By special guest columnist Katie Bisset
“When we got the letter in the post, my mother was ecstatic. She had already decided that all our problems were solved, gone forever. The big hitch in her brilliant plan was me. I didn’t think I was a particularly disobedient daughter, but this was where I drew the line. I didn’t want to be royalty.” – “The Selection”
The book tells the story about America Singer, who is chosen along with 34 other girls to compete for the hand of Prince Maxon. If chosen, she would become the beloved Princess of Illéa, a country that replaced the United States. In a young country that is presently war torn and struggling, the opportunity to live in luxury is every girl’s dream. While most girls long to have a better life for their family and themselves, America is not interested in becoming royalty. She instead longs to marry her sweetheart, Aspen, who is a caste below her.
Even before I read the book, I was interested in meeting Ms. Cass to find out more about her and her writing. I was able to meet her at the opening party for “The Selection” at Barnes and Noble in Christiansburg. There were cupcakes and balloons and everything matched the cover of the book. Ms. Cass was wearing a tiara. It was very girlie, and lots of fun.
Cass is originally from South Carolina, and after graduating with a degree in history from Radford University, she moved to Blacksburg to begin her family. She found her writing voice after a tragic event left her reeling and wanting to find some way to cope with her feelings. Her first book, “The Siren,” was self-published in 2009. Afterward, she found she had a lot of other ideas she wanted to get out. Thus, “The Selection” was born.
The inspiration for “The Selection” came from the biblical story “Esther” and the well know folk tale “Cinderella.” The “selection” process in the book came from Esther’s tale. Cass wanted to show the point of view from one of the women chosen and what it would be like if she had no interest in the king. What if the girl was selected, but was in love with someone else? What if she had to forget that love? “Cinderella,” was a chosen influence because Cass liked the character’s humble background. She wondered what would happen after “happily ever after.”
“Cinderella just wanted a night off and a dress,” explained Cass. “What would happen if she didn’t get her happily ever after and she regretted going to that party for the rest of her life?”
When Cass was finished with the “The Selection,” she began querying agents for help in promoting her book. She met Elana Roth and was soon afterward given a deal by Erica Sussman at HarperTeen. The book premiered on April 24. When asked how she enjoyed working for HarperTeen, Cass answered, “I could not have asked for a better team.” Currently, she is revising the second book of the trilogy and writing the third. “The Selection” has appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List and the CW Network is making a pilot. The book is also being translated into several other languages.
Cass spends a lot of her writing time at Panera Bread while drinking hot chocolate and listening to specific playlists she creates to help inspire her. She says the hardest part about being a writer now is keeping secrets. Her next book is slated to come out in the spring of 2013.
I really enjoyed reading this book; I couldn’t put it down. I had a hard time waiting for what happens. It is set about 300 years into the future, and has some dystopian features in it. When Cass was in the process of writing the book, she focused on the love story, but found that readers would have liked more information about the world of Illéa. It is a young country with a severe social caste system. It has a lot of strict rules, which is why they are having problems with rebels ravaging the country.
I compare “The Selection” to Kristen Cashore’s books, “Fire,” “Graceling,” and “Bitterblue,” which have strong heroines as the main character. I like America because just like the character in Cashore’s book, she was close to her family and had strong morals. She really doesn’t want to break any laws, but will do anything to be with the one she loves. She uses her beliefs to show Prince Maxon how he could change his kingdom for the better. She treats everyone with respect, no matter what caste they are in. During a raid on the palace, America made sure her maids were safe, which was seen as odd to Prince Maxon and the other girls. I hope to see more of her strength of character in future books. “The Selection” had a lot of interesting characters and twists and turns. I am looking forward to finding out where the next books will lead.
To learn more about Kiera Cass, visit her website at www.kieracass.com.