We’re only two and a half weeks away from ATLANTIA, the latest book by MATCHED series author Ally Condie!
In the battle between the safety of the Below and the freedom of the Above, we’re on Team Above! Because who wants to miss out on the beauty of our world, despite it being a little rough around the edges?
In the meantime, check out our exclusive interview with Ally, who’s dishing about how she got the idea for ATLANTIA, her favorite thing that didn’t make it into the final cut of the book, the dynamics between her characters, and more!
Was there a certain “a-ha” moment in which you came up with the premise for ATLANTIA or was it a slower, more organic process?
I did have an “a-ha” moment for this book. It happened back in 2011, when I was preparing for a keynote address I was giving at a writing conference. I’d decided to use part of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Steadfast Tin Soldier in the address, and while I was at it, I re-read The Little Mermaid as well. Almost immediately after finishing, I had an idea for a story based on The Little Mermaid (without mermaids, but still involving sisters and an underwater world), but I had to wait until 2012 (when I’d finished Reached) to focus on this new book. I did keep notes and write on it from time to time.
What ideas and designs inspired the look of the underwater city of Atlantia?
I have a bunch of pictures on my Pinterest board ATLANTIA about the city, because I found that I really, really had to visualize it as I wrote. I found a gorgeous image of a real-life underwater city in China (no one lives there, but all the buildings remain) that influenced me quite a bit. And then I found some more sci-fi type images, which were very helpful. And finally, I used the city of Venice—churches, temples, stone streets, gondolas—because I felt like the people wouldn’t have wanted their city to feel too sterile. If they had to leave their world behind, they would want to take some of the most beautiful parts with them.
If you could take one unique element of Atlantia and introduce it to the modern day “Above”, what would it be and why?
That’s an interesting question…one of the things that got cut from the final version was a scene that showed a place called the sea-gardens. That was a sort of underwater garden, like walking among the coral reefs, and I think that would be a really fun thing to have. (Perhaps it does exist somewhere!)
This book is very much about family, particularly sisters. How have your own family experiences shaped the novel?
I have a really great family, and I’m the only one who has ever left Utah for a period longer than a few months. I lived in New York for five years, and I really, really missed my family (but I also learned a lot of independence that has been extremely valuable, since I still live several hours from any of them and don’t have them around day-to-day). I think that probably had something to do with my writing this novel. I also have some cousins with whom I am particularly close who DO live nearby, and I think seeing those fun, strong young women influenced this book as well.
A lot of the relationships in this book, though mostly loving, are filled with secrets and misconceptions. Why did you choose to highlight those elements of human behavior?
Because they’re interesting. 😉 Really, because I think sister relationships can be complicated, and so can the relationships between parent/child (the desire to let your child spread their wings vs. the desire to keep them safe). And since the story focuses mainly on the relationships between sisters and between mothers and daughters, that was a natural place to take the characters.
As was the case in the Matched series, there’s an element of the story that highlights the beauty of creation and invention, especially True’s inventions. What draws you to the world of art and creation so strongly?
I think it’s because I’ve never grown up without it. My mom is an artist and she created constantly, and my dad, a judge, loved to come home and play the piano and he is also a writer. My grandmother, who took care of me while my parents were at work, created all the time—she was always making amazing food, or hosting these great events, or making us a pretend school (she was once a teacher), or tatting (a beautiful art of making lace by hand). The desire to create is strong in my family, and it’s also valued, and I think that is just such a part of me that I can’t seem to leave it out of any of my books. 😉
What were the easiest and hardest parts of writing this particular novel?
The easiest part was writing the sisters. Rio and Bay were with me from the start.
The hardest (and most fun) part was writing Maire. I was never entirely sure if she was good or evil.
If you could live in either of your worlds, would you choose the Above or Below?
I’d definitely choose Above, even though it’s got all of that pollution in the story. I think I would go crazy if I lived in a world with walls!