Ally Condie: Matched Q&A


Today we’re delighted to present an exclusive Q&A with Matched author Ally Condie, as we continue our week-long feature on her new book. Thanks to Ally for answering all our questions and to Anna at Penguin for setting up the interview!

What’s the story behind the story? How did you come up with the concept for Matched?

Matched was inspired by a few different events—specific ones, such as a conversation with my husband and a time we chaperoned a high school prom—and general ones, like falling in love and becoming a parent.

In Matched, Cassia and the people in The Society have very limited choices – which is part of what makes the dystopian world you’ve created such a scary place to read about. Why is the idea of freedom, specifically freedom of choice, such an important concept to readers? Especially to teen readers?

I think choice is important to all of us, but particularly when you’re young, you are in that strange place of being capable of choosing but often limited–by society, school, family–in which choices you are actually allowed to make. It’s a time of great personal growth and also very limited freedom, which feels constricting.

The concept of love and friendship is greatly explored in Matched – tell us about why this is such an important part of the story.

I think relationships are endlessly fluid and fascinating, and they are also one of the best and hardest parts about being alive. It was especially important for Cassia’s story because she has to decide which of those relationships matter the most to her, which ones were her choice and which were Society’s, etc.

Another recurring concept that features prominently in Matched is that actions have consequences. Cassia learns this first-hand, and so do her friends and family. How does this relate to the world of The Society and what happens in Matched?

The Society came about because of people’s poor choices—the people had basically destroyed their world. So the whole world in Matched came about because of the consequences of the previous generations’ actions. And the real question is: If Cassia, and others, find a way to choose, will they be able to choose better than people have in the past? Or are they bound to make the same mistakes and suffer the same consequences, ultimately?

In Matched, Cassia definitely changes and matures as a character. There are various contributing factors, but which do you think is the most important? What is the key event/moment/etc. that triggers the change in Cassia?

I think there are a lot of important moments for Cassia’s growth, but one of the very key ones is a moment when Grandfather lets her in on a secret.

The world of The Society is quietly horrifying. On the surface, it seems as if everyone is living a perfect life – but there is a subtle misery and horror to this world. What do you think makes The Society so terrifying?

I think the thing that’s terrifying about the Society is that it’s actually a really nice, comfortable place to live. It’s very cosy. The idea that it’s a Society that a lot of people do/could buy into at the cost of personal freedom is what I think makes it feel real, and hopefully frightening.

One of the finer details you mention in The Society is the “100” things – 100 poems, 100 stories, 100 songs, etc. For those of us in the book world the concept is just … well, it’s hard to wrap our heads around it. How did you come up with this idea?

I think I got the idea, in part, from those “100 Best Books” or “100 Best Movie” lists that I see all the time. I started wondering—what if those lists were all there were? And who gets to decide what the “best” is, anyway? Those lists are great as a jumping-off point, but it would be pretty sad/creepy if they were an ending point instead.

Music, poetry, etc. all become very important things to Cassia – but specifically, the poetry of Dylan Thomas. Why Dylan Thomas?

I think that the poem of his I used in Matched is one of those instantly accessible, instantly relatable poems. Even people who say they don’t like or don’t read poetry like that poem. And I felt that was the perfect poem for Cassia to find—it’s both a call to action and a cry of frustration against things that feel unavoidable.

Matched is the first in a trilogy (yes? Trilogy?), with the second book due in stores in about a year. Without giving too much away, what can readers expect to find in Crossed?

Yes, it is the second book in a trilogy. Without saying too much, I can tell you that there are two narrators telling the story in the second book and that we learn more about the Society as Cassia learns more and takes the next step in her journey.

And now to lighten things up a bit … here are Novel Novice’s flash questions:

If you could trade places with one person for a single day, who would it be & why?

I think I’d like to trade places with my husband. Just to see what his life is like so I could be awesome and empathetic about his work, his colleagues, his day-to-day life. But I would be horrible at his job (he’s an economics professor) so hopefully there wouldn’t be any fallout for him from that. 😉 I’d also like to be able to run as fast as he could for a day. That would be awesome.

What was the last movie you saw?

Inception, in the theaters. At home, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. We watch it with our kids every Halloween.

Biggest TV addiction?

30 Rock and Castle.

Guilty pleasure?

Anything sweet. I have a major sweet tooth.

Fruits or veggies?

Fruits!

Karaoke song?

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, by Neil Diamond. So much emoting is possible with that song.

Favorite childhood toy?

A stuffed rabbit named MeMe. I still have it.

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