Going into my interview with beloved author Kiera Cass I had very high expectations. I knew she would be nice and easygoing as that is her reputation. What she also is, I happily discovered, is very warm, kind and accommodating. No airs. No haughtiness. Just a lot of patience and smiles.
With simplicity and humility, she talks about her books, family and faith. Plus her genuine love for boybands (hello One Directioners!!!). She is a straight shooter who had no qualms telling me how she REALLY felt about the would-have-been Selection TV Show (she hated it!) and what originally happened to The Selection male protagonist Prince Maxon (Gasp! he died!!!).
Cass is here a few more days to attend the 2015 Manila International Book Fair upon the invitation of the National Book Store and to promote her latest book THE HEIR, a sequel to the best selling SELECTION series.
The Heir stars Eadlyn, the daughter of King Maxon and Queen America who readers fell in love with in the Selection series. The kingdom of Illea is in turmoil so as a distraction, Eadlyn is convinced by her parents to begin her own Selection in finding a husband and consort before she herself becomes Queen.
Here is my conversation with Kiera Cass:
Lyn: Your book THE HEIR is out and I love it. Eadlyn is such a strong character but at the same time she has a lot of weaknesses. Which part of her do you think she got from Maxon and which part from her mom America?
Kiera: She definitely got her stubborn side from her mom and her misjudgment of things when she thinks she knows what’s going on but she actually doesn’t, that’s a bit of America too. And then sometimes she is funny and witty without even realizing it, I think those are Maxon traits. She is also very much her own person like she has her own way of looking at things and doing things….not always the right way but still that’s her.
L: One thing about her is that she is tough but she always questions her own importance. She is insecure about who she is.
K: She thinks she has to be and act a certain way in order to have power and then she sees Camille (the French princess and Ahren’s intended) being her polar opposite and still getting respect and still she doesn’t feel like she’s getting the same thing and she’s working so much harder and I think that’s very confusing for her. Eadlyn is difficult for people because she is stubborn and pigheaded but there is a lot of room for growth and I hope people will stick around for the 5th and final book to see where she goes.
L: I am definitely sticking around but it broke my heart when Ahren (Eadlyn’s twin) left so abruptly and I didn’t really expect it. Then Maxon broke down because of America’s heart attack, so what can people expect from the next book? Also do we already have a title?
K: We do have a title but I'm not allowed to tell you yet. But I think the title and cover reveal will be coming up soon. So I can't say yet
L: That’s sad because I'm looking forward to it
K: To be honest with you I hate not telling you because I am the worst at keeping secrets. This is like a special kind of torture for me. I hate it. But this book is emotional and I'm very invested in it. I am so excited and I hope people will stick around and consider it
L: Will it be picking up right where THE HEIR left off?
K: Yes. I can tell you that it (picks up) the following day.
L: Will we see more of Ahren? Because he’s already married to the future queen of France.
K: We will at least hear about Ahren. I can tell you that at least you will still know everything about Ahren’s life. That’s all I can safely say.... I hate this…I wanna tell you (laughs)
L: Ahren is a great brother but I think he is a better boyfriend/husband.
K: Ahren made a tough choice there and I think it was clear he would do pretty much everything for Eadlyn and like he said (to his sister) “I had to go give my heart to Camille before you ask for it”. And I do think had he not run off, eventually she would have made him stay. He might not have taken over but he would have been sharing a lot of the burden of Eadlyn and it would have been unfair to him.
L: After she threw that glass on the wall, I wanted to throw one too
K: A lot of readers felt the same way. They’re like “he was so great and then he LEFT!” I was like “I know but he had to, don’t you understand?”
L: At least this way all the concentration would be on Eadlyn and whoever she chooses
K: Yeah and we will have answers to everything in the last book
L: Speaking of the boys, I'm actually torn between Kile and Eric but I love Henri too
K: I love him too. He is precious. He was unexpected. I love him, he is adorable. I just keep thinking about him wrapping his shirt around Eadlyn to use as an apron and I was like that is the cutest, sweetest most precious thing ever. He can’t even say how he feels about her (Henri can’t speak English) but even without having these deep conversations he is very aware of how deep his feelings are and he tries to show it in this very simple way…I love him
L: He is sweet but what can we expect from Eric.
K: I think we’re gonna have to get to the Elite pretty soon and we have to narrow the bunch so she can actually focus on making a decision which she seems very compelled to do at the end of THE HEIR. As far as who is going to be front and center, I can’t say! But I will tell you that I have a favorite and I don’t think that my favorite is going to make it. I will tell you that but I will not name names.
L: It's not Hale is it?
K: I will not say…. I will say nothing about anyone (laughs)… again this is torture for me too. I want you to understand that.
L: Let’s go back to THE SELECTION. Was there ever a moment when you didn’t know who America would end up with? Because my vote was 50/50. I like Maxon but I love Aspen…. I'm actually on Team Aspen
K: You’re an Aspen girl? That’s cool! I will tell you YES, it changed one time. I started writing the SELECTION thinking that I knew America very well and realizing later that I was putting a lot of words into her mouth and making a lot of choices on her behalf. And by the time I got to the end and got to know her I realized a lot of things had to change so I had to go and rewrite the book. And once I got to the end of it, I realized I changed her trajectory towards the end of it. So the end of THE ONE changed one time from what it was to what you have.
L: Now I wanna know
K: You wanna know? I will tell you! I can tell you the original ending. Originally Clarkson (the King) died, Maxon (The Prince) died…
K: I know….Amberly lived and she adopted America. She had always wanted a daughter so she got America.
L: So she still becomes a princess
K: She still becomes a princess and eventually she chose Aspen and they became king and queen. I was totally fine with this, I thought Aspen would make fantastic king. He is very charismatic and he would have done a great job. But that was not the choice that she would have made. Maxon was the harder choice and for her to even make that choice he needed to live, so he lived by the skin of his teeth. She chose him
L: I was gonna ask you if you would consider writing an alternate ending for members of Team Aspen like me because we are waiting for it
K: Now that THE ONE is out, maybe it would be worth writing down on paper just so they could have it sometime but if anything it would just end up on my website somewhere…it won’t be in print anywhere. Maybe when the 5th book is out. I would go and write the ending that might have been-ish
L: Please do! Team Aspen will be waiting and I will be heading that team
L: The Selection has been optioned for film by Warner Brothers. How is that coming along?
K: We are still in the early stages. We have a producer, a screenwriter, the screenplay has been written. I am really happy with the direction they are heading in right now but there so many stopping places there so right now it’s still very early and there’s not too much to say. I think the next step is looking for a director. I'm just waiting to see.
L: I'm sure you have been asked a hundred times over but do you have actors in mind for the parts
K: I have never had a dream cast and I think that’s probably best for me because I can't be disappointed that way.
L: I saw on video the TV show The Selection was supposed to be and honestly did you…
K: I hated it.
L: Exactly!! They changed everything. They changed Maxon so much…
K: I wasn’t free to talk about it then but now I can. They were heading in a direction that I think would have alienated the entire fan base ad I'm not sure why they did that. I don’t understand it. It was the 2nd incarnation of the script for the TV show. The first one was much closer to the book but it didn’t get past everything so they rewrote, recast, reshot where they wanted to take it and I was like WHY are you doing this? To the point where I tried to do everything I could to get my name off of it because I was embarrassed. I hated it. There was nothing redeemable about any of the characters. They were all jerky and I didn’t like them. I didn’t like any of them so. But thank goodness that is dead. After that experience I've been much more careful about film stuff. I have a really great team this time around and I'm working as close as I'm allowed to. You know authors don’t control much but so far everything is going really well. At the end of the day, if I hated it, I wouldn’t support it. I wouldn’t tweet about it, I wouldn’t tell you about it.
L: I’m glad that didn’t pan out because it was really bad
K: It was awful!
L: Maxon was not Maxon. It’s another person. So was America!
K: I know. From fade to black, the first two seconds of the show, I hated everything about it. Some of the stuff they had in there was so disgusting I can't even repeat it.
L: You rewrote your first book THE SIREN. It's coming out soon with a beautiful cover.
K: It’s a gorgeous cover, it’s on my phone, I can't get over it
L: Could you tell us more about it
K: The premise of the story is that the ocean is a living thing and she eats people so she needs these beautiful girls to sing these ships into their doom. So she takes a small group of people to support the rest of the world. We follow Kahlen. She is a siren and it’s a temporary thing. You're only a siren for 100 years and then you’re free, you don’t remember any of these stuff but you get a second shot at life. So we follow her and of course she falls in love with a boy and she can't speak to him because her voice would make him want to drown himself. She is so close to the end, so close to her second life, but she is prepared to throw it all away for this one person.
L: How many books are we expecting here
K: It's just one. It's a stand alone novel. It is interesting because once the books are published I don’t touch them again because I know I would want to change all the sentences. It's not the plot that bothers me but the way I say things. So it was really weird 6 years after putting this book out and updating it. So my editor came back with a note that said we really don’t need these first 5 chapters…we don’t need this character…. I'm not sure about this conversation…. I'm like “oh so we’re gonna rewrite it?” Because that’s really the only thing to do… so it is the same premise and the same characters and the same romance but an entirely different path to get through it. So if people have managed to find a copy of the book and read it, I'm hoping that they’ll take it as two different things because I don’t think you can compare them. They’re written very differently and the way the story is told is very different on both.
L: Is it modern setting too?
K: Yeah it’s modern. It's as if these girls are real and they are living here and you just have no idea that they are weapons essentially because they kill people for the ocean but they silently walk through our world and you just don’t notice them
L: So how do you take adulation from your readers? Because when JB (Roperos of National Book Store) told me you were coming over I badgered him to give me an interview slot. I gotta have it. Squeeze me in! poor JB. It’s going to be crazy by the way the next few days for you.
K: That’s the thing, coming to the Philippines, that was my first experience like that..
L: People are screaming…
K: Yeah! This was after…
L: You had just two books out then…
K: Yes and I was on a book tour and it was quite chill….it wasn’t crazy. But then I came here and I stepped off the carpet on the first signing and there were these security guards holding the girls back. And I was like “oh my goodness this is for me!”. And if you find videos, there’s this first day and it was of me crying because I didn’t know what to do with myself
L: You were overwhelmed
K: I was VERY overwhelmed and it's a bit surreal. And it's never normal. It's always a bit surprising. But it's cool. I have a very short season of life where I matter to people and I just want them to know that I appreciate that they care so much. Because I'm a fangirl too and I know they’re not crazy, they’re just excited and I want them to know that I know it’s not just a book to you. Sometimes it's the thing that gets you through the day. I get that.
L: They’re inspired by it
K: Yeah…. I'm also into bands, into books…I'm into movies. I feel privileged that people say “this book got me through a lot of things” and that’s special to me. I appreciate it all the time. It is intense but it is amazing.
L: Of the books that you’ve written, which one holds your heart the most?
K: That’s strange because The Siren was the first book I ever wrote and I thought there’s no way I can ever love a girl as much as I love Kahlen. And then the Selection happened. And then moving on to Eadlyn, I love her too. She is so precious to me. Because it’s not like a book, It's almost like someone’s diary to me. So even when a book shuts and the pages stop turning, these people are still very much in my head. It's not like there’s a favorite, they are all just there.
L: It’s like they’re your friends
K: Yeah… they’re like my people.
L: I read your blog and you are quite open about being a Christian. How has your belief influenced the way you write and what you put down on paper?
K: There are probably places that other writers are willing to go that I would probably shut the door on. But at the same time I want to be very honest with my characters and I am hoping I've managed to do that while still being very true to myself because I think being true to them and not being very true to myself, I don’t think that would work.
I feel very fortunate that even though those themes are not necessarily in the books, that it has given me an opportunity to speak about it. What’s really incredible is that these young people especially if you just get out there and kind of present your faith instead of pushing it on them, they are very eager to talk. I want to do justice to my God. I hope that I present Christ in a way that people understand. I would hate to be a bad example. I work very hard to be honest because some Christians think they have to be perfect because Christ is the example and you’re trying to live like Christ. The thing is you can never be perfect which is why you need Christ. So I try to be honest about my flaws. So far it has been a very positive thing. I feel very fortunate and I hope I am setting a good example for my faith. If someone came to know Christ because of me, that would be a huge gift.
L: People would like to know you better so let me ask, what is a good day like for you? A perfect day.
K: A perfect day…. I don’t have to cook (laughs).
L: Just enjoy the food…let everyone else do that for you here…
K: Yes I would just like to enjoy it. I wish I had more time to read. I love books but now I don’t get to read them as much as I used to. But any day when I get to be with my kids and they’re playing nicely with each other and they’re not angry….
L: How old are your kids?
K: My son is 5 and my daughter is 3
L: Oh they’re at THAT age… like cat and mouse
K: Yeah! So there are moments where they’re just quarreling about every little thing and there are moments when they’re just playing together and it’s adorable. It’s the perfect part of my day when they’re playing and they are just happy…… so the perfect day is when I don’t have to cook, my kids are happy, Callaway (her husband) is around..
(Calloway, who was listening to the entire conversation, jokingly quips: “oh it sounds like I wasn’t around…”)
K: No…you get to hang out too….. I also like going to the movies. I get to read more…
L: Kind of just relax..
K: Yeah. It seems like there’s just a lot of things right now so I just enjoy my downtime. I probably need to do a better job of it honestly.
L: Alright. So here are a few fast questions on favorites. Here we go. Favorite drink.
K: Oh my goodness….. cranberry apple juice
L: Favorite dessert. I know you like cakes
K: Yes. A good vanilla with buttercream. We have a cupcake store around the corner and they have a cinnamon roll cupcake…I love that. I actually have cupcakes upstairs!
L: Enjoy it! How about favorite book?
K: I must say that in high school, YA (Young Adult themed books) wasn’t a thing yet? So I read this book called The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds and it had a teenage protagonist but it read very differently and then shortly after, The Perks of being a Wallflower came out. Even though I have never tripped on acid, I kind of understood his ways better than hers. So it was good to weigh them side by side. I read both in high school and I read them for fun and I think they made me realize that reading could be fun so writing became fun too.
L: Favorite author
K: These are my friends! Okay… I will say that I wanna give a high five to Stephenie Meyer one day because I don’t think I would have tried to get published if she hadn’t made it sound like anybody could do it so I owe her one, I'm still trying to get there.
L: Favorite vacation place
K: Disneyworld or home
L: Favorite mode of relaxation
K: We had massages yesterday and they were top notch… I would take another one of those please
L: How about hobby?
K: I do love my Bible journaling, that has been my new thing this year but generally I like creating artsy stuff that’s fun
L: You’re very crafty
K: I am. I used to do a lot of scrapbooking . I also used to be on a dance team but I don’t have time anymore.
L: How about favorite song and favorite movie
K: Step by Step
L: New Kids on the Block?
L: Oh my God, it shows my age
K: No but I love boybands….we’re gonna go with it. And my favorite movie is That Thing You Do (directed by and starring Tom Hanks) which is also about boybands so…
L: Since you’ve mentioned it, what is your favorite boyband?
K: Don’t tell 17 year old Kiera but I think I will go with One Direction. If the Back Street Boys know about this they would be mad yeah…
L: Mine was N’sync
K: Oh my God so we don’t even talk to each other
L: Definitely… (laughs)… how about your favorite office supply
K: I LOVE THEM! Oh my goodness… maybe post it notes? I have them all over the house. I need them for plotting purposes. If I'm working on something new and it's a very intricate timeline so every person gets assigned a color…like different sizes of post it notes, different colored pens….so I know who I’m talking about because it's very complicated.
L: Top 5 book recommendations
K: okay… The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton that’s a beautifully written book. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The dress on the cover of the book THE ONE is worth $20,000.00
Kiera likes One Direction and have seen them in concert twice. In one of the concerts she brought a sign that read “Let’s HUG”. Singer Harry Styles saw it and air hugged her.
She likes NKOTBBSB (New Kids on the Block / Back Street Boys… very 90s)
She believes that owning your nerdiness is cool (I totally agree here).
For Your Information:
Kiera Cass’ book signing events are on the following dates and venues. Note that registration for all begins at 10am. Only books purchased from National Book Store, NBS Express and Powerbooks will be accommodated. Here they are:
September 18. 4pm at the Northwing Atrium, SM City Cebu
September 19. 2pm at the Grand Atrium, Shangri-la Plaza
September 20. 2pm at the National Book Store booth Manila International Book Fair, SMX Convention Center (200 slots only).