Lauren Oliver is the best-selling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy. The final book in the latter series - Requiem - has just been released. It wraps up the story of Lena, a plucky young woman who lives in a future America where love is classified as an illness and young people are "cured" of the disease.
I was very lucky to grab a sit-down in a busy London coffee shop with the woman herself to discuss Lena, Alex vs. Julian and the screen adaptations of her work. I also managed a good back and forth about whether you can be cured of the Cure. Don't worry, no spoilers ahead for those who haven't yet read Requiem.
You're finally done with the trilogy. How do you feel?
It's probably similar to what people experience when they send their kids off to college. There's a sense of real pride and there's also a sense of real sadness and loss and a sense of relief as well!
After writing a hit in Before I Fall, people were a little surprised you did something totally different. How nerve-wracking was that?
One of the things I've tried to do in my career is really write different kinds of books, so I'm able to broaden people's expectations of what I'm allowed to do. There was the anxiety of writing a book that was radically different from my first book, but I wanted to specifically do that so over time I would have the freedom to do anything. If I started to write avant-garde pornography there would be a problem.
I'm assuming that's not on the cards!
Somebody actually wrote to me and said, 'I think you'd be great at writing a book like 50 Shades Of Grey.' And I was like, thanks, I'll keep writing children's books.
You also do something quite radical writing-wise by having the book told in alternating viewpoints between Lena and a cured Hana. Why?
I never intended that. But then I was writing Requiem and it was not working for me. And I realised so much of the book is founded on the fear of the Cure and we've never seen the Cure from anybody's perspective except those who are resistant to it. I knew we'd have to go back to Portland. And being able to see Portland and see some of the characters from Delirium not just as a footnote at the end of the book was really important.
Without giving anything away, the ending of Requiem isn't quite as comfortable as some might have thought. What's been the reaction to that?
You don't reach points in life at which everything is sorted out for us. I believe in endings that should suggest our stories always continue. For my readers in America, it's very split. Half of them are very angry, half of them love it. I've gotten a couple of emails where it's like I hated the ending and then I had to think about it and thought about it for a couple of days and now I understand why you did what you did. A little bit of controversy never hurt anybody. If you're not writing something that pisses people off a little bit, you're writing Hallmark cards.
The Delirium trilogy is currently being made into a TV series, starring Emma Roberts as Lena. Why TV rather than a movie?
Even though it was originally slated for a movie, they wanted to do a TV show, because they felt the world was rich enough. If they make it to air, by episode three they will have exhausted the material in my books because TV's so fast-paced. But the thing I love about TV is all those secondary characters, including the adults, they'll not only get screen time, they get plot arcs.
There's been some blowback online about the casting, especially Hana, who in the books is blonde, but the actress cast is brunette. What's your take on that?
You could describe every physical characteristic of a girl and it wouldn't give you any indication of how she looks. But if you say she's the kind of girl who always smiles as if she's swallowing back a secret, that also tells you something about who she is as a person. So Hana is supposed to be the kind of girl who around her, you feel a little bit less than because she's so hot and confident. So blonde hair, black hair, Latino, not. The girl who was cast is hot who if you were around her, you would feel a little bit less than. So to me, she's a great Hana.
Some YA authors get readers emailing them for school projects. Do you?
That happens to me! I don't mind, it's when they ask, 'can you tell me what the themes in your books are?' I'm like, you just want me to do your homework for you. Then I say no.
Requiem is out now in hardbook and ebook from Hodder & Stoughton.