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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Suzanne Collins: A Deeper Look


Hello everyone! Welcome back!
In this post we'll be looking at the author of the Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins!

Since 1991, Suzanne MARY Collins has been writing for children’s television. She has worked on the staffs of several Nickelodeon shows, including the Emmy-nominated
Clarissa Explains it All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. For preschool viewers, she wrote multiple stories for the Emmy-nominated Little Bear and Oswald. She also co-wrote the critically acclaimed Rankin/
Bass Christmas special, Santa, Baby! Most recently she was the Head Writer for Scholastic Entertainment’s Clifford’s Puppy Days.


While working on a Kids WB show called Generation O! she met children’s author James Proimos, who talked her into giving children’s books a try.

Thinking one day about Alice in Wonderland, she was struck by how rural the setting must seem to kids who, like her own, lived in urban surroundings. In New York City, you’re much more likely to fall down a manhole than a rabbit hole and, if you do, you’re not going to find a tea party. What might you find...? Well, that’s the story of Gregor the Overlander, the first book in her five-part fantasy/
war series, The Underland Chronicles which has more than one million books in print and is available in seven foreign editions.

In the award-winning THE HUNGER GAMES, for which rights have been sold for 35 foreign language editions to date, Collins continues to explore the effects of war and violence on those coming of age.

At present, Suzanne is hard at work on the third book in her sci-fi series, The Hunger Games.

She currently lives in Connecticut with her family and a pair of feral kittens they adopted from their backyard.

Here is a list of all Suzanne Collins’ Works:


Catching Fire

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

The Hunger Games

Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When her sister is chosen by lottery, Katniss steps up to go in her place.


Gregor the Overlander

Meet Gregor, a kid from New York City, who falls out of his laundry room into a fantastical subterranean world called the Underland. Accompanied by his toddler sister, Boots, he encounters giant talking creatures-- cockroaches, bats, spiders and rats--and an unusual society of humans. And they’re all expecting him...(Scholastic Press, 2003)


Gregor and the Prophecy Of The Bane

When giant roaches kidnap Boots and spirit her back to the Underland, Gregor follows to retrieve her. Soon he discovers that they are both implicated in “The Prophecy of Bane,” which warns of the dangers of a terrifying white rat. Guess whose job it is to destroy it? (Scholastic Press, 2004)


Gregor and the Curse Of The Warmbloods

Gregor and Boots must return to the Underland to help find a cure for a deadly plague called the Curse of the Warmbloods. Gregor is desperate to succeed because, along with several of his Underland friends, a member of his own family is stricken. (Scholastic Press, 2005)


Gregor and the Marks Of Secret

Gregor sets out to solve a mystery involving the Underland mice and ends up discovering a terrible secret. This book leads right into the fifth and final book of the series, "Gregor and the Code of Claw."


Gregor and the Code Of Claw

Everyone in the Underland has been taking great pains to keep The Prophecy of Time from Gregor. Gregor knows it must say something awful but he never imagined just how awful: It calls for the warrior's death. Now, with an army of rats approaching, and his mom and sister still in Regalia, Gregor the warrior must gather up his courage to help defend Regalia and get his family home safely. The entire existence of the Underland is in Gregor's hands, and time is running out. There is a code to be cracked, a mysterious new princess, Gregor's burgeoning dark side, and a war to end all wars.

When Charlie McButton Lost Power

When a thunderstorm knocks out the electricity, Charlie McButton's whole tech empire comes tumbling down. He needs batteries–FAST. But the only batteries are inside his baby sister's beloved talking doll. Will he resort to desperate measures, and cause his sister to have a meltdown of her own? Or will he snap out of his computer craze long enough to realize sisters can be fun, even without batteries? (Penguin Group, 2005)


OK, OK, the rat’s fake. Keep reading to see why...

Below is an interview with Suzanne Collins! (No I didn’t conduct it personally…I wish! :) But I found these on different websites and compiled them all here for you.)

This should give you a look into her head.(well, not literally!) Enjoy!

This interview focuses more on the Underworld Chronicles.

Here is an interview done with Jen Rees at Scholastic Press:

1. Of all the places Gregor could have traveled to, why the Underland?

I liked the fact that this world was teeming under New York City and nobody was aware of it. That you could be going along preoccupied with your own problems and then whoosh! You take a wrong turn in your laundry room and suddenly a giant cockroach is right in your face. No magic, no space or time travel, there’s just a ticket to another world behind your clothes dryer.

2. Is there anything you find/
found difficult or challenging in writing from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy?

I remember being eleven very clearly and I had a lot of friends who were boys so it felt pretty natural being in Gregor’s head.

3. Are you anything like Gregor?
I think I’m like Gregor because we both want to do the right thing but sometimes have trouble figuring out what it is. Also, neither of us likes to ride roller coasters and we’ve both changed a lot of diapers.
But Gregor is much braver than I am…if I even see a regular sized rat in New York City I immediately cross the street.

4. What kinds of things did you enjoy doing when you were 11?

Gymnastics, like Luxa. Reading. Running around in the woods with my friends.

5. Many people think bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders are creepy! Did you have to get over your fear of any (or all!) of them to write this story?

I wish I could say that after I researched the creepy animals I was no longer at all afraid of them…but that would be a big fib! Cockroaches aren’t really scary, just a little germy, so I don’t mind them much. I love bats…except these really loud ones that get in my attic in the summer and hold some kind of party all night long. Spiders still scare me some, although I’m also fascinated by them and I can happily watch them from a distance. But rats…not pet rats but the wild kind…I will always have what I consider to be a healthy fear of rats. You should, too.

6. Are you kinder to cockroaches, bats, rats, and/
or spiders nowadays?

I don’t think I was ever particularly unkind to them…but I do have more of a connection with them now. I’m more aware of their similarities to humans. And I’m sympathetic to their desire to survive, which all creatures share.

7. Did you have a sibling who, like Boots, got you into a world of trouble?

I have two older sisters and one older brother and hold them largely responsible for the trouble I got into growing up. I believe as the youngest child, that is my right.

8. Have you ever lived in New York City?

I lived in New York City for 16 years, from 1987 to 2003. But when I was growing up we moved all the time because my dad was in the Air Force. We were mostly on the eastern half of the U.S. and in Europe but, like Gregor, I definitely know what it feels like to be a stranger somewhere.

9. If you had to go to the Underland, what items would you take along with you? And who would you take with you?

I’d take all the flashlights and batteries I could find. I’d also take a couple of bottles of water and chocolate, because I don’t like traveling without either of these things. I would wear very comfortable clothes and sneakers…in case I had to run.
My husband, Cap, would be great to have in the Underland, since he is very good in an emergency, but I’d want him to be with our kids up in the Overland so I’d know they were in safe hands.
(Note: Cap says he would not take me to the Underland because I am not good in an emergency and I would constantly make him stop and ask for directions. Both of these things are true.)
So I think I would take my good friend Christopher Santos with me, because he is very diplomatic and travels a lot and he seems at ease in foreign places. Also, he would never make loud, mean remarks about the creatures which could get a person in all kinds of trouble.
In the Underland, I would make it my first order of business to hook up with a couple of bats because, let’s face it, without a bat you’re probably going to end up as someone’s lunch.

10. Have you ever been lost and wanted to find your way home?

All the time. I have a terrible sense of direction. I get lost practically every time I leave my house. Fortunately, people are usually very kind about giving you directions if you ask politely.

11. Do you think you were destined to be a writer? (or is there some free will involved?!)

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.

12. If you could invite one of the characters to have dinner with your family, who would it be? What might you cook for them?! What questions would you ask them?

I would invite Ripred to dinner because I think he would tell the most interesting stories. We would have to serve shrimp in cream sauce because this is his favorite dish of all. Just to irritate him, I would tell him he has to use a napkin—or he won’t get dessert. He would use the napkin, because dessert would be a fabulous chocolate cake and he loves food, but I bet he would glare at me the whole time.
I would ask all kinds of questions about being a rat, and living alone in the Dead Land, and about his family. Ripred sometimes sneaks up to the Overland, so I would ask him his opinion of New York City, too.
After dinner, we’d play Scrabble.

13. All fun aside for a moment, Gregor is also about war and battling forces and survival. Can you tell us a little bit about this?"

Gregor falls into a fantastical world, but he’s really acting out the main role in a war story. Almost as soon as he arrives in the Underland, he’s recognized as the “warrior” of the prophecies and he’s called upon to undertake what are essentially a series of military missions. For instance, in Book I he goes into enemy territory to rescue a prisoner of war who also happens to be his dad. It’s never described as such, but that’s what’s really happening.

As the series continues, Gregor is faced with increasingly difficult quests and choices as the Underland breaks into a massive global war. His struggle to survive-both physically and spiritually-forms the arc of The Underland

Now THIS is the Hunger Games interview:

Question: You weave action, adventure, mythology, sci-fi, romance, and philosophy throughout THE HUNGER GAMES. What influenced the creation of THE HUNGER GAMES?

Suzanne Collins: A significant influence would have to be the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The myth tells how in punishment for past deeds, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete, where they were thrown in the Labyrinth and devoured by the monstrous Minotaur.

Even as a kid, I could appreciate how ruthless this was. Crete was sending a very clear message: “Mess with us and we’ll do something worse than kill you. We’ll kill your children.” And the thing is, it was allowed; the parents sat by powerless to stop it. Theseus, who was the son of the king, volunteered to go. I guess in her own way, Katniss is a futuristic Theseus.

In keeping with the classical roots, I send my tributes into an updated version of the Roman gladiator games, which entails a ruthless government forcing people to fight to the death as popular entertainment. The world of Panem, particularly the Capitol, is loaded with Roman references. Panem itself comes from the expression “Panem et Circenses” which translates into “Bread and Circuses.”

The audiences for both the Roman games and reality TV are almost characters in themselves. They can respond with great enthusiasm or play a role in your elimination.

I was channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage when Katniss’s story came to me. One night I’m sitting there flipping around, and on one channel, there’s a group of young people competing for, I don’t know, money maybe? And on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story.

Q: The Hunger Games is an annual televised event in which one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts is forced to participate in a fight-to-the-death on live TV. What do you think the appeal of reality television is --- to both kids and adults?

SC: Well, they’re often set up as games and, like sporting events, there’s an interest in seeing who wins. The contestants are usually unknown, which makes them relatable. Sometimes they have very talented people performing.

Then there’s the voyeuristic thrill --- watching people being humiliated, or brought to tears, or suffering physically --- which I find very disturbing. There’s also the potential for desensitizing the audience, so that when they see real tragedy playing out on, say, the news, it doesn’t have the impact it should.

Q: If you were forced to compete in the Hunger Games, what do you think your special skill would be?

SC: Hiding. I’d be scaling those trees like Katniss and Rue. Since I was trained in sword-fighting, I guess my best hope would be to get hold of a rapier if there was one available. But the truth is I’d probably get about a four in Training.

Q: The trilogy’s premise is very brutal, yet is handled so tastefully. Was this a difficult balance to achieve?

SC: Yes, the death scenes are always hard to write. It’s difficult to put kids in violent situations --- Gregor (the protagonist in The Underland Chronicles) is in a war, Katniss is in a gladiator game. Characters will die. It’s not fun to write, but I think if you can’t commit to really doing the idea, it’s probably better to work on another type of story.

Given that, you have to remember who you’re trying to reach with the book. I try and think of how I would tell a particularly difficult event to my own children. Exactly what details they need to know to really understand it, and what would be gratuitous.

Q: THE HUNGER GAMES tackles issues like severe poverty, starvation, oppression, and the effects of war among others. What drew you to such serious subject matter?

SC: That was probably my dad’s influence. He was career Air Force, a military specialist, a historian, and a doctor of political science. When I was a kid, he was gone for a year in Viet Nam. It was very important to him that we understood about certain aspects of life. So, it wasn’t enough to visit a battlefield, we needed to know why the battle occurred, how it played out, and the consequences. Fortunately, he had a gift for presenting history as a fascinating story. He also seemed to have a good sense of exactly how much a child could handle, which is quite a bit.

Q: What do you hope readers will come away with when they read THE HUNGER GAMESand/or CATCHING FIRE?

SC: Questions about how elements of the book might be relevant in their own lives. And, if they’re disturbing, what they might do about them.

Q: In THE HUNGER GAMES, Katniss and Gale have an extensive knowledge of hunting, foraging, wildlife, and survival techniques. What kinds of research did you do, if any?

SC: Some things I knew from listening to my dad talking about his childhood. He grew up during the Depression. For his family, hunting was not a sport but a way to put meat on the table. He also knew a certain amount about edible plants. He’d go into the woods and gather all these wild mushrooms and bring them home and sauté them. My mom wouldn’t let any of us go near them! But he’d eat them up and they never harmed him, so I guess he knew which ones were safe, because wild mushrooms can be very deadly.

I also read a big stack of wilderness survival guidebooks. And here’s what I learned: you’ve got to be really good to survive out there for more than a few days.

Q: How long would it take for North America to deteriorate into the world depicted in the books?

SC: You’d have to allow for the collapse of civilization as we know it, the emergence of Panem, a rebellion, and seventy-four years of the Hunger Games. We’re talking triple digits.

Q: You have written for television for young children and for middle-grade readers (the New York Times bestselling series The Underland Chronicles). Why did you decide to write for an older audience and how was the experience different?

SC: I think the nature of the story dictated the age of the audience from the beginning. Both The Underland Chronicles and THE HUNGER GAMES have a lot of violence. But in The Underland Chronicles, even though human characters die, a lot of the conflict takes place between different fantastical species. Giant rats and bats and things. You can skew a little younger that way. Whereas in THE HUNGER GAMES, there’s no fantasy element, it’s futuristic sci-fi and the violence is not only human on human, it’s kid on kid. And I think that automatically moves you into an older age range.

I find there isn’t a great deal of difference technically in how you approach a story, no matter what age it’s for. I started out as a playwright for adult audiences. When television work came along, it was primarily for children. But whatever age you’re writing for, the same rules of plot, character, and theme apply. You just set up a world and try to remain true to it. If it’s filled with cuddly animated animals, chances are no one’s going to die. If it’s filled with giant flesh-and-blood rats with a grudge, there’s going to be violence.

Q: Was The Hunger Games always planned as a trilogy?

SC: Not necessarily. But once I’d thought through to the end of the first book, I realized that there was no way that the story was concluded. Katniss does something that would never go unpunished in her world. There would definitely be repercussions. And so the question of whether or not to continue with a series was answered for me.

Q: Do you have every book completely mapped out, or do you have a general idea and then take it from there? Did you run into things that were unexpected plot-wise or character-wise?

SC: I’ve learned it helps me to work out the key structural points before I begin a story. The inciting incident, acts, breaks, mid-story reversal, crisis, climax, those sorts of things. I’ll know a lot of what fills the spaces between them as well, but I leave some uncharted room for the characters to develop. And if a door opens along the way, and I’m intrigued by where it leads, I’ll definitely go through it.

Q: What was it like to return to the world of the Hunger Games to write CATCHING FIRE?

SC: Honestly, I feel like I never left it. The revisions of Book I overlapped with the writing of Book II, just as Book II has overlapped with Book III. Since each book feeds into the next, I feel like part of my brain’s been in Panem continuously.

Q: How do you typically spend your workday? Do you have a routine as you write?

SC: I grab some cereal and sit down to work as soon as possible. The more distractions I have to deal with before I actually begin writing, the harder focusing on the story becomes. Then I work until I’m tapped out, usually sometime in the early afternoon. If I actually write three to five hours, that’s a productive day. Some days all I do is stare at the wall. That can be productive, too, if you’re working out character and plot problems. The rest of the time, I walk around with the story slipping in and out of my thoughts.

Q: You are probably getting a lot of fan mail! What is the most surprising feedback you’ve received for The Hunger Games? (Or, what has surprised you the most about the feedback you’re getting for The Hunger Games.)

SC: Probably how differently people view the book. Some are attracted to the dystopian world, others are there for action and adventure, still others for the romance. The readers are defining the book in very personal and exciting ways.

Q: What were some of your favorite novels when you were a teen?

SC: A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith
THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR by George Orwell
ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy
SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle
LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
BORIS by Jaapter Haar
GERMINAL by Emile Zola
DANDELION WINE by Ray Bradbury

Another interview:


You’ve been a successful writer of books such as Gregor the Overlander series. Did the overwhelming reaction to The Hunger Games take you by surprise?
The reaction did surprise me somewhat. I’ve been writing for television a long time, books not so long. Writing for TV is very collaborative, and relatively anonymous. Since there are usually so many writers involved, there’s not much attention on an individual writer.

Has it been difficult to find time to write?
It has been harder to find time to write, especially last fall, when I was promoting The Hunger Games, finishing Catching Fire and developing book three. However, the good news is I think we’re right on schedule!

At what point did you know that your story was a trilogy?
I knew from the beginning. Once I’d thought through to the end of the first book, I knew there would be repercussions from the events that take place there. So I actually proposed it as a trilogy from the outset, with the main story laid out. I started out as a playwright, and have an M.F.A. from New York University in dramatic writing. After I graduated, I began writing for television. Since I’ve worked in television so long, the three-act dramatic structure comes naturally to me. But I don’t like to “over-outline.” I like to leave breathing room for the characters to develop emotionally—which they often do. Characters always have surprises for you. They try on possibilities and even make some decisions you don’t anticipate. It’s a good thing, and I think it indicates that a story has vitality.

In Catching Fire we see a side of Katniss where she is not always as sure-footed or aware, especially in matters of political intrigue.
I think the thing to remember is how limited her experience is to her world and politics. Even as she becomes more embroiled in events, no one sees that it is in her best interest to educate her.

It’s rare to find a book with two such appealing romantic heroes as Peeta and Gale. Do you know how the romantic triangle will turn out in Book Three?
Yes, I do. [Sorry, readers, that’s about all she would say!]

It’s impossible not to ask about the third book and the movie. Will you be involved in any way with the film?
Yes! The Hunger Games has been optioned and I’m signed on to do the screenplay. I am looking forward to telling the story in a different medium. Of course we will be handling the subject matter very carefully and anticipate that the film will have a PG-13 rating.

What do you hope these books will encourage in readers?
I hope they encourage debate and questions. Katniss is in a position where she has to question everything she sees. And like Katniss herself, young readers are coming of age politically.

Where do you live and what does your family think about your success?
We now live in Connecticut. We lived in New York City for a long time but with two children we were bursting out of our apartment. I have a daughter, age 10 and my son, 15. My son’s a great reader for me. And they both have a good time teasing me about all the attention.

What are some of your favorite things to do when you’re not writing?
I like to read and watch old movies. And these days, when I can, sleep!











2 comments:

Evie J said...

Awesome! Thanks for posting! :)

Amanda Kate said...

Definately can't wait for the third book!