Born in 1962, Suzanne Collins grew up in the Eastern US in a military family that was always moving. She graduated from a theater arts high school and went on to earn a BA with a double major in theater and telecommunications at Indiana University and an MFA in dramatic writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1989. She started out as a writer for children’s television shows, including several on Nickelodeon. While working on Generation O!, a show on Kids WB, she met the children’s illustrator and author James Proimos and was inspired to try writing children’s books herself. She came up with the idea for Gregor the Overlander, the first book in her well-received Underland Chronicles series, by considering how a great many people in cities were more likely to tumble down a manhole than down a rabbit hole as in the classic Alice in Wonderland; between 2003 and 2007, she wrote the five books of the Underland Chronicles, as well as a rhyming picture book about a boy obsessed with computer games, When Charlie McButton Lost Power.
From there, Collins’ writing took an interesting turn: her next book was 2008’s The Hunger Games, partially inspired by the Greek myth of Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur, and she followed it with two sequels forming the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010). She has said that hearing about her father’s military tour of duty to Vietnam when she was six made an impression on her concerning the plight of poor and starving people in a war-torn country; this provided grist for the creative mill when she wrote the trilogy. Writing for young adults was a game changer for her writing career; The Hunger Games spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list, and within fourteen months, 1.5 million copies of the first two books in the series were in print in North America alone. When Lionsgate Entertainment acquired the film rights for The Hunger Games, as a seasoned writer for the small screen, Collins wrote the film adaptation herself. Catching Fire and Mockingjay were also adapted into films, with Mockingjay split into two separate movie installments.
The cinematic appeal of this young adult series transcended its intended demographic: the 2012 film The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence as protagonist Katniss Everdeen, broke multiple box office records and went on to become the fourteenth highest-grossing North American release of all time on its way to earning nearly $700 million in international release. Catching Fire likewise became the highest-grossing US release of 2013 and the tenth highest- grossing US film release of all time. Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2 each took in gross earnings in excess of half a billion dollars worldwide. The films featured well-known faces including Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, and Lenny Kravitz as supporting actors and launched the careers of several actors of lesser fame into the stratosphere.
In September 2013, Collins released an autobiographical picture book illustrated by James Proimos, the author who had inspired her to write for young people, entitled Year of the Jungle; it dealt with the year her father was deployed to Vietnam when Suzanne was six from a child’s-eye view. It garnered a positive reception from critics and has been distributed internationally and translated into eleven languages. Her books have sold a total of over a hundred million copies worldwide. As of this writing, Collins has announced that a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy will be released in 2020. The prequel’s plot is based on the failed rebellion that forms the background to the trilogy, and it is set seventy-four years earlier.