author Rick Riordan has roots in Texas – mySA

Percy Jackson, the famed demigod and son of Poseidon, has received a renewed interest of late with the filming of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians TV series. The show is set to air on Disney+ in 2024, but San Antonians should remember that Percy Jackson and his bestselling books are the creation of one of Alamo City’s most successful authors.

Alamo Heights High School grad Rick Riordan published The Lightning Thief, the first book in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, in June 2005. In the years since, he has published five books in the main series, 19 spinoff novels, and become a sponsor of diverse authors with the Rick Riordan Presents imprint.

We’re taking this time to remind readers about Rick Riordan and his literary career.

Who is Rick Riordan?

Born in San Antonio on June 5, 1964, Riordan first attended the University of North Texas in Denton before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a bachelor’s in history and English. He later received his teacher’s certification from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Riordan married his wife Becky in 1985 and have two sons, Haley and Patrick. He spent 15 years as a middle school teacher in Texas and California.

“After college, I became a teacher, and was quite happy with the idea of doing that the rest of my life,” Riordan writes on his website. “However, I read a lot of mystery books in my spare time, and when my wife and I moved to San Francisco, I started missing Texas. I decided on a lark that I would try writing a hard-boiled private eye novel set in my hometown of San Antonio. Ten months later, Big Red Tequila was finished.”

Tres Navarre

Big Red Tequila, the first novel in the Tres Navarre series, was published in 1997. The mystery novel follows Jackson “Tres” Navarre, a third generation Texan with a PhD from Berkeley in Medival Studies and English who works as a private investigator.

The story of Big Red Tequila follows Tres’ return to San Antonio after 10 years in the San Francisco Bay area to investigate the unsolved murder of his father, Bexar County Sheriff Jackson Navarre.

The Tres Navarre series went on to win the Edgar, Anthony, and Shamus awards for mystery novels. The other novels in the series are: The Widower’s Two-Step (1998), The Last King of Texas (2001), The Devil Went Down to Austin (2002), Southtown (2004), Mission Road (2005), and Rebel Island (2008).

Riordan mentions on his website his children’s books are keeping him busy, but a return to the mystery genre is always a possibility.

Percy Jackson Origins

Riordan created Percy Jackson after his son Haley asked him for bedtime story about Greek gods and heroes. Haley, then in second grade, had been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, and Greek mythology was the one of the only subjects to keep his interest, according to Riordan’s website.

“When I ran out of myths, he was disappointed and asked me if I could make up something new with the same characters,” Riordan writes on his website. “Off the top of my head, I made up Percy Jackson and told Haley all about his quest to recover Zeus’ lightning bolt in modern day America. It took about three nights to tell the whole story, and when I was done, Haley told me I should write it out as a book.”

The series follows Perseus “Percy” Jackson, the demigod son of Poseidon, and his friends Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood as they journey across the hidden world of gods and monsters, fulfilling quests and prophecies and fighting battles connected to the rising threat of the Titans.

The Lightning Thief was published in 2005, followed by The Sea of Monsters (2006), The Titan’s Curse (2007), The Battle of the Labyrinth (2008), and The Last Olympian (2009). 

Atmosphere during Author Rick Riordan speak about his new book 'MAGNUS CHASE & THE GODS OF ASGARD, BOOK 1, THE SWORD OF SUMMER' to a full house Presented by Books & Books in collaboration with The Center for Literature & Writing at Miami Dade College Chapman Conference Center on October 10, 2015 in Miami, Florida

Atmosphere during Author Rick Riordan speak about his new book ‘MAGNUS CHASE & THE GODS OF ASGARD, BOOK 1, THE SWORD OF SUMMER’ to a full house Presented by Books & Books in collaboration with The Center for Literature & Writing at Miami Dade College Chapman Conference Center on October 10, 2015 in Miami, Florida

Johnny Louis

Expanded Universe

Riordan ultimately left teaching to focus on writing full-time after he sold the Percy Jackson series to Disney Book Group, he writes on his website. The deal meant Riordan would be writing two books a year.

After the conclusion of the Percy Jackson books, Riordan wrote The Heroes of Olympus series, The Kane Chronicles trilogy, Demigods and Magicians trilogy, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy, and The Trials of Apollo series. The books are all set in the Percy Jackson universe but expand into Roman, Egyptian, and Norse myths.

Leaving San Antonio

Riordan and his family moved from San Antonio to Boston in 2013 when Haley started college, settling into what Riordan labeled the “Athena House.”

Riordan is not scheduling interviews, Becky, also an executive producer, explained in an email to MySA. She went on to say he “had been fortunate to have great coverage” but wanted to give other writers the chance at exposure.

“Since there are so many wonderful writers in South Texas that were not getting the spotlight they deserve, Rick felt a need to leave some room, which felt like the right thing to do but something that can be hard to explain, especially 10 years ago,” Becky told MySA.

That drive to support other writers came to a head five years later with the debut of Rick Riordan Presents.

Atmosphere during Author Rick Riordan speak about his new book 'MAGNUS CHASE & THE GODS OF ASGARD, BOOK 1, THE SWORD OF SUMMER' to a full house Presented by Books & Books in collaboration with The Center for Literature & Writing at Miami Dade College Chapman Conference Center on October 10, 2015 in Miami, Florida

Atmosphere during Author Rick Riordan speak about his new book ‘MAGNUS CHASE & THE GODS OF ASGARD, BOOK 1, THE SWORD OF SUMMER’ to a full house Presented by Books & Books in collaboration with The Center for Literature & Writing at Miami Dade College Chapman Conference Center on October 10, 2015 in Miami, Florida

Johnny Louis

Rick Riordan Presents

Over the course of writing these books, Riordan was asked by fans if he would ever write about the myths and folklores of Hindu, Native American, Chinese cultures, etc. As a result, Rick Riordan Presents was launched in 2016 as an imprint of Disney-Hyperion to provide a platform for authors from those “underrepresented cultures and backgrounds” to tell those stories.

“Much better, I thought, to use my experience and my platform at Disney to put the spotlight on other great writers who are actually from those cultures and know the mythologies better than I do,” Riordan writes on his website. “Let them tell their own stories, and I would do whatever I could to help those books find a wide audience.”

The first book published under the imprint was Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi in 2018, part of the Pandava Quintet of stories based on Hindu mythology.

To date, 26 books have been published by the imprint, writing about Maya, Aztec, Korean, Cuban, West African, Mexican, Mesopotamian, Hmong, Navajo, and Ghanaian cultures. Books centering on Caribbean and Chinese myths are set to publish next year.

Current projects

Two of the Percy Jackson novels were adapted to film, The Lighting Thief in 2010 and Sea of Monsters in 2013. Both films received mixed reviews and left fans wanting more.

The Percy Jackson TV show was announced by Disney+ in 2020 and officially greenlit in January 2022 with Riordan as an executive producer. He’s kept fans informed about the goings on at the set with regular updates to his website blog, one post notably came to the defense of actress Leah Jeffries.

In his post titled “Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase,” Riordan addressed the racist attacks Jeffries was receiving as a Black girl being cast to portray a character described as white in the books. He praised Jeffries as an actress and defended her casting.

“I have been clear, as the author, that I was looking for the best actors to inhabit and bring to life the personalities of these characters, and that physical appearance was secondary for me,” Riordan writes. “We did that. We took a year to do this process thoroughly and find the best of the best. This trio is the best. Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase.”

So, while Riordan may not be writing in San Antonio anymore, he remains one of the most active figures in middle grade fantasy literature, both as a writer and a champion of the genre.

I for one reread The Lightning Thief for the first time in decades and believe it’s a book and a series many different people can relate to. It will be interesting to see how the TV show lives up to the legacy of the book series.

The Lightning Thief was passed around from kid to kid, teacher to teacher, parent to parent, and the series got bigger with each book,” Riordan writes on his website. “It really was a grassroots phenomenon. I owe a special debt to the librarians of Texas, who embraced the books early on and did a huge amount of book-talking with their kids. Without them, I doubt the momentum would’ve built nearly as much or as quickly as it did.”

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