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Interview with Lauren Kate, Author of Fallen

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My special guest today is Lauren Kate, author of Fallen. Kate grew up in Dallas, sent to school in Atlanta, and started writing in New York. She's also the author of The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove. She's currently working on the sequel to Fallen, Torment. Kate was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.

Thanks so much for the interview, Lauren! Tell us, what was your inspiration for Fallen?

I got the idea for Fallen from a line in Genesis that describes a group of angels who were cast out of heaven for falling in love with mortal women. I started thinking about what it would be like to be a normal girl — suddenly the object of an angel's affection. What kind of baggage would an angel have? What would her very over-protective parents think? From there, this whole world unfurled in my head. Fallen angels, demons, reincarnation, and the war in heaven were all battling for a piece of the action.

I found the atmosphere in the book deliciously dark. How conscious do you have to be of language to create such an effect?

Thank you! It took me until the second draft of Fallen to realize that the setting was really another character in the story. At times, I struggled with those descriptions — like, how many times can I use the word “humid?” — but then, once I started to see how integral Savannah and Sword and Cross were to Luce’s storyline, I started to have more fun with it. Torment is set in an entirely different place, but I like to think the setting is just as relevant and important, and just as much fun.

Did you plot the story in advance or did the story and characters develop as you wrote?

I surprised myself by meticulously plotting out Fallen before I wrote it. Character descriptions, paragraph-long synopses for each chapter, “big” endings, the whole deal. The outline (along with a few chapters) was shared with writer-friends, agents and/or editors at very early stages. And because the story was larger and more complicated than I’d first realized, I actually did revisions on the outline. Way more plotting than I’d ever done before.

At the end of plotting, when I was ready to plunge into the story, it was comforting to sit down every day and know I had to write a chapter where X happened, followed by Y, and then Z. But sometimes, it was also uninspiring. Suddenly, Y bored me, and Z felt really predictable. But it was in the outline, which fit together like a puzzle! What to do? Eventually, I realized there were days when I would have to loosen my leash from my outlines, to let the story adapt and change organically as I went along. This was a very good decision, and I think the book is stronger because of both my plotting and my plot-straying.

Who is your favorite character in the book? Why?

I love Arriane. The crazy ones are always the most fun, aren’t they? She is crazy, but she’s also smart and loyal and funny and will be very important to Luce over the course of the series.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this novel?

This is the first time I’ve written any kind of series and it was very, very different from my experience writing my first novel, The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove. Because Luce’s story is so far-reaching and will take so long to tell, the challenge of the first book was doing all the work setting up the world of these characters. There were so many rules to invent, so many back-stories to keep straight, and so many plot twists to withhold from the reader for later books! All of that was a challenge, but I think it paid off for me as a writer. Because so much is already in place, Torment has been vastly easier to write than Fallen.

Did you keep a disciplined schedule? How long did it take you to write it?

I’ve become a strange sort of writing machine this year. It’s bizarre. In the past it’s taken me six years to get one draft of a novel out. I wrote Fallen in two months. Then, after my editor looked at it and gave me some suggestions, I spent another month revising it. That’s also been the case for Torment. There’s something about the urgency of Luce’s story that gets into me, and it all sort of tumbles out. It’s clumsy and at times agonizing, uninspiring work, but I do so much work in between the first and second draft that I’ve started to realize it’s okay. I have to get it all out first, and then I go back in later and make everything better — make the story more like what it wants to be.

Please share with my readers a bit about your road to publication. Was it easy or difficult?

Both! At first it was very difficult, and then it got a lot easier. I’ve been writing stories since high school, sending them out with hopes of publication since college. I published a story online here and there, never with much consequence. I moved on to write two novels that do nothing but gather e-dust on my hard drive, and I definitely had moments where I thought it just was never going to happen. Then I started writing The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove. It was the first time I had a clear idea for a full story arc in my mind before I started writing, and I think that was an important shift for me. Because, um, the book actually went somewhere. After that, I hooked up with my former boss who is now working as an agent and we started talking about Fallen. I wrote about five chapters of the book and he helped me structure a proposal for the rest of the series. I left it in his hands and hoped for the best—and we couldn’t have done any better than the folks we ended up with at Delacorte. They’re a dream team.

What is your greatest challenge as an author?

Sometimes staying in a scene long enough to do it justice is a challenge for me. Especially with the Fallen series, when I know so much about the exciting things coming up in later parts of the novel, I’m so eager to get there that I sometimes forget to take my time and really make the most of every moment I’m writing about. My editor and agent are always telling me “Slow down!” “Give up the goods!” This happens a lot with the steamier scenes in the novel. Sometimes I try to skip over them or write around them because I keep thinking about my grandmother reading them or something. But when I force myself to sit down and stay a while, to write about that kiss for three whole pages and really ‘go there,’ it makes all the difference in the world.

What is the single most important tip of advice you’d give new writers?

Live your life as curious person. Try to see the entire world as your muse. Ask questions. Dismiss nothing. Eavesdrop. Always eavesdrop. You’ll have more fun, learn all the time, and when the time comes to sit down and write, you’ll have a whole lineup of stories just waiting to be told.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

“Finish your novel. Just so that you know you can.” It sounds like the most obvious thing to say, but I was about to give up on a bad novel I wrote in college. The friend who gave me this advice said it so gravely that I couldn’t get it out of my head. I wrote the rest of that awful book, and when the time came to start another one, a better one, I already knew I could do it.

When is the second book in the series coming out?

We don’t have an exact date yet, but sometime in October of this year! I’m so excited about this book. I hope it’s worth the wait.

Thanks for the great interview, Lauren, and good luck with the series!

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.