Author Lauren Oliver shares how she gets story ideas and reveals the plots of her upcoming books.
HAVING interviewed author Lauren Oliver by e-mail about a year ago for the release of Requiem, the final book in her Delirium trilogy, my first question to her at our recent face-to-face interview revolved around an observation she had made then.
Oliver, who was in Malaysia for the Putrajaya International Book Fair 2014 (March 20-33), had mentioned in that e-mail interview that the writing of the trilogy had seen her go from “being 26 and single to 30 and engaged”. So, naturally, when we meet on March 20 this time, I ask if she had had her wedding yet, meaning to lead up to asking if her changed marital status had affected her writing.
It turned out to be an unintentional faux pas as in the intervening time she had broken off her engagement!
Oliver was a good sport about it, though, sharing: “It was the right thing to do. We’re still very close friends, and I’m dating somebody who’s wonderful and new. But that happens.”
While at first she denied that the experience had influenced her writing, she reconsidered, saying: “I’m sure that the experiences I had while I was with Michael (her former fiancé) and while I was with my then-fiancé (her first fiancé who died from substance abuse), and the break-up and the tumultuousness of the relationship did influence my writing.
“Almost everything that happens to me ends up working its way into a novel in some way or another. But it gets sorted and filtered through a fictional lens. So it’s not like a one-for-one.”
Her life experiences are just one of the many ways Oliver gets her ideas.
The author of five young adult (YA) fiction books, two books for younger readers and three YA novellas shares that she has been “practising imagination” for a very long time.
“I know that sounds like a strange thing to say, but it’s a muscle! At this point in time, my mind is constantly just churning through information, trying to figure out how I can make things into stories and how I can tell stories from things that interest me.
“Mostly, 90% of the time, I do it kind of unconsciously, and most of the ideas get abandoned. But every so often, an idea sticks in the net of my subconscious and kind of wriggles its way into my consciousness, and those become a book. It’s a constant thing that’s happening all the time in my head.”
She adds that her inspiration can come from books, music, newspapers, stories other people tell her, and even just words.
In fact, Oliver shares that she received a text message from
her father two days prior to the interview suggesting an idea for a YA novel.
Oliver’s father, Howard Schechter, is also an author; he writes mysteries and true crime stories about serial killers (Oliver’s real name is Laura Schechter). He was quoted in a 2011 Businessweek article saying: “I think she went with Lauren Oliver because she didn’t want people to Google her name and see books on psychopathic sex killers there.”
Despite the disparity in their writing genres, father and daughter are currently collaborating on a book series for young readers.
“I’m writing it, he’s plotting it. It has nothing to do with true crime obviously,” Oliver says with a laugh.
The trilogy, called Curiosity House, is expected to be out in the second half of next year and revolves around “a museum of oddities, freaks and wonders, and the four extraordinary children who live there”.
Oliver, whose most recent book, Panic (released on March 4), has already entered The New York Times YA bestsellers list, also has two other books in the works.
Her next novel, Rooms, marks her foray into writing for the adult demographic. Based on a supernatural premise, Rooms tells the story of an estranged family that returns to clean out the family home after the death of the ex-husband and father. However, the house is also inhabited by two ghosts, who have their own tales to tell.
“They’ve taken on the house as their body, so instead of being organised by chapter, the book is organised by room. And you get both the front story of what’s happening in modern times, and also what’s happened there in the past,” Oliver explains.
Her other novel is a return to the YA genre, with the title Vanishing Girls.
“It’s about two sisters who are very, very close, and then there’s an accident that forever divides them. Basically, when one sister vanishes on her birthday, the older sister becomes convinced that her disappearance is linked to another disappearance. So it’s kind of a mystery, and it’s psychological.”
Rooms is expected to be out in September, while Vanishing Girl is scheduled to be released in the first half of next year.
In addition, Panic has been optioned for a movie by Universal Pictures. “We’re waiting on a script (to come) any day now,” Oliver shares.
This is not her first book to be picked up for the visual medium.The film rights for both her first novel, Before I Fall, and Delirium were previously acquired by 20th Century Fox.
Delirium, which was reworked as a TV series starring Emma Roberts as heroine Lena Halloway, went as far as having its pilot episode filmed, but the network eventually decided to drop it.
Says Oliver about the potential Panic movie: “I tried to not let myself fantasise too much about it because it’s just so uncertain. I mean, I have the most enthusiastic producers working on it, (and) I have so much support, but there are so many books that kind of make it to the screen, then can’t.
“So many things have to be right, so ...”