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Author Lois Gresh
Lois Gresh is the author of several popular novels, including the short story collection, Eldritch Evolution and her sci-fi thriller, Blood and Ice. She has also written many unofficial guides which belong in any collector's or fanatic's library, such as The Science of Superheroes, The Twilight Companion and most recently, The Hunger Games Companion.
I was recently given the opportunity to interview Ms. Gresh for Teen Ink.
Lois Gresh: Hi, Rachel! Thank you very much for interviewing me for your website. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Rachel: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed! Why don't we begin with you telling us about yourself?
Lois: I consider myself to be fairly ordinary, although I do have a vivid imagination. I read constantly – magazines and nonfiction books of all kinds, as well as a wide variety of novels. I’m crazy about art, so I enjoy visiting galleries whenever I travel to conferences. As for music, I listen to everything from metal to the blues to rock n roll to pop to sound tracks to classical: it just depends on my mood. I swim almost every day, and I also like riding my bike. I enjoy nature – forests, oceans, lakes, birds, animals of all kinds, and in particular, beautiful fish.
Rachel: How did you first become interested in writing?
Lois: When I first learned how to read, I instantly loved books. I actually remember the moment. I began writing stories at a very early age and never stopped. As a child, if I dared to whine that I was bored on rainy Saturdays, my mother would say, “Go read the dictionary. It’ll give you something to do.” I found that I loved the rhythm of words, and I became very fond of the thesaurus. We weren’t particularly well off – that’s a nice way of saying we didn’t have much – and so, I spent a lot of time at the library and reading an ancient (1930’s!) set of encyclopedias that my mother kept in the hallway outside my bedroom. At 9, I wrote a 55-page science fiction story; at 12, a 220-page “report” about ancient Egypt; at 16, a 250-page book about poverty; at 22, a 500-page novel; at 23, a 400-page novel; and during college classes, I wrote horror stories featuring my professors.
Rachel: You recently wrote THE HUNGER GAMES COMPANION; how did that opportunity come about?
Lois: I was gripped by THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy, but I also felt that Suzanne Collins’ books were filled with important messages. For example, people should focus on what matters (kindness, peace, nurturing their children, health, food for all) than on things such as what they look like and how mean they can be to other people. Is it more important to get ahead – literally to survive in THE HUNGER GAMES -- by stabbing other people in the back, or does it make more sense to get ahead by using your skills and intelligence and trying to help the people around you?
I was struck by the horrific nature of Katniss’ life from the first chapters of THE HUNGER GAMES. I saw the trilogy as a reflection – a mirror – of our own times, our own history as human beings. The trilogy is a bold warning, in my opinion, that as an intelligent species, we need to pull together and save ourselves from a future that could even remotely be anything like what we see in THE HUNGER GAMES. The novels are brilliant in that they acutely warn us about where we might be heading if we don’t take care of each other on a global level. Mass starvation isn’t right. Sending little children into the slaughterhouse of war isn’t right. Environmental meltdowns, terrorist acts, and nuclear warfare aren’t right. Set against these themes, Suzanne Collins brings us a story of rich beauty. Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Prim, Rue, and all the others: as readers, we care about them and desperately want everything to turn out okay. THE HUNGER GAMES novels are among the finest books I’ve read in quite awhile.
So when my longtime editor at St. Martin’s Press asked if I wanted to write THE HUNGER GAMES COMPANION, I immediately said, “Yes!”
Rachel: What can fans expect?
Lois: THE HUNGER GAMES COMPANION includes facts and insights into the main ideas and themes of the novels – from the nature of evil to weaponry and rebellions to surviving the end of the world. I dig deep beneath the surface and offer opinions as to how the world has ended up in this hideous post-apocalyptic state; why Katniss agrees to be the Mockingjay, why she chooses Peeta, why she becomes intensely depressed, why she becomes addicted to morphling; why the Capitol is so evil, why the government lets their own people starve, why they send children into these deadly arenas, why they justify binge-eating and plastic surgery and fine clothing while letting everyone else die from grotesque torture. The book covers everything from the various type of muttations, including how they might be created in real life, to the poisons and medicines, the Avoxes, the hovercrafts, the Career Tributes; Thresh, Finnick, Plutarch Heavensbee, Haymitch, President Snow, Cato, Beetee, Johanna, Katniss’ mother, Buttercup, Effie Trinket, Caesar Flickerman; and very interesting to me, the complex nature of the arenas themselves. As you might have guessed by my answers thus far, I’m obviously FASCINATED by THE HUNGER GAMES!
Rachel: What do you think about the upcoming film?
Lois: Like all fans, I’m very much anticipating the film! The trailer was amazing and set my heart beating like crazy. I’m anxious to see how the film matches my visions of the novels as a reader.
Rachel: Which is your favorite book in the series? Why?
Lois: My favorite book is the first in the series – THE HUNGER GAMES. It startled me by its freshness, it shocked me with its gut-wrenching brutality alongside the almost pure beauty of characters such as Katniss and Prim.
Rachel: What advice do you have for someone who hopes to write a companion for their favorite book/TV/movie series?
Lois: First, read or view the book/TV/movie series a few times. Then take notes about what you might want to include in your companion guide. Jot down page numbers and explicit quotes for later reference. Organize your ideas into major headings, which will later become a tentative table of contents. As you research and think about the material, you can weed out some of the major headings until you have a final table of contents. Then write the chapters in order, first to last.
Rachel: What was your favorite story to write in your short story compilation, ELDRITCH EVOLUTIONS?
Lois: This is an extremely difficult question to answer because I don’t think I have one favorite out of the 26 stories in the book! Some are comedies (dark humor), some are hard science fiction, some are mysteries, others are dark fantasy stories. I wrote some of them during periods of great pain in my own life; some while sitting in class; some just for fun. As for the actual process, it’s always the most fun when the stories just roll out of my head. I always tell people it’s like being on a rollercoaster ride: you get lost in the energy, swept away, and hours later, when the ride ends, you sit there, simply amazed at (a) how much fun you just had, and (b) whatever it is that landed on the pages.
Rachel: Who is your favorite horror/fantasy author or book?
Lois: I’m often asked this question, and my answer is always the same. Because so many of my friends are writers, I can’t say that I have a favorite! Besides, I actually love the work of a lot of people.
Rachel: What has been your favorite book to write?
Lois: You do ask difficult questions, Rachel! I laughed and cried while writing the CHUCK FARRIS novels. I was thrilled to write THE TERMINATION NODE. I adore ELDRITCH EVOLUTIONS because it collects all of my favorites into one volume, and many of these stories are dear to my heart. As for the speculative and pop books, THE HUNGER GAMES COMPANION is certainly at the top of the list, but so are a few others, such as THE SCIENCE OF SUPERHEROES, THE SCIENCE OF SUPERVILLAINS, and THE SCIENCE OF JAMES BOND. I was wildly crazy about THE TRUTH BEHIND A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS and had a blast writing the companion guide. Also, I just finished a new thriller, TERROR BY NUMBERS, which was tremendous fun to write. I guess I have a lot of favorites.
Rachel: What is the biggest difference between writing children's books and adult fiction? Which do you prefer?
Lois: I enjoy both categories. I don’t hold back at all in my adult fiction.
As for children’s books, with DRAGONBALL Z, I very much wanted to make children laugh and have a good time. I wrote DRAGONBALL Z with my 10-year-old son, and we received more than 2,000 letters from children who wrote that they loved the book! I can’t tell you how happy that made me! The same thing happened with THE TRUTH BEHIND A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS – so many wonderful letters, they made my heart sing.
That said, I don’t believe in treating teens as if they’re little children. They’re mature, responsible, and old enough to read THE HUNGER GAMES. Teens should have books that reflect the times in which we live now, and they should have books that help them think about tomorrow, too.
Rachel: What projects are you currently working on?
Lois: I just finished the thriller, TERROR BY NUMBERS. It features a female agent, who’s a math and technology genius with an unusual family history. I have a story in an anthology, HORROR FOR THE HOLIDAYS, that should be available within the next month. I’m editing an anthology right now, which means I’m reading hundreds of stories from other writers. Also on my “to do” list are approximately 6-7 stories that I’ve promised to write for various anthologies. In addition, several other books are simmering on my back burner.
Rachel: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Lois: Write. It’s truly as simple as that. Don’t give up. If you love to write, just do it.