The New Stephanie Meyer?
I met Lauren Kate with low expectations. A quick google and perusal of Wikipedia produced multiple parallels between her work and Twilight, the vampire series that has inexplicably reached demigod status in the world of teenage literature. Kate is from Texas, the state of cowboys, dust and George W. Bush. I was pleasantly surprised to find her to be a lovely and genuine woman who was noticeably lacking the southern drawl I had expected. She is intelligent and articulate, citing Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner among her influences and exudes a love of literature that shapes the way she writes. The Fallen series was inspired by biblical narratives and follows a cursed romance; Daniel – an angel – chooses his love for the mortal Luce over heaven. Daniel is immortal, but Luce is not. She dies, again and again, and in every life she falls for Daniel once more. The transcendent nature of love is an interesting concept that has been explored before, if not in this particular way. Passion, the latest book (and the only one I’ve read) follows Luce as she travels backwards through time and her past lives, trying to understand the curse and how to break it. The Magic Schoolbus-esque journey through such a wide range of settings complete with fun historical facts prompted me to ask what kind of research was involved in such a book.
Kate explained, “My preferred method was literary research, so a lot of the settings are plucked from favourite novels of mine, and eras in which I found there to be a lot of novels that I really loved …There’s a chapter in Milan that is heavily inspired by Hemmingway’s Farewell to Arms, there’s a chapter in Moscow that’s inspired by The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. I knew that this was going to be a really historical novel, and it kind of made me really nervous at the outset, and the easiest way for me to get into the research was to tie it to books.”
Her diplomatic response to my question about the comparisons to Twilight suggested that I wasn’t the first interviewer to take this approach:
“I think that my publishers seized on the comparison because it’s a very handy thing to do for sales and marketing reasons. I have never felt particularly close to those books … I read Twilight after I wrote Fallen because my agent told me this is what you’ve got to contend with – the 600 pound gorilla in the room”
She went on to express her appreciation to Stephanie Meyer’s for creating a generation of readers who want to read what Lauren wants to write. Aware of the impressionability of her audience and the importance of her character ‘Luce’ as a role model, Kate is careful to send the right messages, while staying true to the occasionally unpleasant realities of relationships.
“I certainly consider it and I think that Luce considers it all the time - part of her character is the struggle with a gut feeling that this attraction runs deeper than she can recognise. [In Torment] there are a lot of complications in their relationship, she has a lot of resistance to the way she’s being treated and she’s trying to work through these conflicting emotions throughout the book. I think by the end of Passion she’s really come to terms with how powerful this relationship really is. But it was a process for her, and I think it was important for her to go through this stage of infatuation without explanation, which I think is where you get some of the Twilight criticisms – that’s got to be a step, and a lot of good love stories have that step, but then there’s a growing process.”
While influenced by great literary works, Passion is far from a masterpiece. It is an easy, engaging read, but is most likely better appreciated as intended; the third book in a series. I cringed at some of the cheesier lines, but get the feeling that ten years ago I would have been one of the hundreds of teenage girls waiting eagerly for the next instalment. I may have outgrown teenage romance novels, but I look forward to seeing what Lauren Kate has planned for her next series.