In her first series, The Mortal Instruments, Cassandra Clare combined the comfortably familiar settings of Brooklyn and Manhattan with the underground universe of demons, Shadowhunters, vampires, fairies and warlocks. But for the prequel trilogy, The Infernal Devices, she must have felt that was too easy. The first two books, Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince (which came out last week), take place in Victorian London. Orphaned American shapeshifter Tessa Gray and the demon-killing Shadowhunters that take her in are all at the mercy of a rapidly changing world, where scientific advances can be amazing and deadly, and where propriety and gender roles are talked about much more than they’re actually followed.
“The Victorians were much less hung up and repressed than we think of them as,” Clare told TheFABlife of what she discovered while researching the book. “I had always thought of them with these apocryphal stories that they couldn’t say ‘arm’ or ‘leg’ in public and that they covered their piano legs because they were supposed to be naughty. This was all total crap apparently. None of that stuff ever happened. The books of the time period that were really popular are shocking. They were full of sex and violence and betrayal and adultery and sin.”
In Clockwork Prince, Tessa is not only trying to help find and stop the man who seeks to take over the city with an army of clockwork soldiers, she’s also trying to find out the workings of her own heart, torn between tempestuous, deep-dark-secret-holding Will and gentle, probably-dying Jem. And by “trying to find out,” we mean “making out” in some pretty hot and heavy scenes.
It’s been more than six months since Jamie Campbell Bower was announced to play Jace, opposite Lily Collins’ Clary, in City of Bones, the first movie adaptation of Cassandra Clare‘s The Mortal Instruments series. After that, there seemed to be no forward progress in bringing demon-killing Shadowhunters to the big screen. What gives? Clare herself stopped by the VH1 offices last week while promoting Clockwork Prince, book two in Mortal Instruments prequel series The Infernal Devices, and gave us a very good reason for the movie’s delay: The original script didn’t stay true to the books.
“Nobody could settle on a script that they liked, and so there was a lot of back-and-forthing, and finally, it came down from the head of the studio [Screen Gems] that she wanted the script rewritten,” Cassie told TheFABlife. “She didn’t feel like it stuck close enough to the book. I kind of agreed with her. There were some characters that were taken out and things that were switched around, and it was very different from City of Bones.”
They brought Pretty Little Liars screenwriter Marlene King onboard to rewrite the whole darn thing, bringing back more of Clare’s characters and giving it a “great teen voice,” Clare said.
Of course, no screenplay is going to match the book word-for-word, so we wondered what was most important to Clare as she sees her books adapted. “I really want them to stay true to the relationships between the characters,” she explained. “Jace’s relationship to his adoptive family was really important. I feel like the whole twist with Jace and Clary and their relationship was really important and guides the next two books, and you can’t really take it out. It’s so taboo at the same time, but they’re just going with it. That’s what makes these books.”
When the first images from Young Adult surfaced on the Web earlier this year, showing Charlize Theron looking bedraggled in her sweats and Mickey Mouse shirt, clutching a Pomeranian in a carrier and a Victoria’s Secret bag, several young adult authors I know took to Twitter immediately. They seemed torn between being excited about the existence of a movie about their profession, especially one written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, and slightly horrified by the idea of being depicted as ladies who can’t be bothered to brush their hair and put on a decent pair of pants before leaving the house. And then when they learned Charlize’s character, Mavis Gary, is kind of a crazy stalker who can’t let go of her high school years, they were a bit worried.
“I watched [the trailer], and I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to give my profession a bad name!” Mortal Instruments series author Cassandra Clare told TheFABlife last week. At the same time, she added, “I really want to see it, because when will there be another movie about a young adult author?”
But Cody, who calls herself “the Sweet Valley superfan of all time” and is writing an upcoming adaptation of Sweet Valley High, is pretty sure there won’t be a huge outcry from the YA author community. “Mavis is one of a kind. I don’t think it’s an indictment of young adult authors as a group. It’s just this one lady is a little bit off-kilter,” she assured us at the movie’s New York premiere. And though she previously only knew Sweet Valley creator Francine Pascal, “since this movie has been screening, I have met some [YA authors] that have come out of the woodwork, and they are all into the movie, so I’m glad.”
Yesterday, David Levithan told us that he doesn’t think people finish reading The Hunger Games and immediately want to pick up another dystopian novel. Well, we agree that we like to space these dark books out a bit, but they are addictive. And once a month or so, we’ve been picking up a new one. If you’re just starting to be obsessed, begin with the books we talked about during this Dystopian Week, especially with NextMovie.com’s list of books with movies in the works, then scroll back through Hollywood Crush’s first Dystopian Week suggestions from back in April. Here are some that we haven’t read yet but are next on our own to-read list.
Birthmarked, by Caragh M. O’Brien: In this version of the future, the world is divided between people who live inside the Enclave, and the unfortunate who live outside its walls. Gaia Stone is a 16-year-old novice midwife, and part of her duty is to hand over a quota of babies to the Enclave. But then her parents are taken away, and she has to figure out what’s really going on behind those walls.
The Eleventh Plague, by Jeff Hirsch: The cover bears a quote from Suzanne Collins herself, calling it “an excellent, taut debut novel,” so you probably can’t go wrong with this one. Stephen Quinn was born after two-thirds of the country was wiped out by influenza (that the Chinese released here on purpose) and has grown up barely scraping by as a salvager. But after a family tragedy, the 15-year-old finds his way to a community called Settler’s Landing, where he falls in love and learns that things aren’t as great in the town as they initially appeared to be.
We’re on the home stretch of Dystopian Week here on TheFABlife, Hollywood Crush and NextMovie.com, but we couldn’t leave without hearing more from one of the hottest authors on the scene — if there is a dystopian “scene” — Veronica Roth. Her badass Divergent reads so cinematically, we can already imagine how awesome the upcoming Summit flick is going to be. While we eagerly await the trilogy’s book two, Insurgent, due in May, we asked Veronica to play a little imagination game with us: What if you wrote utopian fiction? Here’s her answer:
If utopian fiction became the new trend, I wouldn’t read it.
If you actually succeed in creating a utopia, you’ve created a world without conflict, in which everything is perfect. And if there’s no conflict, there are no stories worth telling — or reading! It would be all, “Jenny thought she might not be able to attain her lifelong dream of marshmallow taste tester for a little while … but she did!” and, “John’s dad said he couldn’t go to the movies, so John asked really nicely and his dad changed his mind.” I’m bored already.
But if I were going to create a utopia, I would make a world in which everyone is focused on their personal, moral obligations, and strives to be the best possible version of themselves. They would be allowed to choose whatever path they wanted in life. They would know what was expected of them, they would have a clear purpose, and they would have a strong sense of group identity and belonging. And there would be five factions…
Oh, wait. I tried that already.
As Dystopian Week comes to a close today, we’re looking forward to a future not quite as bleak as the one presented in a lot of our favorite novels. That’s because we have plenty more dystopian fiction to look forward to! Partials, due out February 28, takes place after a war between humans and the genetically engineered beings that rebelled against their creators and released a virus that killed 99.9 percent of the population. But one girl among the immune humans is going to try to save the species. Here, author Dan Wells tells us why he thinks we’re drawn to this genre:
Why are we so excited by dystopian stories these days? Do we like to be scared? Do we like the danger? Is it just fun? The best answer I can come up with is: Look around. We read dystopia not because these societies are strange and unfamiliar, but because, more often than not, they mirror our own. Fractured government, questionable freedom of the press, a massive reduction in personal privacy—check, check and check. Our handling of the Occupy movement, for example, is so backward that oppressive foreign dictators are using it to justify their own brutality. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with Occupy or not: Our response to it is maybe not the best reflection of a free society. Dystopian fiction allows us to play with these ideas, to explore them, to see where this law or that revolution might take us. We read dystopia because we want to understand our own world.
Earlier today, Scholastic let us reveal the cover of the upcoming movie tie-in edition of The Hunger Games. From the moment Suzanne Collins’ book hit shelves, we’ve been hearing about its movie adaptation. And on the occasion of Dystopian Week, we thought it would be interesting to hear from someone in the publishing world about how all this movie buzz and “dystopia is the new vampires” talk affects what makes it to print. So we got on the phone with David Levithan, who’s not just an editor at Scholastic; he’s also one half of the writing team behind Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, another successful book-to-movie story.
First off, Levithan told us something that may come as a surprise to some of us who follow the movie biz: Not that many young adult novels in the market have been optioned for movies.
“I would guess that it is in the 5 percent range, but that is purely anecdotal. It is certainly not many,” he said. And what’s more interesting, book editors aren’t necessarily hunting for the books that will make them big bucks on the big screen.
We’d like to think this is just in honor of Dystopian Week, but we’re not that full of ourselves. Still, we’re pretty excited that the folks at Scholastic gave us the chance to give you the first look at the cover of the movie tie-in edition of The Hunger Games, which hits shelves on February 7, just weeks before the premiere of the film. You can head over to Hollywood Crush for a glimpse at the covers of The Hunger Games: Official Illustrated Movie Companion and The Hunger Games Tribute Guide, which are also due out on February 7. This isn’t the first special edition of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy to be released — The Hunger Games Collector’s Edition, with a fancy cloth cover, came out last month. What we’re most pleased about is the fact that they resisted the temptation to put Jennifer Lawrence on the novel’s cover. We love her, and can’t wait for the movie, but we’re also purists about our books. What we’re most disappointed about: You can’t make a book get that moving flame effect like the digital posters. Maybe those will exist in our dystopian future?
More from Dystopian Week:
Why Dystopia? Author Dan Wells Explains The Importance Of Hunger Games, 1984 And More
Is Dystopia Really The New Vampire? Editor-Writer David Levithan Weighs In
Your Dystopian Survival Guide
Dystopia Is the New Supernatural
Shatter Me Author Takes Things “To Extremes” For Dystopian Week
Watch Out, Katniss, Legend’s Formiddable Dystopian Heroes Are On Your Heels
‘Shatter Me’ Author Tahereh Mafi Talks ‘X-Men’ Comparisons
How Will Delirium’s Love Cure Translate To The Screen? Dystopian Week Begins!
5 Questions With ‘Divergent’ Writer Veronica Roth
Marie Lu Imagines A Teenage, Dystopian ‘Les Miserables’ In ‘Legend’
‘Delirium’ Author Lauren Oliver Talks Sequel ‘Pandemonium’
If there’s one thing we love about dystopian novels for young adults, it’s the idea that in the future, smart, brave teenagers will save the world from the terrible, oppressive world the grownups created for them. The Hunger Games‘ Katniss gives us hope for the next, next, next generation. In Marie Lu’s Legend, which is in stores today, we have two brilliant 15-year-olds ready to kick ass, if they don’t kill each other first. And for day two of Dystopian Week, we’d like to introduce you to Day and June.
Legend (the first in a trilogy, of course) is already in development as a movie — produced by Twilight‘s Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen, and directed by Jonathan Levine, who’s making zombie-in-love YA adaptation Warm Bodies for Summit right now. (Head over to Hollywood Crush for an interview with Lu about the book and her involvement in the movie.)
We’ve been hearing about it for MONTHS now, so we were almost worried the book couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. If it were just up to the action sequences and the vision of a dark future in which the Republic of California is a country under military rule, at war with the Colonies (the rest of the former U.S.), the novel might not be such a phenom. It’s the characters that make it so. Day has been living on his own since he escaped execution at age 10, and now he’s the Republic’s most-wanted criminal, due to his daring, Robin Hood-esque pranks. He robs banks and sets military equipment on fire, but mostly just tries to steal enough to provide for his mother and brothers while he and his young sidekick Tess live in the streets.
June is the Republic’s most promising prodigy and is nearing her graduation from college and into a military life at just 15. She’s looking forward to following in the footsteps of her brother Metias, who’s raised her since the death of their parents.
It is an angst-ridden time for fans of young adult books and their movie adaptations: We’ve seen Breaking Dawn Part 1 too many times, the March debut of The Hunger Games seems eons away, and they still haven’t announced the rest of the Mortal Instruments cast. That’s why we here at TheFABlife have teamed up with our friends at Hollywood Crush and NextMovie to bring you Dystopian Week! A week of interviews, movie updates reviews and guest blogs all about these dark fictional depictions of the future is sure to cheer us all up about the present, right? First up, we’ve got Delirium author Lauren Oliver.
Delirium poses a scary question: What if the world decided that love is the root of all of our problems, and scientists discovered a way to cure us all of this terribly destructive “disease” (amor deliria nervosa) on our 18th birthday? Lena Haloway can’t wait to get the cure, after seeing it kill her mother and nearly destroy her sister. But then, of course, she meets a boy named Alex.
Shortly after the book, part one of a trilogy, hit shelves in February, it was snatched up by producers Paula Mazur and Mitch Kaplan and is now slated for movie adaptation by Fox 2000.
“I know that we’re trying to move forward and put directors onboard, think about casting,” Oliver told TheFABlife last week. “I love the producers, and I love the script writer, with whom I’ve met. I’m definitely very much in touch with the producers, and I will read and comment on the script eventually. One of the reasons I really wanted to work with them specifically was that they got on the phone with me from the start, explained their vision, and it really felt like a collaboration from the start.”