Since 1991, Suzanne Collins has been busy writing for children’s television. She has worked on the staffs of several Nickelodeon shows, including the Emmy-nominated hit Clarissa Explains it All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. For preschool viewers, she penned multiple stories for the Emmy-nominated Little Bear and Oswald. She also co-wrote the critically acclaimed Rankin/Bass Christmas special, Santa, Baby! Most recently she was the Head Writer for Scholastic Entertainment’s Clifford’s Puppy Days.
While working on a Kids WB show called Generation O! she met children’s author James Proimos, who talked her into giving children’s books a try.
Thinking one day about Alice in Wonderland, she was struck by how pastoral the setting must seem to kids who, like her own, lived in urban surroundings. In New York City, you’re much more likely to fall down a manhole than a rabbit hole and, if you do, you’re not going to find a tea party. What you might find...? Well, that’s the story of Gregor the Overlander, the first book in her five-part fantasy/war series,The Underland Chronicles.
She currently lives in Connecticut with her family and a pair of feral kittens they adopted from their backyard. (retreived from: http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/bio.htm)
Collins, a 48-year-old mother of two, spent much of her adult life writing for children’s television, dreaming up plot lines for shows like “Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!” a Nick Jr. cartoon aimed at preschoolers.
But in the “Hunger Games” trilogy, she revealed an outsize imagination for suffering and brutality. The books juxtapose the futuristic fantasy of a gleaming, high-tech capital and early-industrial life in the 12 half-starved districts it controls. In a ritual known as the Reaping, two adolescents from each of these oppressed districts are selected at random to participate in the Hunger Games, an annual televised match in which children battle one another and mutated beasts to the death, like Roman gladiators in a glitzy reality-TV contest. The trilogy’s heroine, Katniss, 16 years old when the series begins, has the tough-girl angst of an S.E. Hinton teenager and is too focused on survival to spend much time on familiar Y.A. preoccupations like cliques and crushes. On the very first page, she stares at the family’s pet cat, recalling, matter-of-factly, her aborted attempt to “drown him in a bucket.” By the last book, she is leading a revolution.
In “The Hunger Games,” it is clear early on that the death of Katniss’s father has forced her into the uncomfortable role of family provider. The lifelong repercussions of Collins’s father’s service in Vietnam also provided her with a perspective that fuels a key plot twist of “Mockingjay,” which follows one character’s struggle to recover from tortured memories of violence. (In his case, the memories are false, created by an enemy who plants them in his mind.) Collins said her father came back from Vietnam enduring “nightmares, and that lasted his whole life.” As a child, she awoke, at times, to the sound of him crying out during those painful dreams.
Five years after her father’s return, the Air Force moved the family to Brussels, where he seized every opportunity to educate his children about the region’s violent past. No monument or battlefield went unnoticed. “And this was Europe, which is one gigantic battlefield,” Collins said. A family trip to a castle, which she imagined would be “fairy-tale magical,” turned into a lesson on fortresses. “My dad’s holding me back from the tour to show me where they poured the boiling oil, where the arrow slits are. And then you’re just like, wait a minute!” She laughed. “This isn’t what I had in mind.” She threw her arms in the air, sighing loudly, channeling her 13-year-old self. “I should have knooooown better,” she groaned.
A field of poppies outside the family’s home near Brussels struck Collins as an image straight out of “The Wizard of Oz” — until her father recited “In Flanders Fields,” a World War I poem told from the perspective of a soldier buried in a field of poppies. (Fans of “The Hunger Games” might wonder if the Mockingjay, a mutated songbird that becomes the symbol of revolution, originated with the bird that figures prominently in this poem: “The larks, still bravely singing, fly/Scarce heard amid the guns below.”) In the Scholastic conference room, Collins recited the verse, slowly and gravely, as her father no doubt once did, then paused for dramatic effect. “Boom!” she said. “O.K., so this moment becomes transformative, because now I’m looking out onto that field and wondering if it was a graveyard.” Grim as her father’s spontaneous tutorials were, she never resented them. “He was very interesting, fortunately. My God, it would have been hell if he wasn’t.”
The project she is exploring most actively right now is a children’s book based on the year he was serving overseas. Her most autobiographical work to date, it will use her family members’ names; illustrations will be based on family photographs from that era. “I specifically want to do this book, one as a sort of memory piece kind of honoring that year for my family, and two, because I know so many children are experiencing it right now — having deployed parents,” Collins said. “And it’s a way I would like to try and communicate my own experience to them.”