This is probably not the first time you heard about Kiera Cass’ Philippine book tour. To some, this may not even be the first time you got to breathe the same air with her and a selfie if you’re one of the lucky few. The most-sought after young adult, dystopian, romance novelist was back in Cebu to pull at our heartstrings yet again, this time, with her fourth book of “The Selection” series titled “The Heir.” Before anything else, Warner Brothers already bought the rights for “The Selection” series.
“The Heir” is a story shifted fast forward to Princess Eadlyn, the daughter of America Singer whose story with Prince Maxon we followed from book one to three. Like her royal father who is now the king, it is expected of Eadlyn to find her happily-ever-after in “The Selection.” She is presented to 35 eligible
men vying for her love. Such has been the tradition of Illea for generations, but the princess prefers to put off the idea of marriage for as long as she can.
In this book, Kiera included a letter to her Filipino readers with whom she had her “first skin-tingling moment”—something she will hold on to forever. Writing stories never occurred to her as a profession. It was only meant to help get through a sad chapter in her life. Today Kiera is inspiring many with her stories of loyalty, family, friendship, and love. Though set in a dystopian land, the struggles and dilemma of the characters couldn’t be any more than close to reality. Kiera believed that a book is not limited by its definition. It’s more than just for holding stories. It could mean to inspire. It could change.
The New York bestselling author from South Carolina sat with Play! for a casual interview before the book signing event by National Book Store. It appears that Kiera too has a love story of her own which she spoke of in all smiles and giggles like it just happened yesterday. (BHQ)
How was the trip to Cebu?
It was good. We got in last night. The hotel is lovely. The last time we were here, we actually got a little tour of Cebu. This time we got a tour of Manila a bit, so it’s cool because that doesn’t always happen. So, it’s good!
And how’s your second visit here so far?
We haven’t got into the signings yet and so that sort of defines it, but basically all the interviews have been all fun. I’m anxious
to see how this day goes. I’m like, “Oh I can sign three hundred books. Five hundred? Okay. All right, I can do this.” It’s a little challenging but I’m sure it’s going to be good.
The first signing went really well. Did you expect the reception of the crowd?
No. That was right after “The Elite” came out and I’ve done my first tour in the US, and it was a good tour because you go out with other authors. I’ll never
forget stepping out of the car the first time and the security guards were holding the girls back, and they were pointing, “That’s her! That’s her!” All of the videos of that day were me crying because I was so overwhelmed. So yeah, it was totally unexpected. It’s hard to get used to.
What’s the best thing a fan ever did to you?
It’s cool because I have a handful of fans I get to know a little bit. There was this girl who sent me a baby blanket for my son. She knitted a baby blanket for him and I got to meet her on an event. I learned that she’s been with her boyfriend for a long time and it’s cool to really get to know her. When people are like, “Your books got through a really hard time,” that’s really cool because as a fan girl myself, I get it. I get it that sometimes a book is more than just a book.
How did the love story trilogy of America Singer come to you?
At the beginning of “The Selection” I was thinking of the what-if’s of Esther in the Bible, and Cinderella. In Esther’s story, there’s King Xerxes, and Queen Vashti. There’ll be a huge party and he sends for her but she doesn’t come out and the party is in a week, and people were like “Why not have a beauty contest and get a new queen?” Esther was one of the hundreds of girls who were sent to the palace and even if she lost, she was never going home. She’d be in a harem for the rest of her life. That was it. But she wins and saves her people but I always wondered, what if there’s someone she really hoped for but that didn’t work out and because of that she did this huge other thing? And Cinderella? She didn’t really ask for a prince. She asked for a night off, and a dress. She just wanted a break! We assumed she’s happy because she got her man but what if she wasn’t? What if being a princess is gross? So those two things married in my head and I once wrote about this girl who came from a very humble background and she was given the attention of the prince but she didn’t want it because she was already in love. She was going through something that’ll show the world that she, as a poor person, was supposed to see and that thing became The Selection. That was my beginning.
Did you see right then that it’s going to be a series?
Yeah, when I was writing towards the end, it felt like this isn’t the end of the end. There’s going to be more. As I found an agent when I sent out the first book, I said there’s going to be two more. It’s going to be a trilogy. So yeah, it was planned like that pretty much from the start.
Now that all three books are out, was there a time you wished you changed something in the story?
People ask me about that a lot. I get to know my characters like you get to know people in your life. You spend time with them; you ask them questions. As I was writing the first book, I was putting words in America’s mouth and making twists for her. Once I got towards the end, I realized that I truly knew her and I’ve seen what I did and I had to go back and rewrite the book, and I was like “Oh this changes a lot of things down the road”. So the original ending of the first book was not what you got. It changed one time but that was it.
What was the original ending?
In the original version, Clarkson died. Maxon died. Amberly lived and she adopted America. She always wanted a daughter. America ended up choosing Aspen and they became king and queen together which I was totally holding down with because Aspen was a great leader. He had amazing qualities for a prince, but I realized that Maxon was the harder
decision for America. It’s harder for this girl who has lived her life at the background to be like “Ok, I’m going to live my life publicly. I’m going to fall in love with this person whom I thought I didn’t like at all. I’m going to try to do these things.” For that to even happen, he had to be alive. So he lived.
How long did it take to write the trilogy?
The first book alone was a four-year process from coming up with the idea and then working on it. I self-published a book, I had a baby, I found an agent, I got an editor, and all the revisions. So from the idea to shelf was a four-year process. It’s about a two-year break
between signing the contract and seeing the book on the shelf, so when “The Selection” was out, we were in the middle of the final edits for “The Elite.”
Which among the characters you feel much close to?
No one is based off of me but I’m probably closest to May. She’s very excitable, a fan girl. I feel like I would go out on a day date with her. I love her.
Any update on its movie?
We have a producer. We have a screen writer. The screen play has been written. Depending on how the studio feels about the screen play, they start looking for a director. Once there’s a director, then we can start the casting. There are a bunch of different steps to get to and we are in the starting line. If they start the production, I will be tweeting about it, but right now, there’s not much news to share.
How did the idea of having Eadlyn, a story of America’s daughter, happen?
Accidentally. “The One” was about to come out and we were talking about stuff to do in the fall. My editor suggested if I could write a second epilogue. We could put it up on the website. They can unlock it and we can release it at the end of that. It could be a nice idea to say Thank You. My first thought was next generation; fast forward. Where are they now? I called my editor as I was going through and said, “I kind of hate you. This is definitely not an epilogue. This is another book!”
She said “Well, hold that thought! We can make that happen.” So we talked about it and I think two books for this would be enough.
We have a collection of novellas coming out in the fall. “The Happily Ever After” will have “The Prince,” “The Guard,” “The Queen,” “The Favorite,” and three scenes from Celeste’s point of view. It will have the bonus epilogue in there about the girls and where they’re now for the final four of “The Selection.” All of that is going to be bound in one beautiful little book.
Let’s look back. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was kind of late in the game, actually. It started as a therapy. I was going through a dark season in life and I didn’t know what to do with myself so I decided to give my issues to a character and let her go through them. That came out with clarity. It helped me think, processed a lot of stuff, and once I was in the habit of writing, other people showed up. They were way cooler than me or my problems. So I decided to write their stuff instead. That was the beginning of it. I was in my late 20s. Most of the people that time were already established in their careers. Let that be a lesson to you, guys! At 17 or 18 you have to know what you’re going to do with your life! (Laughs). And that’s not true. So not true. There’s plenty of time to make your mistakes and figure out what you really want. You think you already know what you want but you don’t and that’s ok.
Do you believe that true love could come at the age of 17 or 18?
I believe in true love. I believe in The One, but I think sometime you have to make that person The One. In America, the divorce rate is kind of high. They keep saying because he’s not the one. Callaway isn’t perfect. I’m not perfect. We are two very flawed people trying to make a life happen together. Every day I choose, you are my one. I’m going to stick with you. There will be days when love is so great it will carry you through everything no matter how crappy it is. And then there will be days when it is so hard you have to work to get to the love. So you have to choose who you will spend these days with. Happily ever after can be a choice.
How did your love story with Callaway start?
Callaway and I met in college. I was going to Radford University. It was 20 to 30 minutes down the road. We have sister churches on our campus. Same church but ran by different people on each campus. They did stuff together over the summer and I was there and got to know the people of the band he played in. He plays the guitar. He’s actually off right now trying to buy the famous guitars made in Cebu. He found out about this just an hour ago! (Laughs). I was all about the drummer. He was so cute! But he was all about me from Day 1, and I was like, “No!” I think I rejected him three times. I told him, “I’m not the one for you”. He said, “Don’t worry about that. I’ll figure it out. Try to figure out if I’m the right guy for you”. So I was like, “That’s smart”. There’s only so much you could know about a person without dating him so I gave him a chance. We’ve been married for 11 years and I have two kids with him! (Laughs).
What was the turning point?
We balance each other very well. He can be incredibly serious, and I can be wooohoo! We’re like peanut butter and jelly, although I hate peanut butter and jelly. (Laughs). It’s weird. We just worked. He makes me laugh. He still gets stuff wrong because he’s human, but he just knows when I need to chill. On the way
here, he made me a playlist so I could be calm and ready to go. So yeah, he’s my person.
What songs did he prepare?
Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift! (Laughs)
How is the usual day with him?
The mornings are insane! I’m trying to get the kids ready for school, and he has to go to his actual desk job. But the cool thing is, he comes home for lunch every day. In the middle of the day, at 12:15, I know my hubby is going to walk into the door and I get to check out in the middle of the day with him. Sometimes we just watch TV where we’re eating, listen to music, or talk about whatever is going on. It’s nice because it’s hard for couple with kids to have those moments together when you actually talk to each other. And then he goes back to work and comes home for dinner with me and kids.
Tell us about your upcoming book “The Siren.”
That’s coming out early 2016. I self-published that book before “The Selection” came out. Now that so “The
Selection” is doing so well, I decided to give it a revamp. Give it a second shot. Basically, it’s an updated take on the old Greek mythology of these beautiful women who would sing, and the men sailing the ships would crash into the rocks trying to get to these girls. My version is that The Ocean is a living thing and
she eats people so she needs these beautiful girls to sing ships to their doom. She takes the weight of their souls, and by that, she’s able to sustain the rest of the planet. Everything kind of depends on this Ocean.
Kahlen was one of the people who were drowning and she was rescued by the Ocean and was recruited to sing for her. She’s kind of a weapon. Her voice just makes you want to drown and kill yourself. She’s living out her one hundred years of service to this Ocean. Once she’s done, she gets her voice back, she gets her life back. She doesn’t remember she has killed all these people. She’s free. When she gets very close to the end, she meets a boy and starts risking a lot of things, and things start to get complicated in there. I love history and I love romance. I’m hoping people will like it.
What are you reading now?
I just read “The Secret Lies of Minnow Bly.” It’s a weird one but it’s really cool. Anyway, I’m recently reading “The Luxe” by Anna Godbersen.