They may be fallen angels, but many of the characters of Lauren Kate’s bestselling Fallen series have certainly ascended to fan-favourite status with hordes of people around the world.
Five years ago, readers were introduced to Lucinda Price, Daniel Grigori and Cameron Briel, the main characters of Fallen, the first book of Kate’s series. This tale of angels-with-less-than-saintly-histories took the world by storm: it spent over a year on The New York Times bestseller list and eventually sold over 10 million copies worldwide in 30 countries.
And this year, to the delight of Fallen fans everywhere, a feature film based on the book has been released, starring Addison Timlin (as Lucinda), Jeremy Irvine (Daniel) and Harrison Gilbertson (Cam).
“I never expected this to happen. It’s all been very surprising and exciting for me! It happened so slowly, very piecemeal, that for me, in a sense, it felt natural,” Kate says over the phone from the United States.
“When I found out which actors were being cast, they felt perfect for the roles I had envisioned. I went to visit the set, and that was probably the most mind-blowing experience of the movie so far. Just seeing how vast the scope of the project was!”
Kate, 35, currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband (singer-songwriter Jason Morphew) and two children. Raised in Dallas, Texas, with a master’s degree in fiction from the University of California, she published her first young adult novel, the standalone The Betrayal Of Natalie Hargrove (Razorbill) in November 2009.
While the book came out to positive reviews, it was her second project, Fallen (Delacorte Press) – it was released just a month later, in December 2009! – that gained Kate widespread attention.
This young adult paranormal romance told the tale of Lucinda Price, a teenaged girl sent to a reform school after being accused of murdering a boy. There, she encounters a group of fascinating characters, including the mysterious (and really handsome!) Daniel Grigori and the charismatic Cam.
Lucinda soon learns, however, that Daniel, Cam and many of the people in the reform school are really fallen angels, some on the side of good and some on the side of evil. To complicate matters, Lucinda discovers she has a history with them, and a role to play in further events, some of which have world-shattering consequences.
According to Kate, the idea for Fallen came from a line in the Old Testament (Genesis 6:4, no less!), which she discovered while studying the Bible at graduate school in California. The verse concerned angels falling in love with mortal women and leaving heaven for them.
“The stories of the Bible have always obsessed me. I’m constantly trying to figure out what is it that’s so relevant about this particular text, where did it come from and what is it’s future? It’s something I will be circling my entire life,” she says.
Fallen has since been followed by several sequels: Torment (2010), Passion (2011) and Rapture (2012), which concludes the series. Other books in the series are the anthology Fallen In Love (2012) and Unforgiven (2015), a spin-off that tells the story of the character Cam.
The appeal of writing her books, Kate says, was that they allowed her to explore themes that were fascinating to her – most notably, how many things in life came in shades of grey.
“They’re exciting ways for me to explore complexities, things that are not purely black or white. The angels in the series have dark sides and the demons have redeeming qualities,” Kate explains.
“There’s a sense that anyone can be redeemed or cross over into the dark side at any moment. And I think what the possibilities of that can do to relationships is exciting, and frightening, and true to all our everyday struggles.”
According to Kate, her favourite parts of the Fallen series to write were the “bookends”: the prologue to Fallen and the epilogue to Rapture. The very first and last scene of the series, in other words.
“There was something almost effortless about writing the prologue. It was kind of a first glimpse into Lucinda and Daniel’s past life, that kind of came to me out of nowhere. It led me into writing all the pages in the middle,” she says.
“Writing the middle was quite a challenge, but when I finally got to the end, the epilogue, I had this ‘glossy’ feeling about it, it came so naturally, it felt so right almost immediately.
“There was something remarkable about the ease of how it started, and the ease of how I released it in the end. And that is part of what makes me confident that I’ve left their story in the right place.”
Does that mean we will not be seeing any more books set in the Fallen world?
“I do think Lucinda and Daniel’s story is complete. I think I’ve really released their characters into the universe. But it’s a big world, and there are a lot of different stories there. So I would never say never,” Kate says.
Pressed about the Fallen movie, Kate says that while there are changes to the story for the adaptation, she feels that it stays true to the essence of her novel.
“There are scenes here and there that are changed or added or taken away. And that really doesn’t bother me. It never bothered me as a movie goer, and it doesn’t bother me now as the author of the series,” says Kate, who is also the movie’s executive producer.
“I think there is a commitment to the character dynamics and the chemistry between them, and that was of utmost importance to me, (the director) Scott Hicks and the actors.
“And that’s why I think people who enjoyed the book will find everything they want in the movie.”
Kate has also written other books: her Teardrop series (comprising Teardrop, published in 2013, and Waterfall, 2014) tell the tale of Eureka, a girl whose tears have hidden powers.
“I’m actually working on the TV show version of Teardrop, kind of as we speak. I will have lots of information on that soon!” the author hints.
Kate has visited Malaysia before: in 2011, Kuala Lumpur was part of the Asian leg of her book tour.
“I had a remarkable time. I was in Kuala Lumpur for a few days with my husband. He got to do a lot more sight-seeing than I did, and I was envious of his photos!” Kate quips.
“I spent two to three days with my readers, and had some very delicious spicy food. And I was very impressed by the Malaysian readers I got to talk to. They had a keen intellect and looked at the stories quite critically, but did not ignore the romantic element in them.”
Kate’s next project will be another love story, this time set in the 19th century, during the American Civil War. Unlike her previous works, the author says this book, currently untitled, will not contain fantastical elements.
“It features a general from one side and a woman from the other, and the love story that connects them. It talks about the Civil War and the country that comes out of it, the connections that are made and shredded in war, and the way love intersects all of that,” Kate says.
Fallen, which is distributed locally by Rainfilm, is currently showing at cinemas nationwide.