Ronreads interview: Lauren Kate

The sizeable crowd at the Lauren Kate event at Glorietta 5

Now that my article on Lauren Kate has come out, I’m free to talk about how this particular interview went, especially when compared to the festival of awkward that was last year’s interview.

For one thing, Lauren was in incredibly high spirits when she sat down for this interview. Not that she wasn’t last year — she was incredibly gracious and fun — but this year it seemed she was even more gracious and fun. It was great because it immediately put me at ease; for some reason I am not rattled when interviewing politicians, but authors always make me feel like I’m on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

Not that I wasn’t awkward. Throughout the interview, I kept on banging my chair against a window, and spent about several minutes trying desperately to open a shrink-wrapped copy of “Passion” for Lauren to sign. I think at one point my flailing resulted in a pencil flying off the desk to her bemusement. Hopefully.

Ronreads (RR): Was it as fun writing the book as it was reading it?

Lauren Kate (LK): (Laughs) It wasn’t fun to write. I had a really hard time writing the first draft. Moving from scene to scene, century to century, and being set in so many different places, it was hard to get a flow and I kept wondering if it was adding up to anything because it felt so episodic. After the first draft I put it away for a while and I went on a tour. I was probably here. I went back to it in the winter and the revisions for me is the most fun part. I started tweaking things about it and seeing connections I haven’t seen before and that’s when it got fun. It got a lot better in the revisions but it was a challenge to write it.

RR: Were there things in the first draft that would surprise readers who are now reading the finished product?

LK: Mostly it has to do with what Luce is feeling. In the first draft, she was more confident and less bothered by some of the things she was saying. She was more of a transparent lens and I was just describing the things that were going on around her. In the second draft, I think it was in chapter five or six, when she encounters Bill inside the Announcers, was when I realized how terribly lonely she would have been at that point. That is what made a lot of sense of Bill coming in at that moment. Even though he’s rough and abrasive and she’s not really sure about him, she latches on to him because she’s just desperate for a companion. It was little things like that began to make sense and it usually had to do with her state of mind.

RR: Despite Luce dying again and again throughout the book, it just felt so joyous to read.

LK: Yeah, I felt that way too.

RR: Was it liberating to write this book? I felt that the first and second books set up the relationship and mythology of the universe. Now you can tell the meat of the story.

LK: Yes, it was. Obviously there are some things that haven’t been answered. There are some questions that “Rapture” is going to really address, but it was wonderful to give Luce the power to see all these things about herself. Even though she dies, these small moments of tragedy, her life now is the thing that matters to us and to the reader, and to her story. It’s kind of looking back and seeing all these mistakes that you’ve made in your life and Luce can look back and see that that was horrible and that that was a struggle, and that this makes her do that for the wrong reason. But it makes her stronger as a character.

RR: There were already hints of the periods of time that Luce would be going back to back in “Fallen”. Did you already have everything planned back then?

LK: No! (laughs) It ended up being kind of funny because it became kind of a constraint, but in a good way. I just thought of that catalogue where Daniel would talk about 20 different places where he knew her. I was just flying by the seat of my pants in that story. But then it became a reality and I had to work with that and I was like “Okay, she has to be at the Globe, she has to be at Versailles,” and I had to try and make sense of that puzzle. I think it worked out for the most part. It ended up being okay. It’s interesting the things that you put into one book and you don’t realize the implications that they’re going to have, a ripple effect, on later books.

RR: Was there anything back in Daniel’s monologue back in “Fallen” that made you think “I shouldn’t have put that in because it’s so hard to work into the story!”

LK: (Laughs) I remember doing that with “Torment”, actually. In “Fallen”, I said the truce was going to last 18 days, so everything had to happen in 18 days. It was a sqwoosh(?) to get everything in there, but it was also a nice format, and it gave me a shape to the story.

RR: And now you’ve set up “Rapture” to happen in nine days….

LK: Yep, I did it all over again (laughs).

RR: Did you have to do a lot of research?

LK: It required a lot of research, almost as much research as I did during the beginning of “Fallen”, when I was learning about angels. In this book, I was learning more about history. Some historical research, some travel that I’ve done. The Chichen Itza scene, the Mayan culture, I had been to Chichen Itza and I had always been inspired by that place.

But a lot of it was rereading classic works of literature. When she’s in Milan, that was “A Farewell to Arms” by Hemmingway. I read that and pulled some pieces out of that story and put it into this story. I read a lot of Victorian novels for the Helston chapter like “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins, “North and South” by Elizabeth Gaskell. In Moscow, it was inspired by Bulgakov’s “The Master and the Margherita” which I really love. That made the research more feasible for me.

RR: But how did you prevent yourself getting too much into your research? When do you know that you know enough?

LK: That is the question. It is a balancing act between getting very invested in your research and feeling that you know enough to start doing your writing. I remember talking to my professor about that when I was doing research for “Fallen”, and I asked her how will I know that I know enough to write. She sort of laughed at me and gave me the courage. She told me “What do you think Shakespeare did? What do you think Milton did?” I think this is a common struggle for writers and you have to have the guts and plunge into your own work. You can always go back and revisit text. I think when you start wondering “Do I know enough now?” is when you know enough to get started.

RR: Was it trickier to write this novel because of the time travel aspect?

LK: I think it happened in stages. During the first draft I just worried about what Luce was seeing and what was actually happening on the page. On the second draft, I went back and thought how her being there and the little things she’s doing as an Anachronism, how does that change things? How will it be absorbed to the story.

Daniel is more aware of that than Luce, because he knows what he’s getting himself into. With Daniel I was able to describe what it was like to re-encounter and remember seeing that version of yourself. There are a lot of scenes where Daniel goes back and looks at a past version of himself and he thinks “This is when that version of myself came and encountered me and I always wondered what it was about and now I know where it stems from.” I think it was good for Luce to be a little bit oblivious to certain things and have Daniel’s story fill in those explanations.

RR: Have there been reaction from readers because most of the side characters take the back seat?

LK: I haven’t head anything specific. I’ve heard questions about whether we will see them again. I think I’ve said in the beginning that “Passion” was going to be about Luce and Daniel and everything else kind of fell away. We only see other characters for just a moment. Definitely all those characters have been lying in wait and they’re ready to come back on and they do in “Rapture”.

RR: Will they be doing something that will surprise readers?

LK: I think so.

Lauren gets a fan-made shirt that reads 'Pilipinos heart Lauren'.

RR: What was the best and most surprising thing about the Filipino fans?

LK: The people were so immediately warm. A lot of times, when you go on a book tour, you don’t get a chance to sight see because you’re just rushing around doing events and then you leave to go to the next place. I rely on the people to tell me a lot about what the place is like. In some places I’ve visited you get a sense from the people, and I got a very strong sense of what the Filipino people are. They’re very cozy, warm, and have a lot of good humor. When I was in Singapore, there was a long line of Singaporean fans, and there were these two people who came up and I could tell from the way they were walking and the way they were talking that they were Filipino (laughs)! I was just so happy to see them. It’s just a different kind of energy.

RR: Was there a particular era in “Passion” that you liked writing? Or were they all equally torture?

LK: (Laughs) I really liked the Helston scenes. The prologue of “Fallen” served as a great piece for me. I just kept thinking why they were there. I knew that scene was significant because it gave us a glimpse into her passing and showed us what it was like when she died. But I didn’t quite know what she was in that life so I was ready to sit there for a little while in that lifetime. I think I spent four chapters as opposed to just one or two. It felt very real to me.

The idea that Luce didn’t like her past self, didn’t like this girl because of when, where, and how she was brought up. She’s the polar opposite of the girl that’s narrating this book, and yet Daniel still falls for her. That really bothers Luce, and she wonders whether they do have free will or if the curse has removed their ability to choose each other for the right reasons. I think that really resonated with me in terms of thinking of the way that I was as a teen, going into my first relationship and wondering if you’re doing things for the right reasons. Why are you with this person and are you changing yourself to be right for them? I enjoyed writing Daniel’s point of view and writing hers.

RR: What would have happened if Luce had used the starshot on herself?

LK: That is the question. It’s left a little bit mysterious for a reason. We’re going to hear about that again when we get to “Rapture”.

The way I think of it is that your soul is twined around, wrapping around both of the bodies. When Miles uses the starshot against Daniel in Jerusalem, it’s a way of uncoiling and freeing that one portion that you need to use. There will be more cleaving in “Rapture” and a bit more information about what it’s really about.

RR: Where you able to use all the angel research that you made beforehand?

LK: There will be more surprises. There’s a lot of things that I wrote down and I wasn’t really sure how they would fit in the story. At this point, it’s just catching all of those little details and finding the right place for them. A lot of “Rapture” feels like I’ve already written it before, and now I’m just trying to figure out where to put it all in the end. It’s quite different from “Fallen” where I was throwing a lot of different stuff up.

I don't think these were the bloggers, but they sure are fans!

RR: Was there a memorable reaction from a Filipino fan that you hold dear?


LK: There’s a group of bloggers that reached out to me at different points before I came here. I’d done a few interviews done with them online, and to get to see somebody’s face and thinking that you know them. I remember seeing them far down the line at the main event and just knowing them and feeling like we’re friends already even though we haven’t actually met. It was fun to meet them and they gave me this really huge poster board with all these kind notes.

RR: Do you plan to write anything outside of the young adult supernatural genre?

LK: I never really use the term supernatural, but I guess it is because of the angels. I do have an idea for my next series and it’s going to be a dark romance starring a 17-year-old girl. It’s probably going to be a trilogy and it will have some magical realism elements. I don’t think I’m going to go straight realistic fiction just yet, but maybe one day. Now, I’m enjoying the freedom and creativity of a little bit of fantasy.

RR: When you were revising “Passion”, were there some changes that surprised even you?

LK: Yeah, most of the places! One I can think of is Cam’s story. When we see him in Jerusalem and we see him cross over. I don’t think I knew why all the angels have fallen and that’s why I wrote this book. I realized that it’s a lot more complicated than just deciding to be evil. The roll call was a lot more layered than that. Cam’s place in all of this, his journey from the time of the Fall, his moment in Jerusalem, and the time we see him with Luce in “Fallen”, that was surprising to me. It inspired me to reconsider Cam in a lot of important ways that we’ll see more about in “Rapture”.

RR: Exciting! What else can readers expect from “Rapture”? Do you already have an idea of where it’s going to go or is it still all up in the air?

LK: It’s hard to stay. I always think I know, but I also know that it’s going to change a lot from now until it’s ready to go to the printers. I am very excited to see the characters fall back in line. I think that what they’re banding to do together is really exciting and I think there will be a lot of surprises in store for the readers. This is the only time that I’ve been drafting a book and I’ve been sitting in front of my computer and actually cried. There’s this one moment that I’m excited to share with readers.

RR: Which you won’t share in this interview.

LK: (Laughs) Of course not!

(Photos courtesy of National Bookstore)

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