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Collins: She's the one that's hardest to distinguish from myself in my mind. But when I step back and look at the series, she's not the character that I would identify most with.
Who would that be?
Collins: This is such an unflattering thing to say about yourself, but it would be Plutarch Heavensbee.
Collins: Yes. Because he's the head gamemaker. Plutarch is creating the story, and he's creating the arena, and he's manipulating the characters--a writer isn't far from a gamemaker. I'm not for creating arenas or anything, but if you look at it from a creative perspective, we're really doing the same job.
To step back a bit, why write a book like this? Why write a book about war and violence for teenagers?
Collins: The Hunger Games is part of a larger goal I have, which is to write a war-appropriate story for every age of kids, which I sort of completed in September when I had a picture book come out called Year of the Jungle. It's an autobiographical piece about the year my father was in Vietnam, and it's a home-front story. My father was career military. He was a veteran, he was a doctor of political science, he taught at West Point and Air Command and lectured at the War College. And when he got back from Vietnam I was probably about 6, and he, I think, felt it was his responsibility to make sure that all his children had an understanding of war, about its cost, its consequences. So I felt like I was tutored in that by somebody who was very experienced in it both as real life and on a historical basis.
The way you describe violence in the books--it's so visceral. Were you ever worried it was too much?
Collins: I had been exposed to these things very early, through my father. I think it's very uncomfortable for people to talk to children about war, and so they don't because it's easier not to. But then you have young people at 18 who are enlisting in the Army, and they really don't have the slightest idea what they're getting into. I think we put our children at an enormous disadvantage by not educating them in war, by not letting them understand about it from a very early age.
Lawrence: And you don't hold back. I think that's also part of it. You show the consequences.
Collins: It's something we should be having dialogues about a lot earlier with our children. There are child soldiers all around the world right now who are 9, 10, carrying arms, forced to be at war. Can our children not even read a fictional story about it? I think they can.
You've taken up an interesting position as somebody who has created a blockbuster pan-media phenomenon that is itself highly critical of the media. Is that a balancing act?