Friends, it’s with great pleasure that I let Stasia Ward Kehoe, author of Audition take over this blog post!
How Audition is like THE HUNGER GAMES:
Sometimes I wish I could write dystopian paranormal novels, ideally as trilogies. I love the concept of world building–I’d also love a six-figure book deal J.
Before I lament writing in the contemporary genre, I’d like to make the case that I AM WORLD BUILDING. In AUDITION, I wrote about a complicated, artificially lit (at least indoorsy) planet called ballet. I realized that many of my readers would not have danced, at least not as intensely as my main character, Sara. Yet, I wanted to write a world that invited all readers in. So, while I read a ton of verse novels and books about poetry in the process of creating AUDITION, I also turned to some favorite dystopian tales to hone my world-building craft. Here’s what I discovered:
Like Tris in Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT, Sara comes to realize that many other people are invested in the outcome of her actions.
Like Lena in DELIRIUM, Sara begins to question the roles in which her teachers (akin to Oliver’s government and its SHHH handbook rules) cast her, and she begins to catch glimpses of another self with another future dream.
Like Katniss in THE HUNGER GAMES, Sara is confused about love and bloodied by her own kind of physical battles.
So, there is world-building in my novel. I set up an authority (dance teachers), high-stakes (especially Rem’s choreographic career versus Sara’s own dance success) and, of course, a complex romance. But here’s the trick of contemporary YA—the spot where the world-building parallel ends: You can’t change the rules. While not all readers have experienced it, ballet undeniably involves physical scrutiny and body image issues; it involves huge commitments of time at the sacrifice of other activities; it involves large quantities of Lycra and hairspray. And, ultimately, almost all teenage girls who dance ballet do not grow up to be ballerinas.
So, as I wrote the final verses of Audition, I found myself in a world-building versus truth-can-be-stranger-than-fiction conundrum. Katniss survives The Hunger Games against all odds but should Sara, after all her struggles and sacrifices, finish Audition as a star? Like reality television, realistic YA—even if it’s set in a rarefied environment—demands an answer to the question: How real is reality?
Oh, and btw, I love Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. Just sayin’.