“Usually I have an idea, and almost immediately it’s narrated to me by a character, and I also hear language when I’m writing it."
Talking with Lauren Oliver
Lauren Oliver has written in different genres and for different age levels. She’s written series and stand-alone books. Her latest projects add to her literary diversity as she’s just finished the first in a realistic teen fiction series called PANIC and is now working on her first adult book. They’ll both come out next year. REQUIEM, the last of her futuristic YA Delirium series and latest publication, is being filmed by Fox for a pilot of the series. She’s published everything but picture books. Oliver laughs at the thought of that one missing format. Actually, she’s co-written one with a friend and is considering what to do with it. “My agent says then I’ll have my readers from cradle to grave.”
How does she manage to move so gracefully between genres and generations? “I’m so uninterested in categories. I’m happy to do any book that grips me. Both my publisher and agent encourage me not to stick to one category, and I love having that freedom,” says Oliver. “I read so broadly, and I think that influences how I write.”
Not only does Oliver read and write widely, she writes deeply. For example, the Delirium series is set in a futuristic society that outlaws love, and Oliver plumbs the depths of what that means. “I wanted to write about the many ways love manifests and becomes complicated in all relationships. How might your feelings betray you? What if somebody you depend on disappears?” Oliver executes these themes elegantly, embedding them in the three books with fast-moving plots.
One of the unexpected pleasures Oliver found in writing the Delirium series came when she met Sarah Drew, the narrator of all the books. “She’s done an amazing job, and we’ve become quite friendly. We met because she was about to record, and she reached out to me. We talked and talked at length about the books. I think she and I are interested in many of the same themes, and we have the same impressions of the characters and their reactions to the books’ themes. We were really copacetic.” Generally, Oliver never rereads or listens to her books. “Every time I do that I find places I could have edited, or done better.” Because of her friendship with Sarah, she may now listen to at least some, “just to hear her recording.”
Oliver does quite a bit of listening to her characters. “Usually I have an idea, and almost immediately it’s narrated to me by a character, and I also hear language when I’m writing it. They say writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” She’s particular about rhythms and dialogues. “Dialogue is so tricky. When I read, I take note of dialogue that’s done well and not done well. I treat my writing very seriously. It’s my passion, but it’s also my job, so I spend a lot of time thinking about craft.”
Oliver is now applying something she learned from her Delirium experience as she works on an untitled middle grade series. “It’s kind of a secret; all of the books will be released at the same time.” This creative process occurred as the Delirium books were released one at a time. “Nowadays there’s an expectation that you communicate with your fans online, which I love to do. But when you make yourself available to them, you also make yourself available to a constant barrage of suggestions, critiques, and criticism--some of it cruel. And it’s really important as a writer that you make your decisions based on what’s good for the book, not just on what will please an audience.”--Susie Wilde