I first met Kiera Cass back in 2008 after moving into the same neighborhood. We bonded over our mutual love of Twilight then, not realizing until later that we both share a love for YA writing as well. After self-publishing The Siren in 2009 – which I’d recommend checking out if you haven’t yet – Kiera landed an agent to represent her next project, The Selection, in 2010. And now, two years later, The Selection has finally arrived! (Well, technically the official release date is set for tomorrow.)

A couple weeks ago, I asked Kiera if she’d mind participating in a blog interview and give-away, to which she instantly agreed. After all, how could she say no to one of the cool people listed on her Acknowledgements page? 😉 So this afternoon, I headed next door to get the scoop. After her adorable son, Guyden, attacked me with hugs – but before he stole my pens – I asked her the following questions.

1. Did you initially envision The Selection as a trilogy?

“Yes. I knew it was more than one book, though I didn’t know right away it would turn into three. And thank goodness for my agent and editor, because I ended the first installment in a terrible place. I had a lot to learn! And still do.”

2. You’ve said before you drew some of your inspiration for The Selection from the biblical story of Esther. Care to expand?

“It’s actually a difficult story to read! The king’s drunk and offended his wife won’t come to him, so his friends suggest for him to hold a beauty contest to find a new queen and ditch the old one. So basically, they scoop up women and if you win, you’re queen. If you lose, you wind up in a harem. And that’s crushing! But anyway, Esther wins and decides to use her position to save the people. But we don’t know a lot about her heart and how she felt. That’s what I was always curious to explore.”

3. The Selection is shaping up to be a pretty heated love triangle. Were you drawing on real life experiences when you weaved that into the plot?

<laughs>. No! There’s never been a situation in my life where more than one boy has wanted me at the same time. And I think that’s a good thing!”

4. I found the character of America to be strong and independent from the beginning when she makes it clear she has no interest in entering the Selection in the first place. What, if any, personality traits do you share with your heroine? And are there any you wish you shared that you don’t?

“I don’t intentionally make characters like or unlike me. What I love about her is how gutsy she is. America’s much braver than she realizes, too – and definitely a lot braver than I am!”

5. One of my professors at Hollins always urged us to not be afraid to “throw coconuts” at our characters, so to speak. Without giving away any plot points, would you say America has her fair share of coconuts hurled at her face?

“I like a slow build of tension, so in the first book, yes. Not as many as there could’ve been. But the second and third books do get much darker.”

6. How long – from initial idea to polished draft – did it take you to complete your manuscript before querying it out to agents?

“Off and on, over the course of two years. Once I wrote The Siren and developed a habit of writing, I came up with a few different ideas to work on next. The Selection was just in this pile of ideas waiting its turn.”

7. Any words of advice for other aspiring authors out there? 

“I always say keep learning because there is so much that happens behind the scenes that you don’t know about. And work on your patience! It took two years from signing my contract [with HarperTeen] to publication. The waiting felt terrible at first, but now it feels like it went by too fast!”

8. Okay, between you and me (and anyone else who reads this interview) – Team Maxon or Team Aspen? Come on, you’ve got to pick one!

“<smiles widely>. I can’t say! I wish I could, but I can’t.”

Darn. Oh well, I tried! 😉 Thank you so much, Kiera, for taking the time to answer these questions. Happy Release Week, friend!

Oh, and before I forget…

For those interested in participating in a SIGNED giveaway of The Selection be sure to head on over to my Fun Extras page for details!