Fans of The Hunger Games, the riveting and wildly popular novel by Suzanne Collins, have been eagerly awaiting the publication of the second book in the trilogy, Catching Fire on September 1. And they won’t be disappointed.
Katniss Everdeen hails from District 12, a poor, coalmining region, part of the nation of Panem, with its shining Capitol surrounded by 12 districts, each with its own products and geography. The Capitol is focused on controlling the districts; rebellion or dissension simply isn’t tolerated. In order to maintain its tight hold on the outlying regions, for the past 74 years the Capitol has required that each district send one boy and one girl between ages 12 and 18 into a horrifying, televised spectacle—a fight to the death.
In Catching Fire, Katniss, an expert with a bow and arrow who has grown up hunting in order to help feed her sister and widowed mother, begins to encounter the ramifications of the events that propelled her into the spotlight of the 74th Hunger Games, when she volunteered to take her little sister’s place. She now finds that her actions there have placed her, as well as her friends and family, in even greater danger.
Although she’s working assiduously on the final book in the trilogy, Suzanne Collins graciously gave BookPage some of her time to discuss the books. Despite her success, Collins is friendly, forthcoming and down-to-earth (her two kids keep her that way, she says).
And, a promise: no spoilers!
You’ve been a successful writer of books such as Gregor the Overlander series. Did the overwhelming reaction to The Hunger Games take you by surprise?
The reaction did surprise me somewhat. I’ve been writing for television a long time, books not so long. Writing for TV is very collaborative, and relatively anonymous. Since there are usually so many writers involved, there’s not much attention on an individual writer.
Has it been difficult to find time to write?
It has been harder to find time to write, especially last fall, when I was promoting The Hunger Games, finishing Catching Fire and developing book three. However, the good news is I think we’re right on schedule!
At what point did you know that your story was a trilogy?
I knew from the beginning. Once I’d thought through to the end of the first book, I knew there would be repercussions from the events that take place there. So I actually proposed it as a trilogy from the outset, with the main story laid out. I started out as a playwright, and have an M.F.A. from New York University in dramatic writing. After I graduated, I began writing for television. Since I’ve worked in television so long, the three-act dramatic structure comes naturally to me. But I don’t like to “over-outline.” I like to leave breathing room for the characters to develop emotionally—which they often do. Characters always have surprises for you. They try on possibilities and even make some decisions you don’t anticipate. It’s a good thing, and I think it indicates that a story has vitality.
In Catching Fire we see a side of Katniss where she is not always as sure-footed or aware, especially in matters of political intrigue.
I think the thing to remember is how limited her experience is to her world and politics. Even as she becomes more embroiled in events, no one sees that it is in her best interest to educate her.
It’s rare to find a book with two such appealing romantic heroes as Peeta and Gale. Do you know how the romantic triangle will turn out in Book Three?
Yes, I do. [Sorry, readers, that’s about all she would say!]
It’s impossible not to ask about the third book and the movie. Will you be involved in any way with the film?
Yes! The Hunger Games has been optioned and I’m signed on to do the screenplay. I am looking forward to telling the story in a different medium. Of course we will be handling the subject matter very carefully and anticipate that the film will have a PG-13 rating.
What do you hope these books will encourage in readers?
I hope they encourage debate and questions. Katniss is in a position where she has to question everything she sees. And like Katniss herself, young readers are coming of age politically.
Where do you live and what does your family think about your success?
We now live in Connecticut. We lived in New York City for a long time but with two children we were bursting out of our apartment. I have a daughter, age 10 and my son, 15. My son’s a great reader for me. And they both have a good time teasing me about all the attention.
What are some of your favorite things to do when you’re not writing?
I like to read and watch old movies. And these days, when I can, sleep!
Deborah Hopkinson’s new books for young readers are Michelle and Stagecoach Sal.
Read Deborah Hopkinson's October 2008 review of The Hunger Games.