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‘Percy Jackson’ Spinoff ‘The Sun and the Star’: Rick Riordan & Mark Oshiro Interview

Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro head shots and the cover of The Sun and the Star

Nico di Angelo has received a solo story in the Percy Jackson universe, and it comes in the form of the standalone novel The Sun and the Star from the combined talents of Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro. The Sun and the Star hits bookshelves on May 2nd, 2023, and follows Nico and Will Solace on a journey to Tartarus to save the Titan Bob. While it’s a standalone story, it expands on the prophecy Nico and Will first received in the final Trials of Apollo book, The Tower of Nero.

Riordan is the mastermind behind the beloved and ever-expanding world of Percy Jackson, while Oshiro is the award-winning author behind Anger Is a Gift, Each of Us a Desert, and more YA novels that provide powerful commentary on topics ranging from sexual orientation to transracial adoption to police brutality. Through an equal collaboration, they have brought readers The Sun and the Star, a tragic, humorous, and heartfelt Nico and Will adventure. I had the opportunity to chat with Riordan and Oshiro over email and received some insight into their collaboration, the meaning behind the title, and the tragicomic nature of the book.

The art of collaboration and book titling

Of course, the first thing I wanted to know was how a collaboration between two YA literature powerhouses comes about. Riordan explained that it was his first collaboration, but it was one he felt was necessary because, “Writing about two young queer demigods, I felt very strongly that this wasn’t a story I should be telling by myself as an older straight guy. I needed to work with a great LGBTQ+ author who could bring perspective and thoughtfulness to these characters in ways that I might not be able to. Mark was just the person. Their skill set and approach to writing complimented my own, I think, and deepened the emotional richness of the story. I learned a lot by watching how they crafted scenes and dialogue. We went back and forth, trading versions of the outline, then the manuscript, with the facilitation of our fantastic editor Stephanie Lurie.”

Oshiro is a great author, but they still had to ensure they and Riordan could mesh their writing styles. Oshiro explained, “I was approached in February 2021 by Rick’s editor, Stephanie Lurie, through my agent. Stephanie and I had worked on some things together that hadn’t panned out, so I already knew her from that! (And I suspect that’s how my name got brought up for this specific project.) I had one of the most surreal, joyous Zoom meetings with the two of them, and then I “auditioned” for the book by writing up a sample based on Rick’s initial outline for the story. Weeks later, I got the best news of my life, and from there, Rick and I basically went back and forth for about a year and a half! We edited and expanded the outline, then took turns on the drafts. I wrote the first, then he tackled the second, and it came together like magic. Seriously, with the help of Stephanie (and Becky Riordan, too!), this whole process was so seamless and smooth.”


Had a great day filming promotional videos for The Sun and the Star with Mark Oshiro in NYC! The book is out May 2!

♬ original sound – Rick Riordan

Another early question I had was regarding the meaning of the book’s title, as Bob seemingly calls Nico and Will his “sun and star” within the book, but the reference isn’t explained. Riordan wrote,

The meaning is up for debate and can have many interpretations. The obvious one is that Bob is harkening back to what he told Percy Jackson in the Heroes of Olympus: “Say hello to the sun and the stars for me,” because he has not seen the sky since he fell into Tartarus. The sun and the star also refer to Will and Nico, as you mentioned, though I think the way they fit those celestial symbols is up for discussion. Here’s one personal take that brings me joy: the sun is a star. The two words are synonyms. Whether we call something a sun or a star is really just a matter of distance. One is associated with day. The other is associated with night. But that’s a false dichotomy. The closer you get to a star, the more it becomes a sun. There is commonality even in things that seem like exact opposites. This is certainly true of Will and Nico. They are soulmates of equal brightness, no matter how different or far away they seem from one another.

Meanwhile, Oshiro may have inadvertently chosen the book’s title! They wrote, “I chose to title the outline this in my own files. I give all my projects a working title at the beginning that I know won’t make it through the publishing process. This specific line from Bob felt like a beautiful summary of what Rick and I were going to attempt in the book, so it was only meant to inspire me. AND THEN IT BECAME THE OFFICIAL TITLE. This never happens to me! I’m still in shock, haha.”

The tragicomedy of Tartarus

The Sun and the Star takes place in Tartarus, but its main characters are Nico and Will. So, mixing Tartarus with glow-in-the-dark Will and “little grumpy ball of darkness” Nico means you get some heavy topics like trauma and PTSD, but also many hilarious, innocent, and beautiful scenes between two demigods who are in love. Hence, I was curious why Riordan and Oshiro chose a dark setting and whether they struggled to balance the darkness and lightness of the story.

Riordan referenced Shakespeare, the master of tragicomedy, to explain his approach: “For me, mixing drama and comedy is absolutely essential. The heavier the topic, the more important it is to leaven the story with humor. I think that’s human nature. We have to find the humor in things to survive the grim moments. Shakespeare knew all about that. When you’ve got a bunch of dead bodies on stage and actors covered in blood, the next scene is likely to be a buffoon making fart jokes. Somehow, the absurdity of the comic relief counterbalances the drama and makes both more powerful.”

Oshiro revealed that blending these elements came easily because they’ve incorporated them before, and they had Riordan’s guidance. They wrote, “That’s my general style for middle-grade books already. I love mixing the two! I will say that there were moments in the Tartarus segment of the book that were hard for me to write because I thought I might be leaning too much on the darkness and the horror. That’s where I learned from Rick! I looked back to a lot of scenes in the preceding books for guidance on how to deflate terror without negating it, and humor really helped. My funniest scene contribution to the book came from that technique, actually!”

As for choosing Tartarus as the primary setting, Riordan wrote that it’s one of his “favorite vacation destinations!” He continued, “I love the fact that it can be anything. It is ever-changing. It’s the body of a primordial god as well as a netherworld and a landscape. Tartarus is a dark canvas, but that seemed like the perfect background upon which to paint a story about two lights.”

Oshiro also marveled at the flexible nature of Tartarus, but also the exciting challenge it provided. They wrote, “It made sense to continue this journey there, and the sheer possibility of that place is so immense. I know a challenge I felt was that I wanted to make sure we weren’t simply writing 2 House 2 Hades or anything, so it was fun as we both tried to come up with ways to make Tartarus different from its past incarnation.”

Messages to The Sun and the Star readers

The Sun and the Star is dedicated to “all the Nicos, Wills, Pipers, and everyone in between.” I asked what messages Riordan and Oshiro had for the Nicos, Wills, and Pipers reading this book. Both had heartfelt and inspiring messages for their readers.

Rick wrote, “We see you. We love you. You deserve to be included in wonderful adventures. You are heroes just as much as anyone else in Percy Jackson’s world. There is an equally important message in the book for readers who are NOT LGBTQ+: People are people. We are more alike than we are different. Be kind. Be accepting. Listen to what others tell you about their experiences, even/especially if it is not your experience. The sun is a star, but it’s not the only one in the cosmos. Sometimes the brighter stars are the ones that are the farther away from us.”

Oshiro wanted readers to know, “You belong here. You belong in adventures, in fantasies, in middle grade books, in the world around us. You are every bit as important and as brilliant as the sun and the stars. We both hope that this book makes your heart sing!”

(featured image: Rick Riordan / Disney Publishing / Darius Voncel |

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Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.