Jennifer Lynn Barnes AMA

Last week, we asked you for any questions you had for Jennifer Lynn Barnes! Now here are her answers! Read on to discover her inspiration behind The Inheritance Games, who her favorite Hawthorne brother is, and her feelings on the color orange!

When writing mystery books like The Inheritance Games, do you already know the outcome and plan ahead for book 2? What does that process look like?

I always know the answer to the main mystery before I begin writing the book. That means that for my Naturals series, I always knew who the killer was before I started writing. And for The Inheritance Games, I knew how the puzzle sequence in the first book would end and the answer that would be revealed when Avery and the boys solved the last puzzle.

That said, the very last reveal in the first Inheritance Games book—you know the one!—wasn’t in the first draft. That aspect of things was something that happened in revision, once I got confirmation that book two had been greenlit. With mystery series, I often end up with two versions of the story in my head: the “this is what the story is if there isn’t a sequel” and the “this is what the story is if there’s going to be another book.” But even in cases where I think a book is the last book in the series, I still weave in a few hints and questions about what the future might hold.


What was your inspiration behind the book?

One of the earliest inspirations for The Inheritance Games was my dad. After he retired, he spent years designing my parents’ dream house. He asked if I had any requests, and I requested a secret passage. The first time I walked through the house after it was built, I was awed. My brain flashed forward to what it would be like someday when my dad was gone (thanks, brain), and I had this overwhelming premonition that I would be able to feel my father’s presence in the house, because he’d put so much of himself into designing it. My writer brain latched onto that feeling and started playing what-if…

What if the house was an incredible mansion?

What if, instead of one secret passage, there were dozens?

What if the man who’d put so much of himself into the house was a billionaire obsessed with puzzles and riddles? What if he’d literally built puzzles and riddles into the house? What if, instead of just his presence lingering, he’d left one final riddle behind?

Would you ever be interested in seeing you book made into tv or movies?

Definitely! And in fact, The Inheritance Games is currently in development as a television show at Amazon!

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What was the most difficult part of writing The Inheritance Games?

For me, the character and relationship arcs are always more challenging than the puzzles. I can whip up a puzzle sequence in a day, but I have to spend a lot of time getting to know the characters—what their childhoods were like, how their basic psychology operates, what formative events have shaped them—before I can actually make them come alive on the page.

Favorite Hawthorne brother?


Which Hawthorne brother do you relate to most?

Probably Grayson. I’m not a risk-taker the way Jameson is, or as comfortable in my own skin as Xander, and Nash is so defined by being the oldest in his family, and I’m the youngest in mine. I’m not nearly as broody as Grayson is, but the two of us both have a tendency to be very hard on ourselves and to try to control what we’re feeling, rather than just feeling it.

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Are you lowkey Team Jameson or Team Grayson?

Both! I see what Avery sees in Grayson and Jameson, and I deeply love both characters. Generally, when I write love triangles, I think less about who the character should be with than who the character should ultimately be. The romantic arc flows from the character arc, so even I don’t know who the character is going to end up paired with until that transformation and series-long story of becoming really begins to take shape.

 What are your favorite books? 

The two series that I have re-read the most over the years are the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong and Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books. In terms of more recent reads, my favorite books I have read so far in 2021 are The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin and Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik.

What is your opinion on the color orange?

I was fairly neutral about orange until the past two years, when it became one of my five-year-old’s FAVORITE colors, and now thinking of the color orange makes me think of him and smile!

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Are you on Instagram or will you be opening an account any time soon?

 I am on Instagram; I just don’t post as much as I do on twitter. My handle is @authorjenlynnbarnes

What’s your favorite season?

 Summer! I love warm weather—and summer is also the time when I get to write the most.

 What’s your favorite show?

 I have so many, including Grey’s Anatomy, the original Veronica Mars, Battlestar Galactica (the 2004 reboot), Vampire Diaries (and the spin-offs, Legacies and The Originals), and The Good Place.

Who is Avery based on?

Avery isn’t based on anyone, either fictional or real. Instead, she was consciously designed based on the needs of the story. When I came up with the basic idea of The Inheritance Games, I knew that I needed a character who had grown up very differently from the Hawthorne brothers, but who could nonetheless go toe to toe with them when it came to playing Tobias Hawthorne’s ultimate game.  

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Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

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The Inheritance Games ended with a bombshell, and now heiress Avery Grambs has to pick up the pieces and find the man who might hold the answers to all of her questions—including why Tobias Hawthorne left his entire fortune to Avery, a virtual stranger, rather than to his own daughters or grandsons.

Thanks to a DNA test, Avery knows that she’s not a Hawthorne by blood, but clues pile up hinting at a deeper connection to the family than she had ever imagined. As the mystery grows and the plot thickens, Grayson and Jameson, two of the enigmatic and magnetic Hawthorne grandsons, continue to pull Avery in different directions. And there are threats lurking around every corner, as adversaries emerge who will stop at nothing to see Avery out of the picture—by any means necessary.