12 Mar 2013

My Interview with Ally Condie!

Posted by Amanda Masters on 8:06:00 pm

Ally Condie is the author of the international bestseller MATCHED, its sequel, CROSSED (Of which the paperback will be released on March 12, 2013) and last years REACHED which came out in Nov. of 2012. MATCHED was chosen as one of YALSA’s 2011 Teens’ Top Ten, named as one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2010, selected as the #1 Pick on the Winter Kid’s Indie Next List, and received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. In a starred review for the sequel, CROSSED, Kirkus called the Matched series an “addictive, layered dystopic trilogy.”A former English teacher (who still keeps her license current, just in case!), she lives with her husband and four children outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, writing, running, and listening to her husband play guitar.

Follow Ally on Twitter and Facebook and listen to her on Sara Zarr's podcast HERE


 

Official Crossed Playlist!


This is a pretty long playlist because I was writing this book for a year and a half, so I had a lot of time to find good songs. While I don’t listen to music while I’m writing, I do listen to it when I’m editing and often I’ll listen to songs before I start writing to get me in the right mood (and to transition me from mom-of-three-with-messy-house to writer). Most of the time, I find these songs after I’ve written the part in the book to which they connect; in the case of Bruce and Neil they were, of course, known to me before I started writing.

I often thought of this as Ky’s book as I wrote it (though the story certainly belongs to Cassia and Xander too), and I think that is really reflected in the playlist for the book–lots of songs about searching, loving, and becoming.

Anyway. I wanted to wait a little bit so that you had a chance to read the book BEFORE you listened to the songs, as they’ll mean more then…and CROSSED has been out for three weeks…and I can’t wait any longer! And please, if you enjoy these artists’ work, BUY their songs to support the arts and music.

1. Empty by Ray LaMontagne
The melancholy and beauty in this song made this the #1 most-listened to song while I was writing CROSSED.

2. A Dustland Fairytale by The Killers
There’s a such a story in this song, and the chorus is unbelievable.

3. Edwin’s Tale–1862 by Peter Breinholt & Big Parade
The perfect song for Ky as he’s out in the decoy villages, and for anyone left behind.

4. Violet Hill by Coldplay
The mention of snow is especially perfect for the book. It’s what I picture playing in the background during Chapter 3.

5. Blue Lips by Regina Spektor
One of the songs I discovered at the very end of editing CROSSED. I especially like the part where she sings about “all the pictures in his mind” because that’s how Ky thinks. And the blue references throughout the song have a lot of resonance for the color blue, which is emphasized in this novel.

6. Doubting Thomas by Nickel Creek
I’ve always thought of this song particularly as Ky’s song, because it’s hard for him to believe sometimes that someone like Cassia could really love him.

7. The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen (the version w/o Tom Morello)
This song has haunted me since it was first released back when I was in high school, and it kept coming back to me as I wrote Ky’s journey during CROSSED.

8. Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson
This song felt like what Cassia would be thinking/singing to herself as she searched for Ky.

9. Yazala Ambambuti by Samite
Simply beautiful.

10. If I Should Fall Behind by Bruce Springsteen
This one makes me cry just about every time. You can picture the farmers in CROSSED gathering around a campfire to sing it. (And how great is it that it’s Bruce and his wife singing to each other?)

11. Sinner’s Sonnet by Andrew Whitman
A great song about searching and love.

12. The Climber by Neil Finn
His voice and the words are lovely, but it’s the background that really gets me every time.

13. Captain of a Shipwreck by Neil Diamond
My all-time favorite Neil Diamond song. This song is not just something Ky would sing to Cassia, but I also think of it as a song that Xander would love.

14. Crossfire by Brandon Flowers
For me, this song really fits Chapter 35 and how Ky is feeling then.

15. Set the Fire to the Third Bar by Snow Patrol and Martha Wainwright
Ky and Cassia, maps, poems, trying to find a way to each other in spite of everything. In spite of themselves.

16.In for the Kill by La Roux
How Cassia feels near the end of her book when she makes her decisions about the Rising and about Ky.

17. The Rising by Bruce Springsteen
If you’ve read the book, you’ll know exactly why I picked this song.

18. This Hard Land by Bruce Springsteen
See above.

19. Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford & Sons
A last-minute addition to the playlist, but it’s the perfect Sisyphus stone song. And everything about it fits Ky in this book.

20. Every Time It Rains by Charlotte Martin
There’s a particular scene near the end of CROSSED that this fits, but it also calls back to things that happened in MATCHED and to what will happen in Book 3. It’s the ideal song to end the playlist.

And I often listen to a soundtrack or two as well. This time, it was the soundtrack to HERO by Tan Dun.

I hope you enjoy the playlist, and have a WONDERFUL Week!!!


My Interview

I got to interview the wonderful and talented Ally Condie today and I got to tell you how excited I am! the MACHED trilogy is one of my all time favorite and to get a inside scoop on her  books is a dream!

Ally creates a most beautiful yet tragic dystopian world were 100 paintings, songs and poems are the only thing left of our rich and wonderful cultures and nothing new has been made since. I for one can't imagine a world were these things don't exist, as an artist myself I would simply die. How would you choose? if forced to choose the worlds 100 songs, paintings and poems? comment below and let me know!

Ally is a true artist when it comes to writing and I look forward to her next project!

Q: "Where did you get your inspiration for MATCHED?"

I always say there's a long answer, and if you read my blog at allycondie.com there are many posts about the inspirations for each book. The short(ish) answer is that my husband is the inspiration for MATCHED. Not only did a conversation with him back in 2008 give me the idea for the book, but he also inspired the book in many other ways. For example, I put half of my favorite things about my husband in Ky and half in Xander so that I would like them both equally and write them both as strong characters. Also, my husband is an economist, and so any of the game theory/sorting/etc. parts of the novel relied heavily on his influence and expertise.
There are, of course, other inspirations for the books too. The opening scene of MATCHED is based on an experience i had chaperoning prom back when I taught high school. The setting for CROSSED is based upon Southern Utah, where I was raised. 

Q: In Crossed Cassia sets out on a long journey. do you think this helped her to discover who she needed to be?

Yes, I think Cassia needed that journey in CROSSED to become the kind of person who does what she does in REACHED. If she'd never left her family or had to survive on her own, then she couldn't have created the gallery, and she wouldn't have loved Ky as much or known him as well.

I call Cassia's journey "coming through the canyon" and I think we all have canyons (or mountains, or whatever metaphor you prefer!) that we have to come through alone. And we emerge different people.


Q: "How did you choose the poems you used in the book?"

I love poetry, and I used to be a high school English teacher. One of the things I had to teach was a poetry unit. It was awesome. Often I had students who thought they didn't like poetry but they just hadn't read a poem that really spoke to them yet. And often I had students who thought they couldn't write poetry but once they did, it blew me away.

So I'd spend a lot of my life immersed in reading/teaching poetry. Using poetry came really naturally to me in writing MATCHED--I didn't set out to include poems in the book, but then as I was writing Grandfather gave her a paper in the compact. I thought, "What is written on that paper?" because I knew Grandfather couldn't write (I wanted that to be something special that only Ky could do). I had the idea of having the paper be a poem, but not one of the Hundred. I wanted it to be something special and dangerous. (I couldn't have it be a story or novel because something of that size wouldn't fit into the compact!)

And, almost immediately after I decided on a poem (for purposes of story and logic) I knew which poem it should be. "Do Not Go Gentle" by Dylan Thomas is my favorite poem, and it's also a poem that urges fighting. Perhaps most importantly, it's a poem that people respond to immediately because the writing is so strong. I knew that people would have reactions to the poem and love it. (Thank you, Dylan Thomas!)

I chose the Tennyson poem as a bookend to the Thomas poem (they complement each other nicely) and I also liked the reference to the "Pilot." I knew I could use that in CROSSED. And I chose the Emily Dickinson poems because they fit the story perfectly and I'm a big fan of Emily Dickinson.

I also have to add that part of the reason I chose the poems I did was because it is much easier to secure copyright permission when the authors have been dead for a very long time. There were other poems I wanted to use that were published more recently, but in the end we had to go this route. But the poems we did use were also my first choices. We just couldn't use as many poems as I'd originally intended. Maybe, for the purposes of the story, that's a good thing! ;)

Q: Did you make a list of the Hundreds (Hundred Poems, Hundred Songs, etc.)? Can you share it with us?

I actually started out making a list of the Hundreds and then abandoned the project because I hated it too much. Here's why. The Hundreds would be the Society's list, not MY list. And I hated thinking about what the Society would choose and not what I would choose. Also, the Society would pick only things that, while technically fine and often beautiful, would not be works that would call people to action, or make the uncomfortable. They also wouldn't really represent the diversity of human experience and emotion that exists in the real world.

So. While I can tell you some of the items on those lists, and the type of works that would be saved, in the end I found it too frustrating to make the actual lists for the Society. ;)

Q: "Where did you get the names for the characters?"

I love naming characters and it was especially fun in the MATCHED trilogy because I was looking for names that were/are unique and classical. I also wanted them to be "real" names--I didn't want to make them up.

For Cassia, I was looking for a flower name that was also somewhat unusual. My sister was the one who pointed me in the direction of the name. I loved it because I think the sound is beautiful, it's a classical Greek name, not everyone has it, and it's the name of the a flower in the cinnamon family. This had significance in several ways--Cassia's mom works with plants, and the cinnamon plant itself has several important qualities that is shares with Cassia (it can be used in healing, which is symbolic regarding what Cassia does for the Society). Finally, Cassia (spelled Kassia) is the name of a female poet and scholar from the 800s. I loved that history and heritage for Cassia and the tie to poetry. Cassia's middle name, Maria, is my grandmother's name.

Indie got her name from a cute girl in my son's preschool who was feisty and funny (and I just adore the sound of the name). I did ask her mom for permission before I used it!

Ky and Xander are both strong-sounding classical names that I loved and had heard (I changed the spelling of Ky from "Kai" to make it a little more streamlined.

Vick was named by combining the names of my brother and brother-in-law. Since I'd based the character on those two men, I thought it was fitting that I name the character after them. :)

Q: "Are any of your characters in your books based on people in your real life?"

Yes, some of them are. Cassia isn't based on anyone in particular, but rather a conglomerate of quiet, strong, amazing girls and women that I've known throughout my life. (When she falls on the tracker in MATCHED, that was actually lifted right from an experience I had falling on the treadmill, but for the most part she's not me.) Grandfather in the books is also based on several people--my grandparents, who all believed in me absolutely. I feel like every kid needs that kind of love and I was certainly blessed to have such fantastic grandparents. Vick is based on my brother and my brother-in-law, who can hike anywhere and catch any kind of fish/survive any kind of situation. Ky's mother says something in CROSSED that my own mother told me (it's the line about the importance of creating things). So, while most of the characters are made up, little bits and pieces of people from my real life come into the story here and there. It's very fun to see. 

Q: Why did the Society keep the tissue samples? I know it was told that some groups used it as leverage to keep people thinking they could replicate their deceased love ones, but was that the only reason?

I have a few theories behind this. The first reason they kept the tissue samples was the one you mentioned--as collateral, as something to hang over its citizens' heads.

Another reason I think the Society kept the samples is because I think the Society truly believed in their own power/brilliance. I think the Society DID think they could bring people back someday, and that's another reason they went to all the trouble to store the samples. They didn't have the technology yet, but they thought they'd develop it at some point.

And then, of course, when things started to go south for them, they couldn't spare all the resources they'd once hoped to use in discovering that technology.

Hope that helps! Again, much of this is not on the page of the books, but it's my own personal thoughts on the matter. :)
 

Q: "What made you decide to write a dystopian novel?"

When I had the idea for MATCHED (what if a girl lived in a world where the government had absolute control over who she married) I didn't know the novel would be a dystopia until after I'd written part of it. Since I had the scenario and character first, I built the world around those things. Partway through I realized that it would need to be a dystopian world because I wanted it to feel different, not like a society that exists now or has existed in the past. I didn't want it to be a historical novel--I didn't want to have to change the story to fit facts from the past. That meant I needed to set the book in the future, and since the government was so overbearing, that meant that it needed to be a dystopia. Back in 2008 when I started writing this book, there were definitely dystopian novels out there (the first book of THE HUNGER GAMES had been released) but we've seen even more since then, which I think is wonderful.  

 Q: "Are you working on something new?"

The answer is--yes!! I actually have a couple of projects I'm very excited about, but my publisher doesn't want me to say anything until they've put out a formal press release. Which hasn't happened yet. But I can say that you should know much more by the end of the month. :)
 
Q: What books do you enjoy/would you recommend?

My favorite authors of all time are Wallace Stegner, Anne Tyler, and Agatha Christie. And Ray Bradbury (as you can probably tell--a particular scene in MATCHED was written as a tribute to FAHRENHEIT 451).

Some authors whose work I've loved recently include Ann Dee Ellis (EVERYTHING IS FINE), Grace Lin (WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON), Shannon Hale (BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS), and Franny Billingsley (CHIME).

My kids and I have loved reading Brandon Mull (FABLEHAVEN, BEYONDERS) and Adam Gidwitz (A TALE DARK AND GRIMM) together.

I also read anything Michael Phelps writes. I'm not a swimmer but his work ethic fascinates me. I generally like most sports writing because it gets right to the point, which is fun. I will read just about anything if I'm interested in the topic.
 
Q: Is there going to be a movie of MATCHED/do you have any movie news?"

The truth is that I find out movie news almost at the same time that the general public does. Right now the rights have been optioned by Disney, Offspring Entertainment is producing, and the Mulroney's (the husband-wife team behind the script of the second Sherlock Holmes movie) are writing the screenplay. I do update on Twitter, Facebook, and my website when I have any news, so feel free to check there. And I'm sorry, but I have absolutely NO news about casting and NO control over casting. But I'm very excited to see what happens!
  

  
Q: Do you have plans to write another book in the MATCHED series?

I don't. I never say never, I guess, but right now I have no plans to write another book in the MATCHED series. I'm really happy with the way things ended in REACHED. :)

Q: Why did you add more points of view after MATCHED?

That was always the plan. Although the story is Cassia's story (and begins with her as the only one telling it), I knew we would build to two points of view in CROSSED and then have all three points of view in REACHED because it was Xander and Ky's story too. And I believe, that in order to really know someone's story, you have to let them tell it. :) Fun fact: the three equal lines on the first "E" on the cover of REACHED represent the three equal characters/points of view in that novel--Cassia, Ky, and Xander.

Q: Was the use of color (green, blue, and red) in the books/on the covers intentional?

Yes, it was. The awesome designer of the book wanted to emphasize a color of one of the tablets for each book, and that worked out perfectly with the plot. The three tablets are all important in each book, but the green tablet is emphasized in MATCHED, we learn more about the blue tablet in CROSSED, and everything regarding the red tablet is finally made clear in REACHED.

Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer?


Yes. I started writing my first stories when I was five, and before that, I'd dictate them to my babysitter and she'd write them down for me (what a patient soul)! I kept writing stories and poems for years, and I loved teaching creative writing and English as a high school teacher. That said, I didn't actually complete a novel until I was twenty-five. That was my first book, YEARBOOK, which was published by Deseret Book in 2006. (Disclaimer: some of my novels are LDS in theme. They are clearly marked as such on my website.)
 

Q:"Which of your books is your favorite? 
 
I always like the one I've most recently finished. So right now, my favorite book is REACHED, but it will probably change. :)


Q: What is your advice for aspiring writers?

I always feel a little nervous giving advice, because what works for me might not work for you. But here's what works for me. I read a lot. I write a lot, several hours every day. I make sure that I'm thinking about the story in moments when I'm not writing, just to keep it fresh. When I first started out, I tried to write 1000 words every day (except Sunday--I take Sundays off). Exercise. It keeps your brain healthy.

And, my final piece of advice--live an interesting life. That will give you inspiration. I don't mean that your life has to be interesting to anyone else. A lot of people might think my life--living in Utah, mom to four kids--would be boring. But it's fascinating to me and that's what makes the difference. I find lots of moments for inspiration in the day-to-day of what I do.

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