Exclusive Interview With 'Delirium' Author Lauren Oliver... She Caught The Deliria When She Was Sixteen

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Releasing this week, Lauren Oliver's Delirium is the story of 17-year-old Lena Haloway and the future society Lena lives in where love has replaced cancer as the most deadly of diseases. Yes, you read that correctly.

A cure for amor deliria nervosa has been developed, a surgical procedure teens undergo at age 18 that prevents them from falling in love. After that, marriage, children... everything, is logically planned and clinically carried out.

I'll post my official review next week, but for now, just know that I really liked this book. I chatted with Lauren via Skype yesterday and, among many things, asked her about the book's lovely cover.

"It's really great, isn't it? I actually was fairly involved in it," she told me. "I think a lot of readers and fans think that cover discussions are like, 'You get to design the cover!' which is opposite of the truth. But in this case, they [her publisher Harper Teen] really wanted me to be happy and they were really excited about doing something kind of unconventional that focused on the word itself. So they had me in to look at various iterations. It was a really collaborative kind of process.. I mean, I'm like the least artistically-minded person in the world. But they had me in to look at different passes and get my feedback, which, again, doesn't really happen."

As for the girl pictured on the cover (the full image of her is revealed under the book's jacket), Lauren thinks she's "absolutely gorgeous," but perhaps a bit too much so.

"Lena's supposed to look like a normal girl. "Part of her insecurity is that she doesn't actually feel like, in the world as it used to be where people can choose their partners, she would be chosen by anybody. And that was kind of important to me and to her character because I think a lot of people feel that way, particularly when they're young and haven't really necessarily had relationships before, but I think even through life people feel like, 'Will anybody ever pick me?' ... "Am I good enough?'"
Thrilling storyline aside (again, we'll get to that next week), one of our favorite details of the book is the way each chapter begins with a passage from a book that exists in the new world Delirium is set in like "The New Philosophy" and "The Book of Shhh." Turns out, Lauren reads a lot of science non-fiction in her spare time and they inspired her to create a large library of historical volumes and scientific studies that exist in her imagined world.

"The whole time [while writing 'Delirium'] I had a separate document where I would just place details about the society and how it functions and how the cultural life would be like, just so I could refer to it, knowing I might not end up using any, or for that matter, all of the material," she said. "For every writer, there's stuff that you need to know in order to write the books and then there's stuff that the audience needs to know. And they're not the same."

Keep reading for the rest of our Q&A with Lauren about her writing process, her first love, a possible movie adaptation and the titles of the second and third books in the series.

lauren oliver delirium On the first time she was infected with the deliria:
I was probably about 16, I had a first love. It was characterized by a lot of things: anxiety, passion... I still know him now, but we went through about four years of not speaking. Passion, anxiety, there were knock-down, drag-out fights and I certainly had my heart broken to the extent that I remember feeling like, 'I actually might die from this, I don't know how to recover.' Actually, I was just talking about this with my best friend last night. I'm 28-years-old now and I've had terrible things happen in my life, I've lost my ex-boyfriend who died... sad, bad things, and I've recovered from them and I know hearts are very resilient. We were talking about that, even now, when you break up with someone you love, it still feels sometimes like you're going to die. It's just so sickening that it actually feels criticial. In the book, when I started listing the symptoms of love, I was like, 'It kind of does sound like a disease.'

On setting 'Delirium' in Portland, Maine:
One of my best friends, my oldest friends, I've known her since I was in high school -- she lives in Portland and has for several years. I've visited several times and it really spoke to me as a location for this book for a couple reasons. It's reigned by these tiny little islands, not quite open ocean, so it hinted at openness and enclosure, which is part of the central tension of the book: safety and enclosure vs. openness and freedom. That's like my literary reason for choosing to set it there. My non-literally reason is that I really wanted to go hang out with my friend and eat lobster all summer... so that is what I did. When people ask me what my favorite part of being a writer is, it's that.

On setting her next book in Paris:
Oh, totally. I've thought about that. It's funny because it does show the limitations interestingly though. It's the same way that when a character comes to life, eventually your character will start doing things you didn't intend for your character to do. I actually really tried to set a book in Paris, like really, rigorously tried to and it just wasn't working. And then you randomly realize you have to set it in Des Moines, Iowa or whatever.

On having to go camping in the woods for the next part of the Delirium story:
Yeah, exactly. Actually I probably really will for the third book in the Delirium trilogy.

On 'Delirium' getting optioned as a movie:
Optioning a movie means that a producer or a studio has optioned the right to purchase it later. It's such a Hollywood terminology. Basically what it means is they're going to start rigorously trying to set it up with the studio, get directors involved, get a script together to keep it moving forward. The producer who optioned it, I have absolute faith in. She's wonderful, she's a huge support of mine and a fan of the book. I'm hopeful but there's a lot that needs to happen before we would be coming to a cinema near you.

On love, in the context of friendship:
My books so far, they've had real themes and elements of friendships and explorations of friendships. I have a very, very strong close circle of friends who really are like family to me. I think a lot of that [Hana and Lena's friendship in Delirium] is based on my own friendships, how meaningful they are and how they are really a form of love.A strong form of love. I think the whole point, the sadness of it, is that they have all these feelings, I'm sure they do love each other, but that becomes really repressed and sublimated under other terms and they have to impose a certain amount of distance between them. But a lot of the grief in the book, the real grief in the book, she [Lena] doesn't for much of the book grieve the idea of losing romantic love -- she's never experienced it. But what she's really grieving is all directed with Hana and losing that.

On writing the next book in the series:
I have a draft of 'Pandemonium,' the second one. I've actually done a revision on the draft too, so I'm now moving to line edits. So it's definitely moving along; it's quite close to finished. I've just recently started outlining, and thinking about the broader movement of, 'Requiem,' which is the final book in the trilogy.

'Delirium' is now available in stores and online. As for the second and third books in the series, Lauren tells me they are planning to stick to a February release schedule so mark your calendars for Februarys 2012 and 2013. And check out Lauren's blog here and her fanpage.

Stacy Says
is written by Stacy Hinojosa, JSYK's Editor-in-Chief and book expert. She finished reading 'Delirium' four minutes before Lauren Oliver called her, something she likes to call awesome timing, not procrastination. She's currently reading 'Tender Morsels' by Margo Lanagan and debating whether or not to friend Lauren Oliver on Facebook. Awkward! Follow her on Twitter here.


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