Less than a decade ago, Lauren Kate was a fledgling novelist who had been through two rounds of rejection from publishers. So when it came to her next idea, a teenage romance with a supernatural twist, the Plano native’s expectations weren’t high.
She never would have guessed that Fallen would reach the top of the New York Times bestseller list, that it would spawn a half-dozen sequels and the devotion of a worldwide fan base, or that it would be adapted for the big screen. She was anticipating the same fate as her first two attempts.
“I wrote Fallen in the same spirit,” Kate said by phone from Los Angeles. “I don’t imagine I’ll ever finish it. I don’t imagine it will ever become a book, and if it does, I don’t imagine anyone will ever read it. That’s what was familiar to me.”
Of course, the fantasy novel connected with young-adult readers. And just days after it was published in December 2009, the movie rights were optioned. There have even been preliminary talks about a franchise.
“I don’t think I’ve ever gotten used to the fact that there are people who care about this series so passionately, let alone that now there’s a movie,” Kate said. “It’s not something I take for granted at all, but I’m enjoying it immensely.”
The film’s story follows Luce (Addison Timlin), who has difficulty making friends after enrolling at a posh Southern boarding school, in part because many of her classmates are fallen angels banished to Earth during a heavenly war. As she hallucinates about a past tragedy, Luce becomes romantically torn between two boys on opposite sides.
Kate, 36, credits a bond with her English teacher at Renner Middle School as an inspiration to start writing. And her years at Plano High School were impactful as well, judging from her ability to write relatable teenage characters, such as Luce.
“She’s in between childhood and adulthood, and in the mythology of the series, she’s in between mortals and angels. I think there’s a sense of being in between places and wondering what’s going to become of you, and having a lot of great aspirations for the future, and a lot of paths that are pulling you in different directions,” said Kate, whose parents still live in the Dallas area. “As I came into adolescence, I felt this urge to move forward and become an adult, and at the same time this subconscious thing pulling me back toward childhood.”
Kate left Texas to earn a writing degree from Emory University in Atlanta, and eventually settled in California, where she finished a master’s degree and still lives with her husband and two children.
Despite the initial enthusiasm, the big-screen adaptation of Fallen had its share of hurdles. Script development took about 3-4 years, and it wasn’t until veteran director Scott Hicks (Shine) came aboard that the project really picked up steam.
“He understood exactly how to adapt the film,” Kate said of Hicks. “I almost felt he was able to read my mind. It took a long time, but it’s worth it.”
Kate is an executive producer on the film and spent a couple of weeks on the set during filming, where she enjoyed the collaborative atmosphere.
“I loved being able to have conversations with the cast about how I saw the characters and how they saw the characters, and who the characters were meant to become over the course of the movie and the series,” she said. “The chemistry between them is everything I wanted it to be. It felt really essential and really fun to be able to participate in that.”
Although the Fallen series is set entirely in the fantasy realm, Kate thinks its longstanding appeal can be traced thematically to a grounding in reality.
“I believe there’s something bigger than us that we can touch in rare moments in our mortal lives,” she said. ”But there’s also this real concrete pull to the everyday world.”