Connecticut author returns to ‘The Hunger Games’ world

Twelve years ago the world was introduced to Katniss Everdeen when she volunteered to participate in the brutal Hunger Games in her sister’s place in Suzanne Collins’ dystopian country of Panem in “The Hunger Games.”

After her victory in the arena, Katniss’s story continued to unfold in “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay” and was later adapted into four four films starring Jennifer Lawrence. A decade after publishing the end of Katniss’s story in 2010’s “Mockingjay,” the Connecticut author has provided readers with the opportunity to travel back into the world of Panem with her much anticipated prequel to the “Hunger Games” trilogy with a story about President Snow.

“Hunger Games” readers will remember that President Snow was a villain in the series and initially some book fans were surprised to learn that the prequel would focus on a young President Snow 64 years before Katniss ever dreamed of rebelling against the Capitol.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” transports readers back to Panem, but this time instead of focusing on the desperate conditions in District 12, it unveils what the Capitol was like a decade after the war between the Capitol and the District rebels as the country prepares for the 10th Hunger Games.

The prequel begins with an 18 year old Coriolanus Snow preparing for his last shot at glory at the reaping of the 10th Hunger Games. Coriolanus’s once mighty family has fallen on difficult times and if he has any shot at bettering his future then he has to successfully mentor his District 12 tribute, Lucy Gray.

In an interview with David Levithan, vice president, publisher and editorial director at Scholastic, Collins answered some of her publisher’s questions about why she chose to return to Panem.

“Here’s how it works now. I have two worlds, the Underland (the world of The Underland Chronicles series) and Panem (the world of The Hunger Games). I use both of them to explore elements of just war theory. When I find a related topic that I want to examine, then I look for the place it best fits. The state of nature debate of the Enlightenment period naturally lent itself to a story centered on Coriolanus Snow,” she said.

Collins added that returning to Panem in the prequel allowed her to flesh out details about Panem’s history that she had touched on in the Hunger Games series.

“Focusing on the 10th Hunger Games also gave me the opportunity to tell Lucy Gray’s story. In the first chapter of “The Hunger Games,” I make reference to a fourth District 12 victor. Katniss doesn’t seem to know anything about the person worth mentioning. While her story isn’t well-known, Lucy Gray lives on in a significant way through her music, helping to bring down Snow in the trilogy,” she said. “Imagine his reaction when Katniss starts singing “Deep in the Meadow” to Rue in the arena. Beyond that, Lucy Gray’s legacy is that she introduced entertainment to the Hunger Games.”

Collins added that she chose the 10th Hunger Games for her story because the Capitol would have been too busy trying to rebuild after the war to really get creative with the Hunger Games during the previous games.

“Even as the victor in the war, the Capitol wouldn’t have had the time or resources for anything elaborate. They had to rebuild their city and the industries in the districts, so the arena really is an old sports arena. They just threw in the kids and the weapons and turned on the cameras. The 10th Hunger Games is where it all blows wide open, both figuratively and literally.”

As to writing about an 18-year-old version of President Snow she said the person he became in “The Hunger Games” was determined during the character’s childhood.

“Snow’s authoritarian convictions grew out of the experiences of his childhood, as did his complicated relationships with mockingjays, food, the Hunger Games, District 12, District 13, and women. So, you rewind and plant the seeds,” she said. “But given all that, you still need to leave room for Snow’s personality. Is he a product of nature or nurture? Everyone of his generation experienced trauma, loss, and deprivation. And yet [other characters like] Sejanus, Tigris, Lucy Gray and Lysistrata turned out very differently. For whatever reason, Snow has a very controlling personality.”

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