By David Steinberg
Ally Condie Author PhotoAt 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, bestselling author Ally Condie will be at Alamosa Books in Albuquerque to discuss “Reached,” the concluding novel of her “Matched” trilogy. “Reached” was just released in paperback  this week by the Penguin Young Readers Group. The bookstore is located at 8850 Holly NE, just north of Paseo del Norte between Ventura and Barstow.

The first book, “Matched,” was a New York Times bestseller and, among it was named a Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2010. Shelf Awareness said that the second book, “Crossed,” is “an action-driven sequel, steered by characters who break the rules, form new alliances and commit to surprising paths.” The final novel , “Reached,” was published last year and has received wide recognition. Amazon named it the No. 1 Best Book of 2012 for teens.

What follows are a series of questions that I  emailed  to Condie, a Utah resident, through her publicist at Penguin and Condie’s emailed responses.
DS: At what point in your writing did the novel “Matched” become a trilogy? And how did that come about? Do you feel that three books satisfyingly tell the triangular story of Cassia, Xander and Ky?
AC: I didn’t have an agent or publisher when I wrote “Matched,” so I queried it as a stand-alone novel–but I always had ideas for more books. I was about 25 pages into writing “Crossed” when I realized that I would need a third book to tell the story in its entirety. I do feel like three books is the right arc for the story because that way the series ended with the characters in the places (emotionally, physically, etc.) that felt right, but also with room for readers to interpret some things for themselves.

DS: Do you see Cassia – her spirit, her independence – appealing in general to young girls and/or to young people in any authoritarian circumstances or society?
AC: That’s a fun question to think about–I used to teach high school and I taught a lot of spirited, independent young women (and spirited, independent young men too). So I do hope that she appeals to kids in any situation and to both genders. I think most of us feel like we are controlled in some way and so I do think young readers respond to that in Cassia’s story–it feels familiar.

Condie TrilogyDS: How did you come to write the trilogy in the first place? Was it an idea or a confluence of ideas percolzting for some time? Did you derive inspiration from books or articles or films?
AC: The short answer to the question about inspiration is that I had the idea for “Matched” — a girl whose society chooses who she marries–during a conversation with my husband. The long answer is that I also drew on other experiences (like chaperoning high school dances, how I felt about choice and control, and falling in love) to properly tell the story. As far as other books/media go, … there’s a particular scene in “Matched” that is an homage to Fahrenheit 451. I also love the movie “Hero” (the Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou). It forever changed the way I looked at color in storytelling and it’s simply gorgeous.

DS: Please talk a little about your writing process.
AC: My writing process is something that is constantly evolving as my kids grow. I have to work the minute I sit down to make the most effective use of my time–I can’t wait for the muse to strike (although that does happen too). So I’ll listen to a couple of songs to get me in the proper mood and then I get to work. I am a somewhat slow writer and I don’t love to outline–I can do it, but the story almost always deviates from the outline as I explore the world and get to know the characters. I require a lot of revision. It’s not the most efficient process in some ways, but I’ve learned to accept it and work with the constraints of my life and my brain. 😉

DS: Speaking of films, I understand that “Hollywood” has an interest in adapting your books. What is the status of that interest at the moment?
AC: Disney optioned the film rights and hired screenwriters, so we’ll see what happens!