Lauren Kate paranormal romance author talks at Dymocks Collins Street, Melbourne
On a cold night on 3 August, Lauren Kate visited Dymocks in Collins Street, Melbourne, to talk to her fans. Lauren also answered questions and signed copies of her books. Dark Matter received permission from Lauren’s publicist, Dorothy Tonkin of Random House, to record Lauren’s talk, which is available in MP3 (podcast) format at the bottom of this page and text here.
Lauren started her talk quickly, focusing on her Fallen series.
Daniel begins to list many of the places where he’s met her, and loved her and lost her before. You guys will remember, and rereading I remembered with a surprised pleasure that Daniel was a convict in Melbourne. So you guys were in my heart and in Daniel’s heart from the beginning. All you convicts out there, that portion of the story really was the genesis of the book. When I wrote that scene I did it almost a little recklessly. There were moments when you’re sitting at your computer and you get away from your plan. I make an outline before I start a book and I kind of have a map or paragraph for each chapter that I write. Sometimes the characters are really coming alive, they do things and say things that surprise you. The catalogue that Daniel spits out was one of those times.
Daniel says I knew you when I was a convict in Melbourne, I knew you when we were at the Globe Theatre and all these things. I wrote all of that without thinking too much about it. A year and a half later when I sat down to write this book I realised I had given myself all these boundaries. And all of this permission, but I had given myself the shape of this book, which is Passion. It’s the third book in the series. It dips back into and explores the many, many past lives that Luce and Daniel lived together. It’s been by far the most challenging book to write because each chapter takes place in a completely new setting, a completely new country and a completely new language is spoken. It’s a new century, even a new millennia.
Add to that, it’s a split narrative. This is the first time in the series we get both Luce and Daniel’s side of the story in equal measure. I think what that did was make me fall in love with Daniel. I had been at a bit of a distance from him for the first two books. I knew that his secrets were important and he had his reasons for being so difficult at times. It was a pleasure to get very close to him in Passion and spend a lot of time behind the scenes with Daniel and get inside his mind. Most of all, I am proud of who Luce is and what she’s become. I think she’s grown in leaps and bounds from where she was when she began in Fallen.
Somebody asked me recently how I keep up with my readers. Say in Harry Potter, if you’re 14 when Harry’s 14, a year goes by and when Harry’s 15, you’re 15 as well. So it’s the kind of series where readers age a year with the characters. I think that makes a kind of sense. Although Luce has only aged a day or a month since we last saw her, I think the progress the characters go through in the book is the kind of progress that you and I and everyone who is growing up outside of the world of the series is progressing. So I was glad to see Luce really grow up a lot in this book.
I spoke at a girls’ school this morning. Usually I walk into an event like this and I kind of know what I’m going to read from. I didn’t really know. I thought, ‘I’m going to read this evil scene from the book, with all the bad guys in the book.’ But I looked out at them and I thought they looked so nice. So I thought maybe I’d put it up to a vote and let them decide. And so I gave them romantic, evil, girl power and action. And you can guess which one they chose. It was not evil, it was romantic. And I’m looking at you guys and I’m feeling romantic too. Are you feeling romantic?
[Crowd] No! Evil! Evil! Evil!
Evil? Alright then, alright. Well let’s get a little evil then.
(Lauren read the scene where the evil group congregated at the race track.)
I’m in Melbourne for less than 2 days so I haven’t gotten to see all that much. But by the time I leave I feel like I’ve gotten this really cool connection with a lot of the people here. So in a sense I feel like I’ve gotten to do more sight seeing and soaking up what’s really Melbourne than probably a lot of tourists do, so I’m incredibly grateful to you guys for coming out and sharing this with me. I hope you all feel free to ask me questions.
Where do the wings come from?
I don’t know. I think this is one of those moments where the magic that happens at the keyboard, you can’t really plan out. I remember the first time I got to write about the individual character’s specific wings, what they actually looked like. I had known obviously from the beginning of Fallen that Gabbi, Arion, Roland, Cam, Daniel of course, all had wings. I hadn’t even thought of what they actually looked like because for such a long period in the first book they needed to be incognito. There’s a moment where Luce is trapped in the chapel. She’s just been captured by Miss Sophia. Daniel comes in and saves her. It’s the first time he gets to show his wings. Gabby and Arion are with him and they get to show their wings as well. It just happened that I described each one of them the way that I did. I think that probably was lucky that by then I knew them well enough to instinctively know what their wings looked like. It’s become a very good part of the series. It’s something that my agent particularly likes. It’s something that I, in a first draft, will gloss over. I’ll say something like ‘and his wings shot out of his body’ and then I’ll move on to the next thing. I always get notes from him like ‘more wings. We need two paragraphs on the wings.’ So I have been pushed to realise the mechanics of them, what they look like and how their clothes have been tailored. It’s interesting the way that what their wings look like is probably the most direct extension of what their souls look like. Which is the most important part of what an angel is. This is the closest we get to seeing what their souls look like.
How did you come up with the character for Daniel?
Most of the other characters are slightly, if not based on someone, they’re at least influenced by one specific person that I know in my life. Luce, for example, is based on my oldest, closest friend. She began as a kind of reimagining of my friend Megan. And of course as I wrote fictional obstacles and events in the characters’ paths, they grow and change into themselves into something quite themselves and quite unique.
Daniel actually grew out of Luce. He didn’t really have another starting point, because when I started the series, I was wondering who Luce was and why her. So I had to think about her first and I had to have her identity forming in my mind. I like to think of Luce as a puzzle piece shaped like this. So all Daniel is, is a puzzle piece shaped like this. He is the soul that fits hers completely. His character is mainly developed out of who she is and who she is becoming. Who she wants to be. This space that’s left around her is where Daniel comes in and what Daniel has to fulfil and infill.
Did you have any input into the cover design?
The covers are pretty amazing aren’t they? I can say that because I didn’t have much to do with them. When Fallen came to me it looked pretty much the way that it does now. It is strange, because when I was writing Fallen I was living on a farm in the middle of nowhere in the middle of California. I didn’t even have internet access. I think I had something very slow on my cell phone that I could download files. It took like an hour and half or something. I remember getting an email from my editor with a cover mock up or cover draft, an early version of the cover. So I’d seen this email, it felt like a huge, momentous moment because I’d finished the manuscript but I hadn’t seen any of this yet. Of course I’m sitting there on the couch, holding the phone out the window, trying to get the best reception. It felt like it took forever to see this image, downloaded on PDF on this little screen. Honestly when I first saw it, I was very unsure. I felt stunned. Even though we don’t see a lot of Luce in the image, her face is graciously obscured and she’s left very mysterious as I think she should be, it’s still really jarring for me to see somebody else’s idea of a representation of her. Even seeing that arm, it was kind of like, is that her arm? Is that what you think her arm looks like? Is that what I think her arm looks like? I had a little freak out about it. It lasted about 30 seconds, then I began to soak up what that image evokes. It is so rich and so bountiful. To me it expresses a lot of the mood and the tone that is contained within these stories. When I saw Torment, I just collapsed in a fit of ecstasy because I think it’s just the most incredible thing. Basically I’ve been really lucky to have worked with this excellent artist, designer and photographer and model. The girl who shoots these photographs is also the model, in Brazil. I don’t know how she does it. The designers that my publisher works with are in New York. Even something as simple as the type in these books, to me it’s all really working together to create this really lovely thing. I feel lucky and happy that I’ve gotten to showcase these images on the books.
Was there a difference from full time editing to full time writing?
Definitely. Most recently I got a graduate degree in writing. This was when I moved to California, to this middle-of-nowhere farm. Before that I was living in New York, working at a publishing house as an editor. I did that for about 5 years and I really loved it. I learned a lot. Obviously I learned a lot of things about the book business, but I think I learned most importantly how exceptional revision is. I hated to revise before I started working as an editor. I thought once I’d drafted it, it was done, it was perfect, it was as good as it was ever going to be. Now I feel really the opposite. Now I know how much perspective can be gained in revision. I think it’s a very important skill that I’ve learned.
The difference between full time writing and full time editing; basically my biggest problem with full time editing is that I had no time to write. I guess I miss editing a little bit. I certainly miss the people I used to work with. It was a really good change for me to leave that behind, to go to graduate school and pursue writing full time.
Will we ever see how Luce and Daniel first met?
Luce must have gotten to you and posed that question, because that’s what she wants to know, very badly. I kept kind of arguing with her in Rapture because she wanted to know much too soon. That’s the great mystery. When and where did they first meet? I’ve been dancing around that a lot, especially in Passion and more so in Rapture. But I promise I will show you all where it all started.
Which authors inspire you when you write?
Lots. An ever growing list. One of the cool things about being a writer and talking to so many readers is that I get book recommendations, 5 good ones every day, so I’m never really at a loss for good things to read. The big kind of core from me are F. Scott Fitzgerald; The Great Gatsby is a huge book for me, I adore it. William Faulkner; I think his relationship to the past is very influential in Fallen and especially in Passion. Nabokov, Lolita; I adore, I think it’s a masterpiece. Charles Dickens; I love Great Expectations. I really love grotesque, exaggerated characters. I read a lot of young adult books. Since I started working in publishing I’ve been reading tons and tons of young adult books. I adore Suzanne Collins. If you haven’t read The Hunger Games you have to buy it right now. And Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass. Lyra Belacqua is my idol.
Will Pennyweather be reincarnated?
Pen is Luce’s only normal friend in Fallen, and she dies an untimely death and it was very tragic. I think more than anything else, I get this question all the time. People seem to have connected to Pen and want her back very badly. I wasn’t sure how it would work. I asked my agent, everybody really loves Pen, they want me to bring her back, is that ok? He just looked at me like, Girlfriend, that is the dumbest question ever. Move on. So I’m sorry, blame it on him, he’s mean. But yeah, I think it would be interesting to see where Pennyweather is. Mostly because we’re going to go to heaven in the books. We’re getting very close to there. We’re going to be up there in Rapture. Get ready. You guys are all going to heaven. So I’ve been wondering about this. This is the angels’ heaven, this is populated by all the characters that we’ve read in the books but it’s not the heaven of the afterlife. I haven’t really explored that yet. So I think that might be a really interesting thing to write about in a bonus chapter that I could put online or release to a bookstore or something. So maybe I can work on that.
Do you think the young adult genre, especially for girls, is underrated by the literary elites, academics, etcetera?
I don’t know. When I think about books, people’s taste in books, it’s entirely subjective. There is no accounting for taste. The people I love and respect and share book recommendations with all the time and get a lot of recommendations from, sometimes recommend a book that I absolutely hate. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t even think that’s anything interesting, it’s just taste. Some people like this kind of story, some people like that kind of story. I was watching a, I don’t remember the name of the show is, but you guys have a show on one of your public access channels here I was watching a book club last night, it was on at 10 o’clock to 11 o’clock last night. It was all about the Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. I adore that book and a big chunk of Passion is influenced by the Moscow setting in that book. They had these fancy smart great writers and journalists on the show and none of them could agree on whether that was a good book. I was like throwing my shoes at the TV, and I was like ‘Get with the program! That is the Best. Book. Ever!’ But that’s ok, that’s why there is chocolate and vanilla.
When I first started touring for Fallen, I would look out at the audience and there would be half and half. Half teen girls and the other half anything else. Boyfriends dragged against their will, parents, grandparents, random people going through the bookstore anyway. A lot of times in the beginning, afterwards a woman would come up to me while I was signing and she’d say to me ‘I know I’m not your demographic, but I like your books.’ I’m like, don’t apologise to me, this is great.
Something happened in the past year and a half since I’ve been doing this. I don’t know if any of you are planning to apologise to me tonight. But I don’t think there is any shame in it anymore. I think by now people are coming out whether it’s a young adult book or a middle grade book, people are coming out for a good story. And whatever you like, you like. I basically just feel like a lot of positivity and if you like a book, enjoy it. If you don’t, read another one. There’s a zillion.
Who was the man Cam and Daniel killed on the beach in Torment?
He was an outcast. In the opening scene of Torment, in the prologue, Cam and Daniel… Oh, you’re right, he wasn’t an outcast. He was, I’ve gotten confused. He was somebody else sent by Miss Sophia. I probably shouldn’t tell you that. I’m not going to answer that question right now. You’ll see.
What new ideas do you have for a new novel or a film deal?
That would be nice.
[Girl] Wouldn’t it?
The film rights have been optioned by Disney and they’re working on a script. It’s very exciting. I got to meet the producers and they seem really cool and really excited, which is the main thing. They haven’t started casting anybody yet. I know there has been a lot of speculation online, but nobody has confirmed anybody yet. They will start casting once they have finished writing the script and it’s ready to roll.
The other part of the question was do I have ideas for a new novel. Yes, I do. I’ve got kind of a sentence that’s been brewing in my mind and has been churning into something. I think that maybe when I finished Torment I was starting to get a little panicked about what I was going to do after I finish Fallen because these characters have become my friends, my life. It was like what am I going to do when they all go off to college and leave me at home alone. That kind of empty nestor feeling. So I have this other thing I’ve been thinking about and it’s steadily been growing, becoming more complicated and tangible. It’s going to be a trilogy about a 17 year old girl. A whole new world. No angels. No vampires or werewolves either. No zombies. It’s an entirely new thing that I’m very very excited about and I’m really looking forward to digging into and being able to share more with you about it soon.
How do you write a story and make the plot puzzle end where everything makes sense? Isn’t it confusing to make all your ideas flow?
Yeah it is. I wonder that too about a lot of series authors who I think are really doing such an exceptional job. I think about J. K. Rowling all the time. I’d think how did she know she was going to need this later? How did she figure all that out? I can’t speak for anyone else, I’d actually love to talk to a bunch of other writers about this. For me, some things just turn out. You weren’t expecting them to fall into place but I think maybe my subconscious is just working through things that I’m not aware of, and something is there for me when I need it two books later. Like the catalogue of past lives I was telling you about with Daniel. That ended up working out kind of nicely with Passion. And some things you have to niggle with a little bit. That is what revision is for.
Usually what I do is, right before I start writing a new book, right before I started writing Rapture, I went back and reread the other ones. To make sure I am on the same page that I was a year or two ago. Obviously you remember the big stuff, but then there’s little stuff you might not remember. I was reading Fallen recently and I totally forgot that Luce’s dad is a really big gardener. It’s not a huge deal, but I realised I can really use that later on in Rapture, and you’ll see. There are always ways to check yourself and go back. That is why revision is so key, especially for series writers. Again I think trusting your subconscious to figure out some things that maybe you can’t is a good idea. You might be surprised how much you’re actually doing, making connections that you’re not really noticing.
What made you pick France at the time, there’s a Versailles chapter in Passion, and had you thought about setting it in the French revolution?
I keep talking about the same thing. The reason I wrote about Versailles in the chapter is that, very off-handedly in the heat of the moment, Daniel said, ‘We were in Versailles together.’ So there you are, I had to write about Versailles. My subconscious must have wanted to. I am very interested in it, I studied in Paris when I was in college and spent some time in Versailles and was very intrigued by a lot of things in Versailles. It must have been something I always wanted to revisit without really being aware of. I think all the chapters in this book, all the historical places that Luce and Daniel dip in and out of are places that interest me in various ways. So this is kind of like my version of history’s greatest hits.
Do Cam and Luce get together in a past life?
Would you like to see that?
I’ll give you the dirt on Cam. If you don’t know, he’s the bad guy, he’s the villain, he’s a demon. He’s also the most awesome character in the book, largely because he’s based on my husband. So people always say, ‘What team are you on? Team Daniel or Team Cam?’ Well obviously I’m on Team Cam. But I know Luce is Team Daniel, and again, chocolate or vanilla, and that’s cool. But Cam is – I fell in love with Cam in a way I wasn’t expecting to, and his role in the stories has changed because of that. He took on a much more dynamic role than I was expecting him to at first. I thought he could just be the bad guy but he obviously couldn’t, he had to have a much more complex back story because I started to like him so much and realised all these things about him. That actually is why there is this kind of vacuum of power for Miss Sophia and the Outcasts and the elders and Lucifer and Satan themselves to come in, all because of Cam and how he ended up being kind of a cool guy. So as for his love story, yeah, I know I’ve got to deal with it, I’ve got to do it. You’ll see some nice things written into Rapture that I think you’ll like if you’re a Cam person. There’s one fairly ascetic moment between him and Luce that really surprised me when I was writing it. Yeah. More to come. More to come on Cam.
How did you come up with so unique and lovely names for your characters?
Luce’s name, Lucinda, means light. She’s also named after the singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams. Daniel is named for the Book of Daniel which is the first book in the Bible where you see an angel independent of God, which made sense for his personality. Arion I just thought was a really cool name. It’s kind of a mishmash of different things coming together, different inspirations and just random choices at the same time.
Dymocks thanked Lauren for her talk, then Lauren signed hundreds of books. Over lunch the next day I asked Lauren how her wrist was holding up, and she said it was getting better.