As mentioned yesterday, I finally got around this week to buying The Hunger Games trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins.
It’s something I’ve meant to do for a while but I’m glad I waited until I had a relatively free weekend. Because I haven’t been able to put book one down.
It is, in a word, phenomenal. Brutal yet caring, heartfelt yet sympathetic, incredibly detailed but also a broad enough canvas on which to showcase issues such as poverty, the corrupting nature of power and the ability of reality shows – and TV in general – to de-sensitise viewers.
Then there’s a kick-ass heroine called Katniss, who I CANNOT wait to see on the big screen portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence.
Anyway, as I so often do, I went looking for more information on Suzanne Collins as it’s never enough just to enjoy a book. I always want to learn more about an author – who they are, what their writing ritual is like and, most of all, where they get their inspiration from.
And I found her answers in an interview on the official Scholastic website.
Here’s an excerpt from the story..
You weave action, adventure, mythology, sci-fi, romance and philosophy throughout The Hunger Games. What influenced the creation of The Hunger Games?
A significant influence would have to be the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The myth tells how in punishment for past deeds, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete, where they were thrown in the labyrinth and devoured by the monstrous Minotaur.
Even as a kid, I could appreciate how ruthless this was. Crete was sending a very clear message: “Mess with us and we’ll do something worse than kill you. We’ll kill your children.” And the thing is, it was allowed; the parents sat by powerless to stop it. Theseus, who was the son of the king, volunteered to go. I guess in her own way, Katniss is a futuristic Theseus.
In keeping with the classical roots, I send my tributes into an updated version of the Roman gladiator games, which entails a ruthless government forcing people to fight to the death as popular entertainment. The world of Panem, particularly the Capitol, is loaded with Roman references. Panem itself comes from the expression “Panem et Circenses” which translates into “Bread and Circuses.”
The audiences for both the Roman games and reality TV are almost characters in themselves. They can respond with great enthusiasm or play a role in your elimination.
I was channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage when Katniss’s story came to me. One night I’m sitting there flipping around and on one channel there’s a group of young people competing for, I don’t know, money maybe? And on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story.
Suzanne also tells of the delicate balance in transferring her story from page to screen and of the research she did into hunting and gathering techniques. But the other Q&A that really drew me in was this…
The Hunger Games tackles issues like severe poverty, starvation, oppression, and the effects of war among others. What drew you to such serious subject matter?
That was probably my dad’s influence. He was career air force, a military specialist, a historian, and a doctor of political science. When I was a kid, he was gone for a year in Vietnam. It was very important to him we understood certain aspects of life. So, it wasn’t enough to visit a battlefield, we needed to know why the battle occurred, how it played out, and the consequences. Fortunately, he had a gift for presenting history as a fascinating story. He also seemed to have a good sense of exactly how much a child could handle, which is quite a bit.
I don’t know about you, but I find that fascinating. What an interesting life and perspective she has. I love it when an author feeds part of their own life experience and soul into what they write.
I will certainly be looking into her other books, but for now you can check out The Hunger Games trailer and more here.