, he was sort of the oldest member of the trio. They passed him up in terms of maturity and in terms of age, and that has to feel a little weird to him. And also, of course, as you said, Percy and Annabeth are going off to college, and he’s not, so there’s a wistfulness. There’s kind of a bittersweet feeling for him in helping them. I also have to say that Aryan Simhadri is such a fantastic Grover in the series. Becky told me when she read The Chalice of the Gods that she could hear Aryan’s voice really clearly in the book, and I wasn’t aware of it consciously, but I absolutely see what she means. He is such a sweetheart, but he’s got this sincerity to him that really informs Grover’s character. So, I think that came through, probably.

Percy hinted there might be something going on with Annabeth at her school, but we never find out what it is in this book. Could we maybe see that resolved in the next one, and would you maybe want to give us any hints as to what that could be!?

Well, you’ll definitely see Annabeth in her school environment in the second book. But right now, that’s all I can tease you because, honestly, I haven’t written that much yet.

Jason gets a little mention in this story, too. How is it for you writing about his character in a time before Trials of Apollo?

Well, I mean, it’s obviously sad. It’s wistful. It’s nostalgic, thinking about it. I didn’t want to lean too hard on that because some people may not have read the Trials of Apollo or even the Heroes of Olympus, but it seemed like a callout that made sense to me when thinking about the future and thinking about death and aging.

Have you given any more thought to writing another standalone novel following a different character given the success of The Sun and the Star?

Oh, there’s always things that I’m thinking about, pots bubbling on the stove. I don’t know what might come next, but I’m trying to go one project at a time so I don’t feel overwhelmed. We will see, I guess.

Are there any other projects you could give us an update on, particularly the Irish mythology series or the Magnus Chase adaptation—some of those ones that are kind of still brewing?

Because of the strike, of course—which was a great thing, and I’m glad it’s resolved; I’m glad that WGA got the deal they did—but it obviously put things on hold for a while, and so I don’t know how any of those projects will recommence or when or what that will look like. So, we hit the stop button on everything, and it’s too early yet to know where they are, but I anticipate that over the next month or so, we’ll be doing a lot of calls, checking in with people and finding the best path forward. So, stay tuned.

‘Chalice of the Gods’ by Rick Riordan published on September 26, 2023

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