Panic creator Lauren Oliver talks about adapting her beloved YA novel for Amazon Prime

The first season of Panic releases on Amazon Prime this weekend, featuring a truly unpredictable version of a YA adventure. The series, which is based on Lauren Oliver’s 2014 novel of the same name, takes place in a small town in Texas, where each summer senior graduates compete in a series of challenges, with the winner taking it all. they believe they are their one and only chance. to escape their situation and improve their lives. But this year the rules have changed – the money pot is bigger than ever and the game has become even more dangerous. Players will be faced with their deepest and darkest fears and will be forced to decide how much they are willing to risk in order to win.

The series marks an interesting milestone for Oliver, who has had a ten-year career in the world of young adult novels. While her work has already been adapted for the big screen with the 2017 teen drama Before i fall, Panic sees Oliver herself serve as the show’s creator, writer, and executive producer – a move that pays off in the finished series, which has a serious and electrifying feel that will captivate audiences.

In anticipation of PanicThe early days of ComicBook.com had the chance to chat with Oliver about the experience of translating his novel on television. We talked about the collaborative process of working on the show, the major changes it made to the original novel, where the show could go in a second season, and more!

ComicBook.com: How did you initially come up with the idea for the novel? I grew up in Texas and really felt so much of a similarity with my experience and the experience of performing. So I was just curious about how it happened.

Lauren Oliver: It’s so funny because I was just saying that – Carp was originally inspired by Oregon, where I lived. But then I put the novel in upstate New York, where I ended up moving. But then when we moved to Texas, most places have their own culture, but Texas in particular has its own. And I really believe that “the more specific you can be, the more likely it is that it can make universal sense.” But I thought Carp is almost everywhere. It is not a large, wealthy or more metropolitan area. There are three different iterations in my head, even between the original novel and the show. And each of them had a different flavor, each of them had a different story. But, it’s basically all the areas of the country that you don’t see on TV, but that make up the majority of the country.

The original idea for the book came more from my own personal experiences, I would say psychologically. If you combined Heather and Dodge and then stretch their arcs over 10 years instead of a summer, you would get a trip that I took in my early adulthood. So what [I] mixed in with some stupid stuff that I saw my sister do sometimes with terrible consequences, or that we did when we were kids. But that was largely a psychological allegory, actually.

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What was the process for you to adapt afterwards Panic on the television? It feels like your involvement in the show is something most writers don’t necessarily understand when their work is put into action.

It’s an incredible gift and an incredible risk, obviously, that I don’t think anyone other than Amazon Studios would have taken. And I really mean that. It is really important to me that people understand that Amazon Studios [executive] Jen Salke – she gave the show to a woman who had never created for television, responsible for an extremely expensive show, who would write each episode herself. It was one of the first things she did when she was hired. I mean, she would’ve been fired completely if I had failed. I am very grateful for that.

I was, of course, really dedicated to doing whatever it takes. And finally, thank God, it turns out that television – of course – is actually so collaborative, as much as we have the narrative and myth of the “one creator” or one creator. I mean, once you have an art form that requires people to have staples, you know you’re dealing with an act of collaboration. My favorite parts were actually the parts that reminded me of high school plays when you go there and load up. Each person was so important and essential to do it.

There has been, I would just say constant iteration because you write it down and then you kick it off. And as soon as you launch it, you have to rewrite it – and you want to, because you’ve found actors who have brought new dimensions and really changed how you think about your own characters and what you want to see. them. It changes the way the action should unfold. Such constant iterations, [like] moving to Texas after filming a first pilot in upstate New York. Wanting to make sure that some of the specifics of Texas and a part of the real culture of the border are carried on. It really is, [is] still uniquely expressed in Texas, and what are its values ​​in terms of caring for the family. Wanting to be sure it was reflected. So change the character of Dodge and incorporate a little bit of rodeo culture and everything in between. Basically the process is a constant iteration. If you line up all the scripts I’ve done, you’d have 90 episodes of about a hundred hours each. Most of them would be worthless, but you would.

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You’ve spoken in other interviews about the characterization of Ray in particular and how after playing the role you completely reworked the character because he couldn’t be described as an outright villain. I was wondering if you could talk more about that because after seeing the whole season it really goes off on an arc that I really enjoyed watching. It was so fascinating to see.

What happened with Ray was so interesting because … It was a joke to me, that I was like, “Everybody’s got dimensions except Ray. He’s a piece of shit.” But it was very clear to me that Ray Nicholson was Ray – he was the only one who felt really threatening or felt like you couldn’t predict what he was going to do next. There was something electric about him, and not necessarily in a good way. And yet, looking at it too – and I’m only talking about the hearing – I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t believe he was a full-fledged villain.

Not only did I not believe it – I didn’t want it to be true, on a deep level. You have to believe it as an experience that reveals something about the way the actor is, about what he brings. And I wanted to follow this thread. So once we started following the thread, what I needed to do was look at what context, what series of events would make a person who might, on the outside, be so immediately scary and threatening, but you don’t want it. to be true and it’s not true. And then from that context of, “Okay, who is this person? What life experience has this person had?” We found Ray as he is currently portrayed in the series, and we found his bow.

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What do you think surprised you the most about the whole process? Panic the show to life?

There is no parallel, for a person who writes novels, to write his imagination directly on the world, in a living form. The constant engagement with things that are – again, live actors, live characters – but also things like budgets. And I don’t mean to say it’s negative. Everything about writing really interests me because I’m a nerd. So it’s just a different type of writing, where it’s part of the tool and the creative limitation. It’s part of the palette you use.

I was constantly amazed at the way the actors took a scene or words and added their performance [to] he. And I mean this in a good way. You’ve seen people react or act in a certain way when you write, and you think it’s very obvious that that’s the only way to think of those words. So I was constantly surprised to find how the actors actually found nuances or even ways to play against some of these things. It gave me a chance to then really learn my own writing in a whole different way. It didn’t look like my handwriting. I don’t do a good job of explaining it, but there was a creative alchemy that exists between the imagination and the real world, which is unprecedented, that I had never experienced.

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What are you most eager to see viewers respond to once the series airs?

I am so nervous. I do not know. Hope they like it. This is where I am. I mean, I hope they don’t hate it. I’m really happy for the actors. I’m really happy for them and hope people respond to them because they did a great job.

Hope this means something to some people. There are messages that I hope to convey – no fear, but a certain degree of faith. And what courage really looks like. Hope this finds people. But again, I’m so nervous I’m in denial. [laughs] I’m going to leave the weekend he goes out and hide in the woods. This is where I am.

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Do you have any plans to potentially continue the series and tell more story? Because, without getting into the spoilers, the end of season 1 is definitely going to make a lot of people want a second season.

We will have as many seasons as we need, if we are so lucky. There is so much to be learned from here. We don’t know if we’ll be so lucky, but if we do, we’ve got you.

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Being from ComicBook.com, I have to ask – is there a dream franchise or a dream comic book character that you would like to take on? Is there something you would like to put your stamp on?

My father is currently working on a graphic novel. I am a big fan. He wrote books on the comic book collection. I also have a business, [and] we are currently working on some graphic novels.

It’s interesting that you say that. I’m a big fan of, I’ve read all the canons, basically, but also some of the lesser known stuff. He wasn’t originally a comic book hero, but there is one character that we get a lot from our comic book villains that I’m obsessed with. And I would love to make my mark on it. It has a short history from the 19th century. I’m working on graphic novels and comics now, so I won’t say the others.

Other than that, I guess my favorites are – it’s really boring to say, but I’m a huge Frank Miller fan. I love Frank Miller and Sin city is one of my all-time favorites.

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Season 1 of Panic debuts Friday, May 28, exclusively on Amazon Prime.

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