An Interview with ‘The 100’ Author Kass Morgan

Kass Morgan (Image Credit: Michael Bisberg)
Kass Morgan (Image Credit: Michael Bisberg)

Have you seen the exciting previews for The CW’s new science fiction series, The 100? The action-packed TV spots promise adventure, mystery, and a new twist on teen drama wrapped up in an engaging premise: one hundred teenage delinquents of the future are sent to Earth to establish its safety for re-colonization after a nuclear catastrophe left it barren and unlivable. But did you realize that this epic series is actually inspired by a book series of the same name, written by Kass Morgan?

While Morgan began her career in publishing as an editor (which she still continues to do when she’s not writing), she recently leapt into the exciting world of novel-writing with the first book in The 100 series. With the premiere of The 100 TV series on the horizon and Day 21, the second The 100 novel, in progress, The Daily Quirk is thrilled that Morgan found the time to chat with us about her books, what it’s like seeing them come to life on TV, and what to expect from Day 21.

The Daily Quirk: What inspired you to write The 100?

Kass Morgan: Alloy approached me with the basic premise—one hundred juvenile delinquents sent to recolonize Earth years after nuclear disaster—and then they set me loose to brainstorm, experiment, and make the story my own.

I’m a huge science fiction fan (savvy readers will notice a pattern to the character names. . .) and it was enormously fun to rummage through all the nerdy images and references that had been piling up in my brain for years. Yet while my favorite sci-fi writers certainly shaped aspects of The 100, I was surprised by the diverse array of influences that ended up informing the books, from Lord of the Flies to Charles Bukowski.

TDQ: Did you know from the start that you wanted to tell the story from multiple perspectives?

KM: Absolutely. I knew I needed at least two POV characters in order to show what was happening on Earth and back on the ship. But that wasn’t quite enough. Part of the fun of writing The 100 was imagining how different characters would react to being on Earth for the first time—who would try to find shelter and collect food  . . . and who would rather go skinny dipping. I think that’s the reason the CW was so excited to turn The 100 into a television show. The skinny dipping.

TDQ: Did any one voice come to you more easily than the others?

KM: To my surprise, Bellamy was the first character whose voice really emerged.  It’s odd because, ostensibly, I don’t have much in common with a cocky outlaw who stows away in a spaceship to follow his little sister to Earth. Yet I think because he doesn’t care about impressing anyone, his voice felt freer. Whereas, with some of the other characters, I had to sift through a few more layers, figuring out who they are versus who they pretend to be.

At the same time, it was really fun writing characters who are nothing like me. For instance, I’m much more practical than Glass, and at first, I found myself judging her a bit for the drastic steps she takes to protect the boy she loves. Yet, the more time I spent with her, the more I came to respect her. She taught me that falling in love can require just as much bravery as exploring a radiation-soaked planet.

TDQ: We learn about each of the main characters through flashbacks, and each one has such a rich back story. What made you decide to start the book after so much has happened, and slowly reveal their stories?

KM: I think that the premise demands that structure. The story takes place in the future, after nuclear war has left Earth uninhabitable. Hundreds of years later, there’s some evidence that the planet might be able to support human life, but since it’s too dangerous to send real people, they decide to send juvenile delinquents—teen criminals who are seen as expendable—similar to the British sending convicts to settle Australia.

Part of the fun of the book is finding out why the main characters were arrested in the first place, as some of their secrets are much darker than you might imagine. That’s why it’s important that the reader get to know and sympathize with the characters first.

TDQ: How much creative freedom did you take with the post radiation earth? Was there a lot of research involved or was it more imagined?

KM: I did quite a bit of research initially, reading books like The World Without Us and exploring theories about speculative evolution. However, I did take a great deal of artistic license. The challenge was to populate the world with things both the characters (earth newbies) and the readers (earth veterans) would consider interesting. So while there’s not a ton of scientific evidence to support my radioactive, glow-in-the-dark flowers, I didn’t have many qualms about sticking them in. Besides, the characters can’t be expected to go skinny dipping in the dark, can they?

TDQ: Can you tell us a bit about how the television adaptation of The 100 came about?  

KM: It was mostly just great timing. The CW had their eyes out for science fiction, and The 100 turned out to be exactly what they were looking for. It was surprising how quickly it all happened. By the time I was making the last tweaks to my final draft, the screenwriters were taking a stab at the pilot script.

TDQ: Was there any hesitation agreeing to the adaptation so early on?

KM: Hardly! My only concern was that I didn’t want people to mistakenly assume that my book was a novelization of the TV show. But since The 100 ended up coming out six months before the show aired, it was less of a problem. (And by problem, I mean “slight downside to the most awesome thing that’s ever happened to me.”)

TDQ: Is it difficult to see your vision and your characters approached from a different perspective in the TV show? 

KM: Having your book adapted for TV is different than having it adapted for film. The episodic nature of TV pretty much requires the plot to diverge from the source material from the very beginning, which made me feel a lot less wedded to specific details. Though I was happy that my glow-in-the-dark flowers make an appearance in the first episode. They look absolutely gorgeous on screen.

TDQ: How closely does the cast resemble the characters you pictured while writing?

KM: Marie Avgeropoulos looks so much like Octavia, it was almost frightening. Eliza Taylor also bears an uncanny resemblance to the Clarke in my head. The other actors look a little different from the people I imagined, but they embody the characters so well it ceases to matter.

THE 100 (Image Credit Kass Morgan)
THE 100 (Image Credit Kass Morgan)

TDQ: Can you give us any hints about how the show will differ from the book?

KM: The show got rid of a few book characters and replaced them with a handful of new ones, which makes a lot of sense when you see the first episode. The book also focuses a bit more on the characters’ relationships, while the show pays more attention to outside threats, which also makes sense considering the strengths of the different mediums.

TDQ: The 100 finishes with a major cliffhanger! What, if anything, can you tell us about the sequel?

KM: I can tell you that it’s even more intense than the first book! I’m a huge proponent of torturing characters, and I really put mine through the ringer in Day 21. In my head, I can hear that movie trailer voice going, “just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the hundred . . . it does.” But it’s not all drama, though. There’s a lot of romance in the sequel, which I think will feel even more poignant for readers now that they’ve gotten to know the characters.

I also had a ton of fun thinking more about speculative evolution, and I’m excited to see what readers think about some of the crazy creatures who make an appearance in Day 21. And if anyone’s reading this in the year 3014, make sure I get credit for predicting the anglerfish/badger mash-up.

The Daily Quirk would like to thank Author Kass Morgan for taking the time to chat with us! To find out more about Kass, visit her Official Bio and follow her on Twitter.

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I spend too much time reading and watching TV. The phrase "What is the meaning of this?!" always cracks me up. Puppies, Diet Coke and the '90s make me happy.

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