Evan Smith: Everyone is comparing your new book, The Maze of Bones, to the first book in the Harry Potter series. No pressure, huh?
Rick Riordan: I wish people would stop doing that, because it’s apples and oranges. I don’t see any comparison to Harry Potter at all. Content-wise, there really is no similarity.
ES: The publisher is the same.
RR: But even when they approached me, nobody at Scholastic ever said, “This is our next Harry Potter.” That wasn’t ever in the conversation. They saw it more as a groundbreaking thing because it’s a multiplatform reading experience: It has a Web component, it has trading cards, and it has the books. Anyway, you just can’t manufacture a phenomenon like Harry Potter.
ES: Another difference is that J. K. Rowling wrote all the Harry Potter books. You’ve written the first book in the 39 Clues series and are keeping watch over the narrative arc of the other nine books, but you’re not actually writing them.
RR: Right. There are a lot of reasons for that. For one thing, the publication schedule is so intense. They’re publishing a new book in the series every two to three months.
ES: Except for Joyce Carol Oates, I’m not sure there’s another author out there who can possibly do all that alone.
RR: Or James Patterson. It wouldn’t be humanly possible for one author to do them all. But the thing is, I think it’s going to be neat to see how each writer puts his or her own stamp on the developing characters. The closest comparisons I can think of would be the Hardy Boys. That was a mystery series for kids that was conceived by the publisher and given to different authors.
ES: But the Hardy Boys books are episodic. The characters might overlap book to book, but the mysteries they’re solving are discrete. Isn’t your series a narrative that goes from A to B to C to D across the books?