Author Lauren Oliver, who wrote the bestselling young adult novel Before I Fall, was in the Philippines in March for a book signing event sponsored by National Book Store. Lauren released Pandemonium, the second book in her Delirium trilogy, in February, and she has been touring around the US and in several countries abroad to promote it.
Delirium tells the riveting story of 17-year-old Lena Holoway, who lives in a world where love—called amor deliria nervosa—is a disease and where the government performs a mandatory “cure” on every citizen when they turn 18. Lena, who only wants a quiet life, is all set to undergo the cure, but things change when she meets a boy named Alex and falls in love with him. What follows is an emotional series of events that makes her question the very principles she has been following all her life. Pandemonium picks up from the point at which the first book ended, and readers meet a much changed Lena and follow her adventures through a world on the brink of a revolution.
Female Network sat down with Lauren for a quick interview after her book signing event on March 25 at Powerbooks, Greenbelt 4, to get her thoughts on writing as well as her novels. Lauren had just finished signing books for nearly 200 fans, but she kept right on smiling as she answered FN’s questions. “I’ve been sleeping for quite some time because I’ve been jetlagged,” she confessed of her stay in the Philippines, “but it’s absolutely beautiful here and it makes me really want to return when I have more time to explore.”
Want to learn more about Lauren, her books, and her writing tips? Read on to find out what she has to say.
Lauren began building the world of Delirium after reading an essay by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of Love in the Time of Cholera. “He said that all good books came from love or death. This is after I wrote my first book [Before I Fall], and it really played with themes of death, so I started thinking about writing about love specifically,” she shares.
But what really got her creative juices flowing was her trip to the gym the next day and what she saw on the news while exercising. “It was during the swine flu panic or bird flu panic, and people in New York were really going crazy over this epidemic that was supposed to sweep the nation—which did not end up killing anybody, thankfully,” she recalls.
Lauren took note of how easily people panicked over diseases and fear of contagion. She was still thinking about love at the time, so she combined the two ideas in her head and had a realization. “If you look at the symptoms of love and deep infatuation,” she says, “they have a lot in common with some psychiatric disorders treated with medication.” She was fascinated by the idea, and soon Delirium was born. It was released in January 2011 and became a New York Times bestseller.
CHARACTER AND PLOT BUILDING
Lauren’s favorite character is Grace, Lena’s little cousin in Delirium, but if one of the characters were to be her best friend in real life, she says it would probably be Hana, Lena’s own BFF. “That’s why I came to write her as the best friend. She really appealed to my sensibility. Hana is a very appealing character, even if she is deeply flawed.”
Lauren confesses that Lena’s character shares some similarities with her. Nevertheless, Lena is her own person. “In some elements, she is a little like me, and, in some ways, she is quite different. I can’t really name a specific person, but I certainly pull from observations of how other people behave."
If she were in the same boat as Lena, for example, would she take the cure? Lauren says she probably would. “The truth is, I’d like to fantasize [and think of] myself as a rebel, as always standing up for what is right, but it is very hard to resist the education of your parents, your teacher, and your religion,” she explains. “It’s very hard, under those circumstances, to develop your own point of view. A part of the message of the book is how dangerous it is to accept the ideology of other people without thinking about it, when you accept unquestionably what other people believe.”
As for the novel’s main theme of love, Lauren, who has a fiancé named Michael, says she looked back at her own brushes with love to describe Lena’s experiences with the deliria. “I definitely pulled from my memories of what it felt like to fall in love for the first time,” she says, her eyes lighting up. “I fell in love for the first time during the summer time, so there were a lot of scenes of lying on the blanket that I can relate to. The book actually takes place in Brooklyn. I went there in summer and did research there to kind of get a sense of it.”
If you want to be a writer, Lauren says, it’s important to make time for your craft. “Write every day. Practice writing until it becomes such a habit that you do it unless you have to do something critical. I don’t play Angry Birds. I write.”
“Make sure that you are reading a lot very broadly,” she adds, “because you never know when inspiration will hit.”
And if inspiration doesn’t hit and you get writer’s block instead? “You are always stuck as a writer,” Lauren says. “Writing is a process of getting stuck all the time. So, partly you can overcome it through discipline. But if you get really stuck in a story, do something radical: blow someone off and see what happens!”
It’s also important to acknowledge your faults as a writer. For Lauren, for example, “I love descriptions, so I think I can overly describe things. But I love language and my favorite writers are great prose technicians, so that is something that I am very interested in.”
When it comes to the writing process, Lauren would rather stay at home in Brooklyn to work on her novels on her computer. “But the truth is that I travel a lot and I have this crazy schedule, so I end up writing on planes a lot and on my Blackberry between jobs and e-mail it to myself.” In fact, she confesses, she was actually typing something down on her phone before the interview.
She also reveals an intriguing tidbit about her writing style. “I have this interesting thing, that when I write books I always write the first and the last chapters. When I started writing Delirium, I already knew how it would end and how Pandemonium would end, but I didn’t know anything much aside from that.”
After the release of Pandemonium in February, fans are now eagerly awaiting Requiem, the last novel in the series, which is set to be released in 2013. While Lauren remains elusive about the contents of the last book, she does have this to share, “All I can say is that it is really epic. There’s a lot of fighting. It also takes place in two points of view, so it is kind of interesting.”
Ever the writer, Lauren also has several books in the works aside from Requiem. “I am working on an adult book now, which is exciting, and another young adult book that I am excited about but can’t talk too much about. It’s a return to realistic fiction. That’s kind of exciting. I also have a book coming out this fall. It’s another middle grade book. It’s for younger readers.”
Delirium, as well as her debut novel, Before I Fall, have also been optioned by Fox 2000, which means there might be a possibility of seeing them come to life on the silver screen. Lauren says there are too many talented young actors and actresses for her to choose her dream cast from, but she does have one request: “I’ll take anybody but Justin Bieber!”
In the meantime, she’s just grateful to have the chance to tour different places and meet the fans of her books. “Just thank you so much for your support. Thank you for being so cute and adorable. I probably hugged 200 people,” she says of her Filipino fans, a grin on her face.
Scroll through the gallery below to see photos from Lauren Oliver’s book signing event. Read Lauren's own recounting of her stay in the Philippines on her blog.
Grab a copy of Lauren Oliver’s Pandemonium for P395 at any National Book Store or Powerbooks outlet!
(Photos courtesy of National Book Store)