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Bethany Nolan
IU Communications

Last modified: Thursday, March 22, 2012

'Hunger Games' author Suzanne Collins graduated from IU

March 22, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- You've read the books, and you're pumped for the March release of the movie. But did you know "Hunger Games" trilogy author Suzanne Collins is an Indiana University alumna?

That's right -- she received a bachelor's degree with distinction in 1985, with a double major in telecommunications and in theater and drama, graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences.

The IU Archives even uncovered a newspaper article detailing her appearance in a university production of "Forest Game," described as a "thriller set deep within the woods" that examines the "violent, natural justice of the forest versus the violent, unnatural injustice of the world."

That might sound just a little familiar to fans of "The Hunger Games," which tells the story of 16-year-old Katniss, who volunteers to take her sister's place in the annual games that pit her in a fight to the death against tributes from other districts in their dystopian world of Panem.

The first book in the best-selling series is being made into a movie, featuring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Liam Hemsworth as her friend Gale and Josh Hutcherson as a fellow tribute. Directed by Gary Ross, it arrives in theaters Friday, March 23.

While her publishing company said Collins is too swamped with pre-premiere publicity to speak with us just now, we were able to snag some details directly from Scholastic. Here's a look:

Question: You weave action, adventure, mythology, sci-fi, romance and philosophy throughout "The Hunger Games." What influenced you?

Answer: A significant influence would have to be the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The myth tells how in punishment for past deeds, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete, where they were thrown in the Labyrinth and devoured by the monstrous Minotaur.

Even as a kid, I could appreciate how ruthless this was. Crete was sending a very clear message: "Mess with us and we'll do something worse than kill you. We'll kill your children." And the thing is, it was allowed; the parents sat by powerless to stop it. Theseus, who was the son of the king, volunteered to go. I guess in her own way, Katniss is a futuristic Theseus.

In keeping with the classical roots, I send my tributes into an updated version of the Roman gladiator games, which entails a ruthless government forcing people to fight to the death as popular entertainment. The world of Panem, particularly the Capitol, is loaded with Roman references. Panem itself comes from the expression "Panem et Circenses," which translates into "Bread and Circuses."

The audiences for both the Roman games and reality TV are almost characters in themselves. They can respond with great enthusiasm or play a role in your elimination.

I was channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage when Katniss' story came to me. One night I'm sitting there flipping around and on one channel there's a group of young people competing for, I don't know, money maybe? And on the next, there's a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story.

Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins

Print-Quality Photo

Q: In your book, the Hunger Games is an annual televised event in which one boy and one girl from each of the 12 districts is forced to participate in a fight to the death on live TV. What do you think the appeal of reality television is -- to both kids and adults?

A: Well, they're often set up as games and, like sporting events, there's an interest in seeing who wins. The contestants are usually unknown, which makes them relatable. Sometimes they have very talented people performing.

Then there's the voyeuristic thrill -- watching people being humiliated, or brought to tears, or suffering physically -- which I find very disturbing. There's also the potential for desensitizing the audience, so that when they see real tragedy playing out on, say, the news, it doesn't have the impact it should.

Q: What do you hope readers will come away with when they read "The Hunger Games?"

A: Questions about how elements of the book might be relevant in their own lives. And, if they're disturbing, what they might do about them.

Q: What were some of your favorite novels when you were a teen?

A: "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," by Betty Smith

"The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter," by Carson McCullers

"Nineteen Eighty-Four," by George Orwell

"Anna Karenina," by Leo Tolstoy

"Slaughterhouse-Five," by Kurt Vonnegut

"A Wrinkle in Time," by Madeleine L'Engle

"Lord of the Flies," by William Golding

"Boris," by Jaap ter Haar

"Germinal," by Emile Zola

"Dandelion Wine," by Ray Bradbury

Collins is also the author of the award-winning "Underland Chronicles," which tells the story of Gregor the Overlander and the crawlers, spinners, nibblers, diggers, fliers -- and humans -- that inhabit the Underworld. For more, visit