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Hi again, and welcome back to my Author Spotlight series! If one of your favorite tropes includes swoon-worthy boys, mind games, and a web of secrets and lies, then look no further! Jennifer Lynn Barnes has authored more than a dozen critically acclaimed young adult novels including the “Inheritance Games” series. She wrote her first published novel at the age of nineteen and sold five copies while attending Yale University. Currently, she’s an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma. 

“The Final Gambit,” her finale of the “Inheritance Games” series, was recently released and generated much praise, making it one of the most anticipated reads of 2022. Avery Grambs will become the richest teenager on the planet after receiving an inheritance from billionaire Tobias Hawthorne. To inherit the fortune, she must live in Hawthorne House where financial pressures build, danger is at every turn and the dashing, but secretive Hawthorne brothers live. Grambs and the Hawthorne brothers are drawn into a dangerous game against an unknown and powerful player.  

If you were set to inherit the Hawthorne fortune, what would you do? Any plans for where the money will go?

For those who have read “The Final Gambit, the biggest part of my plan would look a lot like Avery’s looks at the end of the book. But to avoid going into spoilers, I will say that of all the things I have researched while writing these books, the one I would most like to buy for myself (and my family!) is a truly AMAZING treehouse! When writing “The Brothers Hawthorne,” which was just announced and [is set in the world of the Inheritance Games], I spent the better part of a day designing the Hawthornes’ childhood treehouse (which was basically a tree mansion!), and I would just love to see the expressions on my boys’ face if something like that suddenly appeared in our backyard.

At the start of the series, Avery is hoping to survive high school instead of enjoying it. How could her character parallel your own experience in college with writing and selling five books while attending university? Anything you wish to say to that younger generation?

I had an amazing college experience, and looking back, I don’t think that writing books while I was in college held me back from fully experiencing life at that time. Going into college, I was very conscious of the fact that I didn’t want to look back and have regrets about spending too much time by myself writing, so I made a rule for myself that I could only write when everyone else was asleep. I used to write from two until four in the morning, and then I slept late and tried my hardest not to schedule any classes before noon.

If I had one piece of advice for young people who want to be writers, it would be that it’s okay to have more than one passion. Sometimes, I feel like it’s easy for young writers to get the idea that if they want to write, that should be their main and only focus, but (for me at least), all of the experiences that I had that weren’t related to books and writing — including majoring in cognitive science, getting a Ph.D., and spending years as a psychology professor— ended up profoundly affecting who I am as a writer and gave me so much to write about!

What strategy games would you say each of the Hawthorne brothers and Avery represent?

I think all of them are best represented by a game mentioned in the book, which is the Hawthorne version of chess. It’s a lot like normal chess, but it involves six boards, and pieces that can move in three dimensions instead of two. One thing that Avery and the Hawthorne brothers have in common is that they are all very strategic, and they have all learned (in childhood for the boys and over the course of the trilogy for Avery) to see things from EVERY perspective to obtain the most strategic move.

Out of the three books, what is your favorite puzzle that you enjoyed writing and solving?

My two favorites both involve names, and they were both present in the first book. For the sake of staying spoiler-free, that’s all I will say!

If you were stuck in the Hawthorne House and had to solve a mystery with only one Hawthorne brother, who would it be and why? 

This is such a hard question, because I love all of the Hawthorne brothers for different reasons. If I were just choosing one to hang out with, I would probably pick the oldest brother, Nash, but he’s the least into puzzles and mysteries of all of the boys, so if I was picking someone to solve a mystery with, it would probably be Grayson, who is really formidable and determined (and less of a wild card than Jameson or Xander).

Having studied cognitive science and written this mind game intense series, how has this perspective changed the way you see the world like how Avery sees it?

I think the reverse is probably more true: Avery tends to see the world the way I do. Most of the time, when I am writing her thought process in approaching a puzzle, I am just writing out my thought own process. I love puzzles, riddles and codes, and I tend to be pretty strategic about most things.

Do you have a specific message or messages that you want the audience to take away from the “Inheritance Games” series? 

My goal for this series was never to convey a specific message or messages; my biggest hope for these books was always just that they would bring people joy. That’s not to say that there aren’t themes in the book that mattered to me as I wrote them—there are! — but at the end of the day, what I really wanted the books to do was to offer an escape and to give readers a lovely feeling of belonging, as Avery becomes more and more a part of the Hawthorne brothers’ awesome bonds. I’m a person who didn’t really find my place and people until college (and thereafter), so when I write young adult books, I’m always writing for my teenage self, to offer that sense of belonging/found family.

Is there anything you want to say about the conclusion or anything readers should keep a lookout for?

Readers should keep an eye out for “The Brothers Hawthorne,” due out in 2023. The story is told from two perspectives: Grayson’s and Jameson’s, and it brings a whole new set of mysteries, puzzles, and games to play — not to mention some of my all-time favorite new characters!

Many thanks to Jennifer for answering my questions! Excited to read more about two of the Hawthorne brothers next year once I finish reading “The Final Gambit.” I’m personally swooning over the dashing brothers and feeling adventurous with every game in the series. 

Thank you to Cheryl Lew of the Hachette Book Group for sending me this opportunity to interview Jennifer and for sending me a finished copy of “The Final Gambit.” I’m happy to work with you in the future and thrilled to see this blog series expand. 

Sabrina Blandon is an English American Literature major at NYU's CAS. Her Author Spotlight blog series started at Her Campus Hofstra and features New York Times bestselling authors such as Xiran Jay Zhao and Kerri Maniscalco. She's excited to continue the series at HCNYU! She's a major foodie and loves to explore the city. Follow her on Twitter (@sabrina_blandon) for all things bookish!