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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Author Interview: Ally Condie

Today is the release day for Matched in Australia *squeals in excitement* and to celebrate its release I’m posting my interview I recently did with Ally where we discussed Ally’s novel and her writing in general.

Now for those of you who haven’t heard of Matched before well it’s definitely going to be “the next big thing in YA literature... it's been called a dystopian futuristic romance”.

Matched was such an engrossing read, I hope you all have a chance to read it. For my review simply click HERE.

Enjoy the interview!

How would you describe Matched for those who have not read the book yet?

I tell people that Matched is a story about one girl learning to choose and falling in love. I always want the reader to be able to discover the story on their own so I’m hesitant to say too much. J

I was fascinated in the intricate world building you created involving the Society could you explain a bit about how you came up with the concept.

Thank you! I built the Society around Cassia and the Matching. I thought, “What kind of world would need to exist for a story like this to take place? It was really fun to create that world.

Where did the idea of being ‘Matched’ with your ideal partner come from?

The idea for being “Matched” with one’s ideal partner has been around for centuries and in many different incarnations—from matchmakers and arranged marriages to dating websites that match people together. And I’ve always been intrigued by it. Especially when sometimes it seemed easier to have someone else do it than to find that “perfect” person on your own!

One day, talking with my husband, I wondered aloud what would happen if the government got to pair off people. And what if they did it at a very young age? So that, instead of going to Prom at seventeen, you found out whom you were going to marry? That conversation with my husband about marriage and remembering an experience chaperoning a prom were some of the things that came together for me to begin Matched.

Whilst for a dystopian novel Matched may not be action packed in the literal sense I found its brilliance lay in its subtleties which leaves the reader with an ever increasing feeling of dread for the citizens of the society, was this lack of action a conscious decision on your part?

It wasn’t a conscious decision—I wrote the story the way that felt right for the evolution of Cassia’s character. To my mind, there is a lot of action in the story, but it’s not things being blown up or destroyed (although that happens too). It’s more internal action, as Cassia’s perfect world begins to come apart.

I have to admit that seeing the society through Cassia’s non-questioning eyes at the start of the novel I was lulled into a false sense of security about the society. It seemed almost safe and comforting to me even though so many things were controlled, perhaps in order to have a safe and productive society some things have to be controlled. However as the novel progressed and Cassia’s eyes are opened to the society’s injustices my apprehension towards this controlling society increased culminating in my utter disgust at what the society was doing. Was this gradual shift in the readers’ perception of the Society what you were aiming for?

Yes, because the novel is told from first person, so the reader only knows what Cassia knows. And Cassia, at the beginning, thinks the Society is (mostly) just fine. She has twinges of rebellion now and then, but she buys into the Society because it’s all she’s ever known and because parts of it do, in fact, work very well. Cassia is an unreliable narrator—not because she lies, but because there is so much she doesn’t know. As Cassia learns more, we learn more too, both in Matched and throughout the series.

Cassia’s grandfather was extremely important in terms of opening Cassia’s eyes to the society’s injustice and excessive control. Why did you choose this character to open Cassia’s eyes?

I have been deeply influenced and guided by my own grandparents, who were (and are, in the case of my grandmother) all very wonderful, interesting people. So it felt very natural to me to have it be a grandparent figure mentoring Cassia in the book.

The powerful poem by Dylan Thomas ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ features prominently throughout the novel, I’m interested in whether or not this poem was what inspired you to write Matched? If not, what did?

I decided to add the poem about a fourth of the way into writing the book, when I wanted Cassia to receive a gift from Grandfather. I knew I wanted the gift to be poetry, and this is one of my favorite poems. It’s also an excellent fit for the book so it was very fun to include. (And it’s a poem the Society would definitely not have chosen to keep, so that worked well too!)

I’m curious as to why you chose to make the citizens unable to write even though they could still read?

I made the citizens unable to write because it’s a shift that I’ve seen happening when I was teaching and now as a parent. We can still tap and type on keyboards and phones, but more and more we are losing our ability to actually write because we don’t need it as much.

My husband, for example, can’t write in cursive because the public school system never taught him to do so (he was going through the system at an “experimental” time). I’ve also seen one of my young sons really struggle to learn to write; it does not come naturally to him and is a skill that very much has to be learned and practiced. And then, when a friend who had read a draft of the book came across this article on and sent it to me, I knew I wasn’t the only one noticing this rather interesting trend [to read the article click HERE].

Do you believe being a high school English teacher has assisted you when writing novels for a young adult audience?

I think it has helped a little, in that I love reading and writing and working with teenagers, and writing for YA brings that all together!

What was your journey to publication like?

My journey to national publication was both long and short. Long, in that I wrote daily for about seven years before I got an agent. Short, in that everything happened very quickly once I started querying Matched. I had an agent within two months and a book deal less than a month after that. (I also published several books with a smaller regional publisher before getting an agent, and I loved that part of the journey as well.)

Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself that most people would be surprised to know?

Um…I’m pretty boring! And I’ve been blogging for about four years so I feel like I’ve used all my material! But one thing that most people probably don’t know is that I took seven years of folk dance lessons (and I’m still terrible).

I know when I’m writing an essay for uni I have a whole routine I must follow, do you have a writing routine that you follow?

Yes! I need water and my special blue hoodie. I listen to a few songs before I write. Cinnamon bears and Junior Mints are also good, but I can work without them if I must. ;)

As this is a YA blog what are your favourite YA novels?

My favorite YA novels right now are Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, Everything is Fine by Ann Dee Ellis, and Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams.

The ending of Matched left me desperately wanting more, can you give us any information on the second novel in the series?

Oh, thank you! I can only say a little about the second book because we’re still thick in revisions—so things can change! But I can tell you that it will be released about a year after Matched and that it will have two narrators this time.

[Update: Since this interview the name of the second book in the series was released as well as the release date, so without further ado the next book in the series is called Crossed and will be released on the 1st of November 2011.]

Are you currently working on anything else, can you tell us anything about it?

My writing focus is mostly on the Matched trilogy right now, but my oldest son did ask me recently to write a story for him, so I’m working on that as well. It’s been a lot of fun!

Thanks so much for the great questions! I appreciate your taking the time to write such thoughtful queries. And thank you for letting me be a part of your wonderful blog!

I’d just like to thank both Ally for taking the time to answer these questions and Erin over at Penguin Australia who organized it all for me, without Erin none of this would have been possible, so thanks Erin!

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Romy @
Greetings fellow blog readers, welcome to my blog and thank you for stopping by. Now you may be wondering who is Well is also known as Romy, a 23 year old graduate student from Australia who loves to read. I read (maybe devour would be a more appropriate word) largely young adult novels, with a particular love of fantasy and paranormal novels, however I am also a sucker for a good romance.
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