Human or Angel? Boyfriend Advice from Fallen's Lauren Kate
Are angels the new vampires? One reason readers (and publishers!) have been asking that question is the success of Lauren Kate's Fallen series, beginning last fall with the opening volume--called, yes, Fallen--and followed this week by Torment, the next tale in the story of Luce and her fallen angel boyfriend, Daniel. We asked Kate a few questions about her series (concocted by one of our in-house Fallen fans), which we have posted on our page for Torment, but we saved one more for Omni, perhaps the most crucial question of all. Here's her answer (and you can find the rest of her replies after the jump):
Amazon: What's better, a human boyfriend or an angel boyfriend?
Lauren Kate: When I was teenager, my mom wanted me to grow up to be a therapist. She thought I was a good listener, that I had a gift for giving advice, that I could get anyone to spill all their secrets. I realize now she was probably just eavesdropping on the looong conversations I had every night with my friends about this boy or that break up—and that she probably wanted to find a way to legitimize the insanely high phone bills I would run up.
By then, I already knew I wanted to be a writer, but what I didn’t know was that being a writer—especially a writer of romances geared toward teens—has more to do with therapy than I could have guessed.
The day Fallen was published last December, I did my first reading at a bookstore. Afterwards, a girl came up to me and asked one of the best questions I’ve ever been asked. First, I should preface this story by saying that the passage I read that night at the bookstore featured a heated argument between Luce and Daniel, in which Daniel comes off like a bit of a jerk and Luce comes of as somewhat unhinged. (There are many of these moments, I know). But I was surprised when this girl came up to me afterwards and asked—very earnestly—whether I believed in a love as wonderful and true as the love Daniel and Luce shared. I told her, of course, that I did. I pointed to my husband who was standing across the store and I waxed on about how we first met. I asked her whether she was thinking of someone in particular when she asked the question. She was about thirteen and she shook her head very briskly, but said that she wanted to believe in this kind of love for the future. I was amazed and impressed and humbled that what this girl took away from the tumultuous scene I’d read was that these two characters were very deeply in love.
Since then, I’ve gotten lots of questions from readers like: What’s the deal with love at first sight? Aren’t people supposed to be friends first? How am I supposed to know it when I’ve met my soul mate? What do you do if you’re stuck in a love triangle and you don’t like either of the boys? Are bad boys ever a good idea? And now this one:
What’s better, a human boyfriend or an angel boyfriend?
(If any of you are actually struggling with this last question, please let me know. I have a few questions I’d like to ask you back…)
I like to think that one of the reasons readers come to me with these kind of questions (as opposed to the what’s-your-favorite-book questions, which I also love to answer) is because it comes through in my writing that I really do believe in crazy, complicated, passionate, seemingly impossible love. I had just fallen (pun intended) in that kind of love when I started writing Fallen, and this week I celebrate my one-year wedding anniversary. While I don’t claim to be an expert, I’m definitely committed to the cause of true love.
So what can I tell you about dating an angel? Obvious pros: They can fly. Which means you can fly. (It’s kinda like dating a boy with a car when you have no chance at your own wheels.) Also, the wings. Daniel’s wings exceed anything a costume store or a CGI engineer can come up with. For most of us, they exist only in our wildest imaginations. And maybe that’s a good thing because most of us would burst into flames if we were to glimpse an angel, wings exposed, in all his—or her—glory. That’s just the way it is. Maybe we should mark that part in the ‘cons’ category of dating the celestial?
Aside from possible death-by-glory, the biggest con that I can think of when it comes to relationships with angels (using Luce and Daniel as an example) is that there are secrets that an angel needs to keep. Granted they are temporary secrets. As we’ll see in Passion, everything will be illuminated to Luce at some point. But still, keeping secrets from the person you love most doesn’t sound very ideal, does it?
Which brings me to love and romance with mere mortals. No, they can’t fly (unless they’re a pilot—hot). And no they don’t have wings. (Unless it’s Halloween. Or Comic Con.) But two people who are in love can and should always strive to be honest with each other. That might be where mortal boyfriends trump the angel ones. It may not sound as glamorous, but to me, honesty is the biggest gift you can give to someone you love.
Temporary secrets—like what you’re getting him for his birthday—are okay. But honesty about bigger things—like what you want from your boyfriend, what he means to you, and how it makes you feel when he (or she) does x or y or z—are the building blocks of any true love. My husband is the greatest possessor of honesty and openness I’ve ever met. He inspires me, and my characters, every day. Yes, even Daniel, who will someday tell all. Just like my mom predicted all those years ago, I can get even him to spill his secrets.
[See the rest of our Q&A below]
Amazon.com: Luce and Daniel's story is very romantic. What inspired you to write a love story between a human and an angel?
Lauren Kate: I’ve been writing love stories for as long as I’ve been writing. To me, the most complicated romances make the most interesting narratives, so I’m always looking for new obstacles to throw in my lovers’ paths. When I was getting my masters degree in fiction, I was studying biblical narratives and came across a line in Genesis (6:1-4), which describes a group of angels who fell in love with mortal women. Putting this reference together with a mention in Isaiah and another in Psalm 82, biblical scholars conclude that these angels were actually cast out of Heaven for their lust. Which means--you could say--that these angels chose love over Heaven. I found this to be an endlessly interesting set up for an incredibly complicated romance. I started thinking about what kind of mortal girl it would take to attract an angel’s attention. And what it would be like for her to find herself in this position. What kind of baggage would an angel have? What would her very over-protective parents think? From there, this whole world unfurled in my head with fallen angels, demons, reincarnation, and the war between good and evil all battling for a piece of the action.
Amazon.com: We've been wondering about the "mechanics" of Luce and Daniel's story (for lack of a better word). Does Daniel age? Or does he stay seventeen forever (while Luce grows older)? And with that said, what does he do while Luce is growing up in each of her lives? What was he doing before he met Luce in this life?
Kate: What’s important about angels is not their bodies but their souls. In their purest forms, they’re actually genderless, but for my story to work--for the angels to come down to earth and interact with mortals--they all assume human bodies and attach themselves to human genders. Daniel is eternal and will live on forever, but the body Luce sees him in (gorgeous as it is) is really just a shell for the soul that she loves. There’s not the feeling of a ticking clock in the background as there might be with, say, a vampire story. Right now I’m writing Passion, the prequel where we’ll see Luce and Daniel in a dozen other lifetimes, so I’m exploring a lot of these mechanics (a great word for it, by the way) between the angel’s bodies and souls.
The way Daniel occupies himself in between Luces varies from life to life. His soul is least at rest just after she’s died, before she’s incarnated into another life--when she is “in between.” During her lives, even when he isn’t with her, he is always aware of her age, what she’s going through, how she’s doing. He has a sort of internal Lucinda clock. Sometimes he meets her as a child, sometimes he tries to stay away from her as long as possible, to give her as much of a life outside of him as he can. In the years leading up to the life where they meet at Sword and Cross, Daniel was living on Skid Row in Los Angeles.
Amazon.com: Fallen and Torment talk a lot about the history of Heaven and Hell, the different classes of Angels, and the rules of human-angel interaction. Obviously these themes are explored heavily in religious texts, but were there other sources that informed your story?
Kate: It’s interesting because there is actually very little in the Bible about angels--a few mentions in the Old Testament, a few more in the new. And the mentions that we do have are often vague or contradictory. Most of what we think of when we think of angels today comes from secular or cultural contexts. Seventy-five percent of it might have come from Milton alone. I worked with a biblical scholar at UC Davis who pointed me toward some apocryphal texts (books written during the same as the bible, but which were not included in the book when the canon was closed). Books like Enoch 1-3 and the Dead Sea Scrolls are chock full of angel references. I also read a trilogy on Satan and a book called the A History of Heaven both by Jeffrey Burton Russell, as well as a great book by Harold Bloom called Omens of the Millennium.
I got so engrossed in all of the research I did for Fallen that I had a hard time knowing when to stop reading and when to start writing. I had to realize that it was okay for me to pick and choose things from various accounts, to look past contradictions, and to come up with my own angel mythology. That’s what Milton did, after all!
Amazon.com: What is Cam's deal? We're not convinced that he's totally evil--in Fallen, he seemed to be trying to protect Luce by keeping her away from Daniel, and in Torment he and Daniel reach a mysterious truce, again to protect Luce. Will we be seeing more of him in book 3?
Kate: Speaking of Milton, isn’t it fascinating that Satan is the most interesting character in Paradise Lost? From the start of this series, I have wanted to test the boundaries between what is “good” and what is “evil.” How and when do those terms get applied? Are they black and white or is there some flexibility along the spectrum? Obviously it’s much more interesting if Heaven and Hell/good and evil work as binaries: opposites that orbit each other and are pulled toward each other with a mutual gravitation. We see that at the end of Fallen and in Torment with Daniel and Cam’s truce. The idea that good and evil rely on each other is as old as the oldest dualistic religion, Zoroastrianism (on whose shoulders both Judaism and Christianity stood).
So yes, there is more to Cam than pure evil! (Especially since his character--the charming side of his character anyway--was based loosely on my husband.) We’ll see a lot of him in Passion and will even begin to understand how he got where he is today.
Amazon.com: Can you tell us a little bit about book 3? Will we find out more about Luce and Daniel's past lives?
Kate: Passion is going to be the craziest, coolest book I’ve ever written! I’m halfway through the first draft right now and it is so rewarding to finally get to delve into Luce and Daniel’s past lives together. The history these two share is the stuff of epics, and I am learning so many new things about them as I write. For any reader out there feeling tortured by the teasing hints of so many thrilling past lives: Passion is your book! Everything--well, almost everything--will be illuminated.