HarperCollins Has Big Plans for Lauren Oliver

(c) Charles Grantham

(c) Charles Grantham

The last time PW checked in with Lauren Oliver, she did the interview on a train while on the way to a school reading. Since that day in 2013, the author of the internationally bestselling Delirium trilogy hasn’t slowed down a bit. In 2014 she published Panic, her second stand-alone realistic YA novel, and Rooms, her first novel for adults. Last year her YA novel Vanishing Girls and Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head, the first book in the middle-grade series she’s crafting with relics collector H.C. Chester (a.k.a. Harold Schechter, her father), were released to much acclaim. Now as the new year gets underway, Oliver has some good news for her fans: 2016 promises even more books (and a film) on the way.

Perhaps the biggest development is HarperCollins’s acquisition of Replica in August 2014, the first installment in a proposed duology slated for publication in fall 2016 and fall 2017 respectively. A contemporary story that includes elements of science fiction, Replica takes place in a world where human clones, or replicas, are being used by the military for medical experiments. But that’s just a simple description. What the finished book will actually turn out to be is a full-fledged interactive experience for readers.

Here’s the more complex explanation. In the spring of 2014, Oliver sent the first 18,000 words of what she called “an unconventional project” to her agent, InkWell Management’s Stephen Barbara, and HarperCollins editorial director Rosemary Brosnan. The manuscript featured two protagonists: one “normal” girl, Gemma, whose father played a role in founding and financing a research facility called Haven, and Lyra, a replica who grew up in the lab. “I was struck, immediately, by Lyra’s innocence and wonder as she learned how to read, how to question the world around her, and began tentatively to uncover the secrets of her origins,” says Barbara. “The novel’s wonderful mix of a speculative element in a real-world setting with a romantic subplot brought me back to the reading experience of the Delirium trilogy.”

ReplicaAside from a compelling plot, what impressed both Barbara and Brosnan was the book’s unique structure. It’s basically three-books-in-one. “Rather than just telling a story in alternate chapters where one story is really filling in the holes of the other story as they each move forward in time simultaneously, I was interested in writing a book that would be two separate books that could stand on their own and tell a complete story. But then also, if you read them both together, it would be an even deeper [third] story – one that had even more twists and turns, where you could learn about one from another,” Oliver says.

Readers will be able to interact with Replica – and its sequel, tentatively titled Simulation – in one of three ways, according to Oliver. They can read Gemma’s story first, then flip the book over to read Lyra’s story. They can read Lyra’s story straight through, and Gemma’s story afterward. Or, based on the way the chapters are numbered within each story, they can alternate between chapters and stories.

The book’s jacket, designed by HarperCollins art director Erin Fitzsimmons, also adds to the experience. Because of its “mirror-inverted” acetate exterior, readers will be able to view the covers as they are, or remove the jacket and replace it upside down to create two new covers. The case cover itself is yet a third option.

According to Brosnan, Oliver couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. “[She] had a bad cold on the day she was supposed to come in [to the office] to see the jacket. So we had [her] and Stephen Skype with us,” Brosnan recalls. “They were on two separate screens and when Erin showed them the design, their mouths dropped open at exactly the same time, which was pretty funny. This was the reaction we had hoped for.”

More on the Docket

Before I FallReplica won’t be available until the fall. In the meantime, Oliver is gearing up for some other releases. In March, Harper will publish an enhanced edition of Oliver’s debut novel, Before I Fall. The new edition will include two new stories set in the world of Before I Fall, a behind-the-scenes look at the process of choosing the original title, a piece about designing the right jacket for the book, an essay by Oliver, a letter from Brosnan, and a revised version of the galley letter that went out when the novel was first published in 2010. “With the YA audience,” Brosnan says, “you always have a new crop of teens coming up, some of whom may have been too young to read Before I Fall when it first came out. So for new readers, and for the many fans of the book, we wanted to offer an enhanced edition that includes exciting extra content. The publishing process is mysterious to many people, [so] I hope that the extra material will shed light on part of the process.”

In June, Harper will release a paperback repackage of the Delirium trilogy, as well as a bind-up of the Delirium novellas, Hana, AnnabelRaven, and Alex. All four books will include a unique excerpt from Replica.

And then there’s the movie adaptation for Before I Fall, produced by Awesomeness Films and directed by Ry Russo-Young. Though the film is still in post-production and an official release date hasn’t been set, the cast lineup has already attracted attention from fans. Zoey Deutch (“Vampire Academy”) plays high-school senior Samantha Kingston; Halston Sage (Paper Towns), Logan Miller (Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse), Kian Lawley (The Chosen), Diego Boneta (Scream Queens), Elena Kampouris (Men, Women & Children), and Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) round out the ensemble.

Though Oliver’s publicity details haven’t firmed up yet, she will most likely hit the road once again on an extended tour for the film and Replica. She’s also planning a multi-tiered campaign through social media via Twitter (@OliverBooks and @BIFMovie) and Instagram (@Lauren_Oliver_Books) to promote her projects throughout the year. “The thing that makes me happiest to do online is stuff that asks for participation and creativity on the part of fans and readers as opposed to stuff that just feels like me talking at them,” Oliver says. “I plan on having lots of big, month-by-month fun collaborative online projects with my fans to celebrate all these new cool things that are happening.”

Originally ran in Publishers Weekly (January 12, 2016)

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