'Shatter Me' author Tahereh Mafi talks her debut dystopian novel

Shatter Me, 23-year-old Tahereh Mafi’s YA debut, hit shelves Nov. 15. It’s been out a little more than a week, and Shatter Me is already a hot commodity in the book world — as of now, the foreign rights have been sold in 19 countries, and 20th Century Fox already purchased the film rights.

Set in a dystopian society, Shatter Me follows Juliette, a girl who has the ability to kill people with a single touch. She’s been locked away for 264 days, and the crumbling government wants to use her gift/curse as a weapon.

Mafi took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few burning questions about the Shatter Me trilogy series.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you come up with the idea for Shatter Me?
TAHEREH MAFI: I didn’t, actually. [Laughs] That sounds kind of strange, but the truth is I just heard the voice of a girl in my head one day. I didn’t know much about her except that she was locked in a dark corner and afraid to speak. I couldn’t stop thinking about who she was and why I was able to imagine her so clearly. So I just opened a blank document one day and tried to capture her voice on paper. She led the story, and told me where to go from there.

What inspired the story? I see some X-Men influence.
Shatter Me is, at its core, a story about a girl trying to find herself — trying to understand herself — in a society trying to tell her who to be. She has a lethal touch. She’s been branded a monster. The government wants to use her as a weapon in their war. But ultimately, Juliette is just a teenager trying to find a way to live. My only real inspiration for this book is an interest in human nature and our ability to overcome great obstacles.

Did you always know where the story would go? And did you know there would be enough material for a trilogy?
I don’t outline when I write, but I always had a general idea for where the series would go and how it would develop. I knew from the beginning that it could be much more than one book, and I wrote Shatter Me with that specific focus in mind; any loose threads or unanswered questions at the end of the first book were intentional.

How does it feel to be compared to/mentioned in the same vein as other YA hits like The Hunger Games?
It’s unbelievably flattering, because I’m a huge, huge fan of The Hunger Games. But it’s also kind of embarrassing, because I’d never dream of comparing myself to someone like Suzanne Collins. Suzanne Collins has created something so extraordinary as to inspire and elicit visceral reactions from readers. I love those books, and still can’t think of Peeta without being emotionally overwhelmed.

Speaking of the early success of Shatter Me, as of now, the foreign rights have already been sold in 19 countries and the film rights have also been sold. How does that feel?
It doesn’t feel real. It feels like way more than my brain can handle right now.

I know book two doesn’t come out until fall of 2012, but is there anything you can share with fans about what to expect in the Shatter Me follow-up?
Yes! I actually just finished writing the second book not too long ago, so, without giving too much away, I can tell you that it’s quite a bit longer than the first, and you’ll learn a ton more about the world an its characters. More kissing. More fighting. Lots of drama.

Anything else you want to add about Shatter Me or the series?
Only this: If you read the book and find yourself drawn to the villain, don’t worry. I won’t think you’re crazy.

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