May 23



Perhaps the most common question I get as an author is where do I get my ideas? Usually the answer is relatively simple, but with THE TRAITOR’S GAME series…not so much.


It started with the title, which was all I knew about the story. And as I began asking questions in search of the characters and the world in which they lived, I stumbled upon the song, Run, by Snow Patrol, about two people who are in love but are being forced apart. They would eventually become the main characters, Simon and Kestra, though I still didn’t know what would come between them, nor how their story would play out.


Near the same time, a forest fire tore through the mountains near our home, burning so fast and hot that it left black sticks in scorched soil where once there had been thick trees and chirping birds. This became the direct reference for All Spirits Forest. Leading me to ask what sort of villain might do something like this to his own land, and why.


The plot was coming together in my mind, but I still wanted to understand the treason better, since that element obviously had to exist. So I began studying actual traitors in history. Which led me to the story of Iva Toguri.


Iva was born on July 4, 1916, in the United States to parents who were both Japanese immigrants, but she was raised as an American. After college, she went to Japan to help care for an aunt who was ill, and was still there on December 7, 1941, the day of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.


Iva immediately decided to go home but the United States refused her (and all travelers with a Japanese heritage) entry into the country, so she was stranded in Japan. She appealed to her family there and was told they would help Iva only if she renounced America. When she refused, her family in Japan renounced her, and now Iva was completely on her own.


The Japanese government eventually heard of Iva, a woman who could speak fluent Japanese and more important, she could speak fluent English with an American accent. They told her she would be one of their Tokyo Rose girls, or go to prison. With such a bleak option, Iva agreed to do it.


The Tokyo Rose girls were radio broadcasters, playing popular music for the American soldiers. Between songs, Tokyo Rose would recite propaganda in an attempt to discourage the American war effort.


This was one of Iva’s quotes: “Late tonight, our flyers are coming over to bomb the 43rd group when you’re all asleep. So listen while you’re still alive…”


Did you catch it?


What if you read it like this? “Listen to me while you’re still alive. Our flyers are coming over to bomb the 43rd group tonight. Will you be asleep?”


Iva risked her life throughout the war sending coded messages to the American soldiers. The Japanese officials did not understand the subtleties of the English language and certainly didn’t understand American sarcasm, but our soldiers did.


At the end of the war, Iva returned to America expecting to pick up her life where she left off, but many Americans were outraged at the idea of a Tokyo Rose girl in our country. Despite having been cleared by the FBI of any wrongdoing, the public demanded Iva be put on trial for treason. After what would become the most expensive and longest trial in American history at that time, Iva was convicted of treason.


Except that Iva never was a traitor. She probably saved thousands of soldiers’ lives during the war, yet died in 1996 with most of the public believing the very opposite.


Her story pulled together every element I’d been missing in THE TRAITOR’S GAME, as I considered more fully what happens to a person who is forced into treason.


In book one, Kestra Dallisor has been captured by the rebellion and is being forced to betray her family, who is in power. She wants nothing to do with them and determines to bring down the rebellion instead. But the more she begins to understand the rebellion, the more she decides they might be right. Now she has to choose whether to save her family or save her country, but she will not be able to do both.


In book two, THE DECEIVER’S HEART, Kestra must face the consequences of her decision, not only as it will impact her country, but as it will affect her relationship with Simon, one of the rebels. Magic might be the only way for Kestra to survive, but using magic might also cross a line that will divide her and Simon forever.


In other words, things only get worse for Kestra as she seeks to find a balance between what she wants and what she is fated to do.


THE TRAITOR’S GAME series has stretched me and challenged me, and I am increasingly in love with this world and its complex obstacles. If you haven’t yet begun the series, please give it a try, and I hope you will want to find out what happens next in book two, THE DECEIVER’S HEART, coming in early 2019.


Jennifer A. Nielsen is the acclaimed author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Ascendance Trilogy: The False Prince, The Runaway King, and The Shadow Throne. She has also written the historical thriller A Night Divided and the historical fantasy Mark of the Thief, as well as Book Six of the Infinity Ring series, Behind Enemy Lines. Jennifer lives in northern Utah with her husband and their three children.


ABOUT THE DECEIVER’S HEART: In this sequel to the New York Times bestseller The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Kestra Dallisor has finally gained possession of the Olden Blade. With the dagger in her control, she attempts to destroy the tyrannical Lord Endrick. But when Kestra fails, the king strips her of her memory, and leaves her weak and uncertain, bound to obey him. Heartbroken, Simon is desperate to return Kestra to the rebel she was, but refuses to use magic to heal her. With untrusting Coracks and Halderians threatening to capture and kill her, and war looming on the horizon, Kestra and Simon will have to learn to trust each other again if they have any hope of surviving. But can a heart once broken ever be healed?