Todd Plitt

''The Hunger Games'' author talks about ''A Wrinkle in Time'' and ''The Idiot''

August 13, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Bella who? These days it’s all about Katniss Everdeen, the tough-as-nails 16-year-old star of Suzanne Collins’ hugely popular postapocalyptic series. When the first novel, The Hunger Games, blazed onto the scene in September 2008, it became an immediate best-seller. Stephenie Meyer wrote on her blog, ”I was so obsessed with this book I had to take it with me out to dinner and hide it under the edge of the table so I wouldn’t have to stop reading,” and Stephen King reviewed it for EW, calling it ”a violent, jarring speed-rap of a novel that generates nearly constant suspense.” Catching Fire, the second book in the trilogy, was published to equal hubbub in September, prompting Lionsgate to snatch the series’ film rights — though the question of who will play Katniss is still up in the air. Now Scholastic has ordered a massive 1.2 million first printing of Mockingjay, which goes on sale Aug. 24. So it seemed like a pretty good time to give Collins our EW book quiz.

Which classic have you never read — but pretended you did?
I sort of half read Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge. It was assigned in 10th grade, and I just couldn’t get into it. About seven years later I rediscovered Hardy, and consumed four of his novels in a row. Katniss Everdeen owes her last name to Bathsheba Everdene, the lead character in Far From the Madding Crowd. The two are very different, but both struggle with knowing their hearts.

What book would you use to swat a fly?
I try to catch flies in cups and put them outside. After I wrote The Underland Chronicles…well, once you start naming cockroaches, you lose your edge.

Tell us what your favorite childhood books were.
I’ve had a lifelong love of mythology, so I’d have to top the list with Myths and Enchantment Tales, by Margaret Evans Price, which belonged to my mom when she was a girl, and D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. Fiction standouts include A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle; The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer; and Boris, by the Dutch writer Jaap ter Haar, which I still think is one of the best war stories written for kids. Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print in this country.

Are there books you’ve gone back to and read over and over again?
It’s embarrassing to admit how many times I’ve reread the following: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1984, Lord of the Flies, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Germinal, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and A Moveable Feast.

Is there a book that scared the pants off you?
The Hot Zone, by Richard Preston. I Just read it a few weeks ago. Still recovering.

Is there a book you always meant to pick up but never did?
The Idiot. I read several stage adaptations when I worked for the Classic Stage Company, so I have a general idea of the story, but that’s a different experience. And I love Dostoyevsky’s writing, so I’ve been meaning to read it ever since.

What do you want to read next? Okay, well, now it has to be The Idiot. Next book I buy.

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