Enough said about this world-famous author? Some of you might think so, but no. There is so much more to Suzanne Collins than the Hunger Games (which I reviewed earlier). She actually started out writing for television in 1991, for Nickelodeon actually. When she met children’s writer and illustrator James Proimos, she was convinced to try her hand at writing. Her series The Underland Chronicles followed from 2005 on, which has been published in over 22 countries.
You see, I tired of constant fear, so I made a decision. Every day when I wake I tell myself that it will be my last. If you are not trying to hold on to time, you are not so afraid of losing it. (Gregor the Overlander)
In 2008 she then published The Hunger Games, which quickly ended up on international best seller lists and stayed there for over six years – while the trilogy was sold in over 56 countries and 51 languages to date. She has sold over 80 million copies worldwide! The successful movie adaptations of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 only added more value to the series and they broke multiple box office records.
Time to learn a little bit more about this American author. Collins is a pretty private person, so I had to look for a while to find older and more recent interviews. But here are some of my favourite excerpts!
May the odds be ever in you favour! (The Hunger Games)
The Hunger Games is hugely popular with both boys and girls. Why do you think that is? (source)
Whenever I write a story, I hope it appeals to both boys and girls. But maybe in its simplest form, it’s having a female protagonist in a gladiator story, which traditionally features a male. It’s an unexpected choice. Or I don’t know, maybe the futuristic, grim nature of the story is larger than that. I wouldn’t care who was the lead in a good dystopian story. You know what I mean?
What inspired you to write The Hunger Games? (source)
One night, I was lying in bed, and I was channel surfing between reality TV programs and actual war coverage. On one channel, there’s a group of young people competing for I don’t even know; and on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting in an actual war. I was really tired, and the lines between these stories started to blur in a very unsettling way. That’s the moment when Katniss’s story came to me.
What was the most difficult part of writing the story? (source)
When you’re going to write a story like The Hunger Games, you have to accept from the beginning that you’re going to kill characters. It’s a horrible thing to do, and it’s a horrible thing to write, particularly when you have to take out a character that is vulnerable or young or someone you’ve grown to love when you were writing them.
The descriptions of combat in the arena are so visceral, so graphic – how did you know how far you could go, in terms of describing violence to a young audience? (source)
I think probably my own experience as a child. I had been exposed to these things very early through history, through my father. He I think knew the level that was acceptable at different ages to explore a different topic or something with this. That was probably my guideline through all nine of the books.
I think that it’s very uncomfortable for people to talk to children about war. And so they don’t because it’s easier not to. But then you have young people at 18 who are enlisting in the army and they really don’t have the slightest idea what they’re getting into. I think we put our children at an enormous disadvantage by not educating them in war, by not letting them understand about it from a very early age. It’s not about scaring them. The stories didn’t scare me when I was a child, and in these cases they’re fictionalized. Gregor is set in a fantasy world and The Hunger Games is set far in the future. I don’t get the sense that the young readers are frightened by them. I think they’re intrigued by them and in some ways I think they’re relieved to see the topic discussed.
What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. (Mockingjay)
Why write it as science fiction? Why not write a realist novel about an actual war that took place? (source)
I think because there are sort of allegorical elements to it. The arena’s very allegorical. It’s the symbol – we’re going to watch it transform. And I need to be able to create that, manipulate it, as I need it to work out. There’s a basis for the war, historically, in the Hunger Games, which would be the third servile war, which was Spartacus’ war, where you have a man who is a slave who is then turned into a gladiator who broke out of the gladiator school and led a rebellion and then became the face of the war. So there is a historical precedent for that arc for a character. But I think I needed the freedom to create elements that I wasn’t going to neatly find in history.
Do you think you were destined to be a writer? (or is there some free will involved?!) (source)
I…have no idea how to answer this. I would have to go to a cave and meditate on it or something, and then I probably still wouldn’t know.
Living out there, I have found that many creatures would prefer not to fight. But if your first instinct is to reach for your sword, you will never discover that. (Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods)
What advice do you give to young writers? (source)
A lot of people tell writers to write about what they know. And that’s good advice, because it gives you a lot of things to draw on. But I always like to add that they should write about things that they love. And by that I mean things that fascinate or excite them personally.
The Hunger Games is full of things that intrigue me; you know, it’s dystopia, it’s got kids in it, it’s gladiators, it’s war, there are genetic mutations. The Underland Chronicles has fantasy, animals, sword fighting. And if you write about things that you feel passionately about, it is so much easier to write.
Who contributed to your love of reading and writing? (source)
In fifth and sixth grade, I went to school in an open classroom. And the English teacher, Miss Vance, was wonderful. On rainy days, she would take whoever was interested over to the side and read us Edgar Allan Poe stories. I remember all of us sitting around just wide-eyed as she read The Telltale Heart or The Mask of the Red Death. She didn’t think we were too young to hear it. And we were riveted. That made a huge impression on me.
The bird, the pin, the song, the berries, the watch, the cracker, the dress that burst into flames. I am the mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol’s plans. The symbol of the rebellion. (Catching Fire)
What’s been the most memorable feedback you’ve gotten from teachers and kids? (source)
One of the most memorable things I hear is when someone tells me that my books got a reluctant reader to read. They’ll say, “You know, there’s this kid and he wouldn’t touch a book and his parents found him under a blanket with a flashlight after bedtime because he couldn’t wait to find out what happened in the next chapter.” That’s just the best feeling. The idea that you might have contributed to a child’s enjoyment of reading.