Kass Morgan studied 19th-century literature at Oxford, but her popular “The 100” series, which has been adapted into a show on The CW, isn’t exactly a marriage plot.
The three books ― with a fourth due out in December ― center on a space colony that’s suffering from a food shortage and consequently punishes even minor crime-committing adults with death sentences. Teens, on the other hand, are held captive in a prison, until 100 of them are selected to return to Earth to examine whether its conditions have become habitable.
Her background in classic literature works its way into the story ― many of her characters are named after popular science fiction writers, like Octavia Butler, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke and Aldous Huxley.
“The cool thing about ‘The 100,’ is these are kids who’ve been robbed of agency and responsibility over their lives, and suddenly, they’re humanity’s best change to save the human race,” Morgan said in an interview with The Huffington Post.
You can watch it above, or read selections from the chat below.
On how she started writing science fiction:
I’ve always been interested in science fiction, at least since sixth grade. I wish I had a more noble origin myth, but the boy I liked in sixth grade did a book report on Ender’s Game, and he was so smart and he made the book sound so cool. That afternoon I went to the library. I was a little confused. I’d never been to the sci-fi section, I’d only been to the sections where there were horses and fairies, and suddenly there were all these spaceships. I read Ender’s Game in one sitting, and after that I was hooked.
On the long tradition of writing dystopian stories:
I love sci-fi. I love dystopian. But for me dystopian is always sort of a prequel ― what happened, how did society unravel. I love that sci-fi asks the question: What comes next? I’ve read so many books about how Earth is destroyed, or civilization is destroyed, and then I wonder, how would you rebuild? Especially, how would you rebuild if it were teenagers in charge […] people who are passionate and idealistic, and always have a lot of agency.
Writing dystopian sci-fi, you think it’s something that’s unique to our era, but actually every generation has dealt with this anxiety. It actually has a name ― fin de siècle, end-of-century anxiety. It’s interesting to think, Oh, wait, people in the Renaissance freaked out about the end of the world, and the Victorians freaked out about the end of the world.
I think they’ve always been popular in some way. I think the reason dystopian has hit a nerve in the YA world is that sometimes being a teenager feels like being stuck in a dystopian novel. You have people telling you what to do all the time, you have a lot of pressure to label yourself ― I’m a student, I’m an athlete ― and any time you try to diverge, you get a lot of push-back.
On writing teen romances:
Since we’re being honest ― I already said I discovered sci-fi through a boy I had a crush on ― it was a little hard for me at first because you get a little jaded about romance and dating, and you forget what it’s like to feel the pangs of first love. With the first book I actually went back and read some breakup emails from circa 2003-2004, and I put on the music I listened to during that era. Reading those emails, listening to a little Death Cab for Cutie, it was not hard to get back into that space. [Laughs.] I hope the angst comes through.
On what to read next if you’re a YA fan:
I have a lot of favorite books, but I’m going to cheat and say series. The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery, I read every year, and they just get better and better. I’ve probably read each book 13 or 14 times, and I still cry. If you need a palette cleanser from kids killing each other in space, and you want to read about orphan girls going to ice cream socials in Canada, that’s my pick.
On seeing her books adapted on screen:
It was the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me, but it was also really weird, especially watching the pilot, which follows the first book pretty closely. It was sort of like coming downstairs in the morning, turning on the TV, and seeing your dreams from the night before there for everyone to watch. So it’s amazing, and surreal. And suddenly people are talking about things that before only existed in your head. It’s almost like, if the characters are my children, it’s like having a webcam on them when they’re in college, so you can’t control them, you just hope they make good choices and make you proud.