Thursday, July 19, 2012

From Book to Screen (and back again): An Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Lauren Kate

FALLEN by Lauren Kate Cover Art

I had the pleasure of meeting New York Times #1 Bestselling author Lauren Kate at the L.A. Times Book Festival in May.  Since then she's been nothing short of gracious with her time especially given the demands of juggling book tours, speaking engagements and the recent launch of the final instalment in her FALLEN series RAPTURE.  
What drew me to Lauren in the first place was not just her story of success but her soft spoken nature and the story of how she based the character Cam, the antagonist of her FALLEN series on her husband.  It was because of this that she was able to weave such a complex arc for Cam and it worked because it's impossible not to fall in love with the character.  
No wonder Disney was so quick to snatch up the rights to the entire FALLEN series...and on the day of FALLEN's release no less!
Lauren Kate
JP: When you first wrote FALLEN, did you envision it as a stand alone book or as a series?  
LK: From a fairly early stage, I envisioned FALLEN as a series. It was all new territory for me when I first started. But as Luce and Daniel’s story started unfolding in my head, it just got bigger and bigger and bigger, until it spilled over into a second book, and then a third book.
I originally imagined it as a trilogy, but then my brilliant editor suggested I explore Luce’s past lives with Daniel. So I added PASSION as a “prequel” in the middle of the series to be integrated into the story, pushing Luce’s immediate story forward, instead of simply looking back. Now PASSION is such an integral part of the series I can’t imagine Luce’s story without it. 
JP: Do you typically outline the full manuscript or just start with an idea and write?

LK: Some people say there are two kinds of writers: the plotters and the plungers. I started writing as a plunger and never would have thought I could be a plotter. In school, I always hated when teachers asked for an outline before a paper. I thought I’d lose my flow by doing something so left-brained and organized. But with FALLEN, because the scope of the series is so big and so complicated, I had to map out each book in detail before I typed it all up: character arcs, long synopses for each books, a map of the chapter for the first book, cliffhanger endings, the whole deal. Once I was comfortable with the shape of the story, I plunged. I had the outline to fall back on, but the freedom to stray from it when my writing momentum took me someplace else.

JP: What are some of your most useful tools for getting inside each of your character's heads?

LK: I think it’s useful to start by exploring who your characters are, either by writing character sketches or--even if you’ve based them on people you know—making sure you have a pretty good idea about their needs, wants, and motivations. You don’t need to know their favorite color and song when you begin writing but you should have a very general idea of who they are and what makes them unique. At first you can ask yourself “how would this person behave” or “what would (s)he say in this scenario?” But at some point, after you have a general idea of your character, I think it’s important to get out of their way and let them say what they want to say and do what they want to do. Characters are created by the writer and may have some traits in common, but it’s important to treat your characters as unique individuals, so if they start taking on certain traits you hadn’t anticipated, let them do so and see where that goes. Maybe your character insists on calling everyone "buddy," or develops a nervous tic whenever a love interest comes around. If so, go with it. Don't be too afraid of characters who are very different from you. You can always go back and change things later.
Lauren Kate at the LA Times Book Fest

JP: As writers, we often get "stuck", we hit a wall or we don't feel motivated, what are some of the tools you use to keep yourself writing.  
LK: When you get stuck, look at the scene from a different angle and write through it. If I'm trying to write a scene about two people having an argument at sunset and can't figure out how to make it interesting or fresh, I'll imagine how someone else--my husband, my best friend, someone I recently argued with--might see the same sunset. What would they notice about it that I wouldn't, or vice versa? Write a whole paragraph about the sunset instead of just a sentence. Then go back and look at what is the strongest image you came up with. Which image reflects something new about your characters? Save that image, cut the rest. Eventually, those strong images will pop out first in your mind.
JP: There are many writers out there who would love to be published and writing a series.  What has been the most rewarding thing about it?  Have there been any challenges or surprises?
LK: The whole process has been rewarding, whether it was finishing each book or seeing a jpeg of the cover concept for the first time, to being able to meet my fans in person on tour. I’m still getting used to the success of the series and I’ve learned how best to cherish my readers’ enthusiasm, how to funnel the support I feel from around the world directly into my books. 
One challenge in writing a series is that I think it’s important that the series grow up as readers up. Even though Luce only ages by a few weeks in the span of time between books, readers are aging about nine months to a year from the time one book is published to the time the next one is released. I try to grow Luce up in big leaps with each book, much like readers do.

JP: If you had to give aspiring writers one piece of advice, what would it be? 

RAPTURE by Lauren Kate Cover ArtLK: Eavesdrop. Draw inspiration from as many things around you as you can. Once you start writing a story, finish it. Don’t give up. Someone told me that once and it’s the best writing advice I’ve ever gotten. Just finish it. That way you’ll know you can. When you’re finished, find a writing friend to share your work with. Constructive criticism is the greatest gift to your writing. Take a few suggestions and try your hand at revising. My books get twenty times better between the first draft and the second.
JP: What book are you reading now?  What book would you recommend to read?
I am currently reading Moby Dick. I recommend people read The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman.
LK: What's coming up next for Lauren Kate?
I’m working on something exciting and new. Like the Fallen novels, this next series takes an old, familiar story and injects an impossible love into its backbones. It’s been invigorating and challenging to move away from the world I was so comfortable with: new rules, new voices, new obstacles to overcome. My lips are forcibly sealed from giving away more details at the moment, but I’m excited to share the news as soon as I can. 
To find out more about Lauren Kate and her international bestselling series FALLEN click here.

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