Lauren Oliver reads “Matilda” by Roald Dahl every time she is sick. And she will always love “The Wind in the Willows,” by Kenneth Grahame, which she says is “possibly the coziest book of all time.”
With those books in her arsenal, it makes sense why she writes for young readers. She’s the author of the insanely popular Delirium trilogy — “Delirium,” “Pandemonium” and “Requiem” — and the standalone novel “Before I fall” for young adults, and she’s penned two middle-grade books: “Liesl and Po” and “The Spindlers.”
“I think I’m drawn to writing young adult books because the themes of many coming-of-age stories — identity, first loves, self-definition strongly appeal to me,” Lauren told Cracking the Cover. “And I love writing middle-grade books because the first books I ever loved, the first books that ever inspired me, were written for that age group (‘The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe’; ‘Matilda’; the Redwall series). But I have an ‘adult’ novel coming out in 2014 and I think I’ll probably continue writing for all ages.”
Writing was always a part of Lauren’s life. She and her sister received lots of encouragement from their parents to live imaginatively. “We were constantly playing make-believe, scribbling down stories, inventing worlds of our own and, of course, reading,” Lauren said. “I’m not sure I always knew I’d be able to write for a living, though — for a long time, I wanted to be a ballet dancer!”
Becoming a ballerina may have not worked out for Lauren, but writing certainly did. The final book in the Delirium trilogy, “Requiem,” comes out today. And Lauren is getting ready to go on the road — she’ll be in Utah tomorrow as part of HarperCollins’ Pitch Black: Dark Days Tour (see below).
The Delirium trilogy is set in a dystopian world where love is declared a disease. The only hope is a radical cure that removes emotions. Lena is 95 days away from getting her cure when she does the unthinkable. She falls in love.
Lauren wanted to write about love — not just romantic love but love between siblings and family members and friends. “At the time, the country was in the middle of a panic about bird flu (or maybe swine flu — I always get them mixed up),” Lauren explained. “The epidemic never materialized, thankfully, and I started thinking about how easily people could be driven into a panic over fears of contagion. Then I started thinking about the fact that love bears many ‘symptoms’ in common with certain psychiatric disorders. And the idea was born.”
Lena, the series main character, just kind of came to Lauren while certain writing elements, like plotting, were carefully organized. “I have to think and plan very carefully,” Lauren said. “But other elements seem more like alchemy. Characters step onto the stage of my mind and just introduce themselves.”
Completing the trilogy has been bittersweet for Lauren. She’s lived with the same set of characters and dilemmas for more than four years. “It’s sad to leave them behind — like moving to a different state and having to make a whole new set of friends,” she said. “At the same time, there’s a relief to it. I brought the series to a conclusion, and I’m satisfied with it.”
*Read a complete transcript of Cracking the Cover’s interview with Lauren Oliver.
Wednesday, March 6, at 7 p.m.
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