Margaret Atwood on "The Handmaid's Tale" and its sequel: "It is a warning"

Margaret Atwood: "The Testaments" contains "tons of hope"

Margaret Atwood, the bestselling author of the dystopian novel "The Handmaid's Tale" and its upcoming sequel, "The Testaments," says she has a rule that the atrocities described in her books had to have happened in real life to be included in her fiction.

Atwood opens up about her craft, her career and the inspiration for her books in an interview with Martha Teichner for "CBS Sunday Morning," to be broadcast September 8.

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Author Margaret Atwood (right) with correspondent Martha Teichner. CBS News

Atwood's novel, "The Handmaid's Tale," in which handmaids are sex slaves forced to bear children for infertile couples among the power elite, is set in Gilead, a totalitarian society which the United States has become after being taken over by religious zealots. The book was published in 1985, and became an Emmy-winning series for Hulu in 2017.

Cultural and political observers have noted the themes and concepts of the novel and the series were becoming fact.

"It's not me who made this stuff up," Atwood told Teichner, about atrocities described in her books. "The human race made it up, unfortunately."

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Nan A. Talese/Doubleday

Asked if she meant for "The Handmaid's Tale" to be a warning, Atwood replied that her intention doesn't matter. "It is a warning, simply because I never have believed it can't happen here," she said. "I've never believed that. And more and more people are joining me in that lack of belief."

Atwood tells Teichner she makes "educated guesses" about possibilities for her fiction. "But I'm not a prophet," she says. "And if I were any good at gambling I would do that. Be a lot richer."

Teichner also talks with Atwood about her start in writing, the television show based on "The Handmaid's Tale," and about the highly-anticipated, long-awaited sequel, "The Testaments," which has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It will hit stores on September 10.

What can she say about the sequel?

"So, we know from book one that Gilead ends, but we don't know how," Atwood replied. "But we're a little closer to knowing how."

Teichner asked, "Is there hope in the second book?" 

"You want me to give away the book?" Atwood laughed, before conceding, "Tons of hope. Lots and lots of hope."

READ AN EXCERPT: "The Testaments" by Margaret Atwood

     
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