By Ashly Moore Sheldon • May 19, 2020
Growing up, Suzanne Collins reports being deeply influenced by her father's work. He served in the Air Force and, from a young age, she recalls being aware of the danger he faced during a stint in the Vietnam War. As a military family, they traveled and moved around a lot. As a point of interest, her dad took his four children to visit many a historic war site, often describing in strategic detail the battles that had taken place there.
Of these experiences, Collins said, "If you went to a battlefield with him you didn't just stand there. You would hear what led up to this war and to this particular battle, what transpired there, and what the fallout was. It wasn't like, there's a field. It would be, here's a story." This foundation has clearly informed her work. Elements of war and descriptions of battle tactics loom large in both of her bestselling series, The Underland Chronicles and The Hunger Games.
On her way to becoming a household name, Collins earned a Master of Fine Arts in dramatic writing from New York University's Tisch School. She found early success as a writer for television on several Nickelodeon shows for kids, including Little Bear, Clifford's Puppy Days, and Oswald. It was during this time that she met children's author and illustrator James Proimos, who suggested she try her hand at children's literature.
Her first book, Gregor the Overlander was inspired by Alice In Wonderland. She got to thinking about the children's classic and how it could be updated for a more urban audience. A kid in New York City is more likely to fall into a manhole than a rabbit hole. And what would he find there? Probably not tea parties and rose gardens, she decided. The enchanted underground world she imagined is populated by spiders, rats, and cockroaches uneasily coexisting with humans and poised on the edge of war. Her epic five-part Underland Chronicles was born out of the idea.
Propelled by the success of Gregor's bestselling adventure, Collins began to think about what was next. She describes watching TV one night and flipping through the channels, from real-life footage of the Iraq War to reality television competitions. She began to think about the way that modern audiences are so inundated with all of this content. "We have so much programming coming at us all the time. Is it too much? Are we becoming desensitized to the entire experience?" she said.
Taking this thought and running with it, her next novel, The Hunger Games, portrays a grim dystopian scenario. The setting is Panem, a North American country consisting of the decadent Capitol and twelve subordinate districts existing in varying states of poverty. Once a year, two youth are selected by lottery from each of the districts to compete in a televised battle to the death.
The startling international success of her new book turned Collins into an overnight superstar. The Hunger Games Trilogy has been translated into 51 languages and has spent over six years on the NYT Bestseller list. It has also been adapted into a series of hit films, starring Jennifer Lawrence.
As a child, Collins loved mythology. (The Hunger Games drew elements from the Greek myth, Theseus and the Minotaur.) One of her favorite reads was D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d'Aulaire and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire.
On the list of books she's worn out from reading again and again, you'll find classics like The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.
It's been ten long years since Mockingjay came out, so we are beyond excited to get our hands on a copy of the Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes—released today! Recently published excerpts have unleashed controversy, revealing that the book, set 64 years before the beginning of the trilogy, features none other than a young Coriolanus Snow before he became the villanous Panem president.
Of the new book, Collins has said, "I wanted to explore the state of nature, who we are, and what we perceive is required for our survival. The reconstruction period 10 years after the war, commonly referred to as the Dark Days—as the country of Panem struggles back to its feet—provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with these questions and thereby define their views of humanity." Wow! We're intrigued and can't wait to get our hands on a copy. Order yours today.