Riley has been writing since she could hold a pencil. She is an avid reader and spent most of her childhood reading and playing elaborate make-believe games, often with her older brother, Nick. Now she writes for teenagers from the unique perspective of being a teen herself. Her stories are based on genuine adolescent ideas and emotions, and are filled with action and humor.
In addition to her writing, Riley is passionate about children’s literacy. She believes that teaching children to read breaks the cycle of poverty and exploitation of children. When she was fourteen years old, Riley created a non-profit organization called Breaking the Chain with the goal of eliminating illiteracy for children. Thus far, she has raised enough money to build three schools and water purification systems for villages in Africa, has created a children’s literacy center in a woman’s shelter in Colorado, and has purchased over 12,000 new books for high-need elementary school classrooms in the U.S.
Some of the proceeds from her books go toward her literacy program for children.
A senior in high school, Riley has won a number of national and local awards, including Build-a-Bear Huggable Heroes Award, T.A. Barron's Young Heroes Award Distinguished Finalist, Prudential Spirit of Community National Award for Colorado, NBC Colorado Affiliate 9News Kids Who Care, and Skipping Stones Multicultural Magazine Top Youth Writer Award, to name a few.
She lives in Colorado with her parents and her older brother, when he is home from college.
The Books: The Reign of Elements is a MG fantasy adventure series. Here are the official blurbs of the first two books:
The Fire Stone: Matt knows how to shovel hay, dig trenches, and dodge his father’s whip, but when three terrifying creatures attack Matt, and he is rescued by a wizard, he kidnaps a baby alorath, and is befriended by elves, Matt’s life transforms overnight from dreary to astonishing. When he unwittingly joins a quest to find the Fire Stone, one of the elusive Stones of the Elements which have the power to destroy the world, Matt is thrust into a string of perilous adventures. He soon discovers that magic does exist and that he has extraordinary powers that can change his destiny and determine the fate of Mundaria.
The Water Stone: After successfully recovering the Fire Stone, fifteen-year-old Matt wants nothing more than to enjoy himself with his friends in the magical forest of Amaldan, home of the elves, but Matt knows that the evil elf Malik will never stop seeking the Stones of the Elements. And when a plague from ancient years resurfaces, threatening the lives of an entire city, the only way to ensure their survival is to find the second Stone of the Elements, the Water Stone, which possesses mysterious magical healing powers. Matt, Samsire, and their friends, set off on another quest, following the clues of a long-dead dwarf adventurer, as they desperately race against time and Malik's forces to find the Water Stone before it's too late. This is the second book in the riveting Reign of the Elements series, an adventure story brought to life by memorable, vibrant characters. Rooted in genuine adolescent thought and emotion, it is a journey of courage, friendship, and danger as a group of teenagers attempt to save their world.
Kirkus Discoveries calls Fire Stone "a charming story ...abundantly blessed with adventure and appeal." Midwest Review gives it five out of five stars and calls it "a treasure for genre fans that should not be overlooked." Bob Spear of The Book Barn compares Riley to a youthful Christopher Paolini and says she "includes the best elements of a good fantasy without going overboard."
What inspired you to write The Fire Stone?
Growing up with an older brother, I was surrounded by fantasy and science fiction books. I was fascinated with stories about magic and adventure at an early age, so the idea for The Reign of the Elements series has been growing in my head for a long time.
Do you have any tips for aspiring teen authors?
As teens, we face a lot of obstacles, so persistence is important. Also, always be open to improving your work and trying new types of writing. Every writer has things to learn, especially teens, so keep your mind open. So, my advice would be to work hard to make your writing the best it can be, to be persistent, and to write because you love to write, not because you want to be published because that will show in the quality of your writing.
If you could invite anyone you wanted - living or dead - to hang out with you at a weekend retreat, who would you invite and why?
I would love to spend a weekend with J.K. Rowling. I really admire her work as writer and as a humanitarian. I think she would have many interesting stories to share about her experiences in life, and what she did before she wrote Harry Potter. Also, I would love to hear her thoughts and the inspirations behind Harry Potter.
What is an average writing day like for you?
An average day is fairly busy for me, but I write at every opportunity I can get. I do all my schoolwork in the morning and early afternoon, except on days that I’m speaking at schools. After school, my day is devoted to my nonprofit and to writing. I write for two to four hours almost every day. Even when I’m not writing, I’m constantly thinking about plot and character ideas or analyzing something I’ve already written.
Do you have any special writing rituals or totems to connect with your muse?
Strangely enough, I play with Silly Putty quite a bit while I’m writing. I found it in a cabinet of old toys and started playing with it at my desk. There’s something mentally stimulating about squeezing the life out of the green glob - it always helps to get my creative juices flowing. I just have to be careful to keep it away from the computer keys! I also listen to Coldplay while I write.
What's one thing most people don't know about you?
My older brother, Nick, is exactly one foot taller than I am. Just when I’m starting to feel tall while he’s away at college, he comes home and reminds me that although I’m 5’6”, which is taller than the average female, I am really quite hobbit-like next to him (without the hairy feet, of course).
What's your favorite quote?
"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." - Albert Einstein. I feel like this quote is as applicable to writers as it is to scientists or any other intellectual pursuit. Curiosity is what makes us seek to discover life’s mysteries. For me, that’s what writing is about; discovering the mystery of personalities, relationships, history, and our place in the world.
What are you working on now?
I just completed a YA urban fantasy trilogy that puts a new twist on reality. I’m really excited about it. I’m working on an idea for a new trilogy with more of a science fiction and dystopian angle.The Freebie:
To be entered to win a signed copy of THE FIRE STONE, leave a comment below, telling us one thing you can do this week to support literacy. This drawing will remain open until Wednesday, August 25.