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Marie Lu 2

Marie Lu's debut book "Legend" came like a bombshell, everyone is scrambling to get it. On the Frankfurt Book Fair she replied some questions - what inspired her to "Legend", what is her favorite part of writing a book and what will happen in the next one, "Prodigy". The meeting was great, Marie Lu is a very heartily person.

Hallo Ms. Lu. When did you discover writing for yourself?

I started writing seriously when I was in high school. I always wrote for fun, but it wasn't until high school when I realized that real people could get books published. So that's when I started writing more seriously for publication.

Until the big success of „Legend“ you worked as a head of arts in the videogame industry. Meanwhile you gave up this job. A brave step! Weren't you scared of deciding wrong?

It was a little bit intimidating to switch like that and now that I write fulltime it's a little bit of a different type of works. I stay at home all day and, you know, it's little weird sometimes that I don't talk to people a lot. But it's fun and I really enjoy it.

I do miss the videogame industry sometimes, since I also really loved that job, but we get to work a little bit on videogames now too, because we are making a facebook game for "Legend". So I'm lucky and happy to be a help on that.

You are writing very pictorially. Is this mainly based on your former job?

A little bit, I think. When I start writing a story, I have to draw my characters first, before I can start writing about them. That is my way of getting to know the characters a little bit better. So I noticed that when I write, my style tends to be very visual, because I had to be what I see what I'm writing in my head. So in my head is sort of place I can movie and I'm describing what I'm seeing in my head. I'm sure it has definitely some influence on my past work as noticed.

Do you have particular rituals, for instance a special time of writing or a certain number of pages per day, which you follow while writing?

I do. I like to write in the mornings. I find that my writing is worse and worse when I wait until the afternoon to write [laugh] So I try to do all my writing before one o'clock, so I write from about seven in the morning till one o'clock.

I also have to listen to music a lot. I have trouble writing if there is just silence and I like to listen to soundtracks while I'm writing.

Which soundtrack is the special one for "Legend"?

For "Legend" the one that I listen to the most was the "Tron" soundtrack from the new Disney movie. And it is really fun, cause I think that's a kind of fits the mood for "Legend". I also like to listen to this music studio called "Two steps from hell" and they do a lot of the trailer music for movies like "Narnia" and "Lord of the rings" and things like that. So I like their music a lot, too.

Do you plan your novels down to the last detail before starting to write or do you just write straight on?

I try to align, but I'm not terribly organizer as a writer, so I tend to deviate from my aligns a lot. Usually a writer align with a little paragraph raise chapter, whereby chapters for my characters ever ready run off somewhere [laugh] I don't know what they're doing anymore and I have to go tasting up with them, so it's a very chaotic process for me and I don't really feel like I have a lot of control over my characters sometimes. They take on a life on their own. But it's more fun for me that way, too, and I get to discover the story along with them. So I don't really know what's going to happen next and it's a sort of trust that they will all work out in the end. [laugh]

What is so fascinating about dystopia?

I think all dystopias are fascinating, because it's sort of like a mirror of reality in some ways. For "Legend" I had a life inspiration from North Korea. That was one of the biggest factors for developing the world for "Legend". Also when I was a kid - I was five years old in the year 1989 - and was living in Beijing, and this is, where the Tiananmen Square-massacre happened as well. My aunt had taking me out on the Square on that day to see the students protesting and I remember seeing the tanks out in the streets. So it definitely left an impression on me as a kid and now, and I think that specific seen went into "Legend" when I was writing it.

So it's sort of fun to explore dystopia, because I see a lot of those elements in our world today. And it's not too far of a stretch to imagine it happening in the United States.

Marie LuAn article about the effects of climate warming was the vital spark that marks the beginning of the dystopia "Legend". Can you give us some more details?

Yeah, I was actually inspired to put in that sort of climate difference based on an article that I read right before I started writing the book. It was an article about what our world would look like if all our oceans grows a hundred meters because all of the freshwater-ice melted. And I remember that article, because the maps they had was just fascinating to see. All of Europe was completely under water and in the United States the southeastern was gone and in Los Angeles, which is where I live, there was a huge lake stretching all the way up to San Francisco. That was just an interesting and disturbing view of the world. And I like to destroy my city a little bit [laugh] So, you know, it was fun to flood Los Angeles. And that's why it was set like that. I thought it would be interesting to picture the city as the sort of haugh on the water place.



"Legend" was translated in several languages and the film rights are already sold - surely any author’s dream. What is the feeling about, when your own book is not only published but although everyone is scrambling to get it?

It's really amazing and I still can't quiet come to terms with it, because it's all so surreal to me sometimes. And every time I wake up in the morning I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not imagining the whole thing. I always hope to become a professional author some day and I had that dream, so I knew to work towards that. But things like the movie and translation is just came out of the feel that I didn't even know that I could have that for my book, so it's been very, very exciting.

The various editions of "Legend" have different covers. Which one do you like most?

Oh, I don't know. They are all so great in their own little ways. I have to say I really love the German one, because it's very different from a lot of the ones I have seen. I love the quality and the linen paper that it's printing on and some things are golden and embossed. I just think the whole design is very pretty.

You also like drawing. Would you like to design the cover of your books by yourself or did you think about illustrating the text?

I thought about it, but I don't know if I would be the best person to try, just because ... maybe I'm a little too close to the story to be the one to make the right cover for, I probably want to put everything on the cover [laugh] - the people and places and too many things. It's probably for the best that I wasn't the one doing it and the publisher was in charge of it.

Day and June both tell the story in changing perspectives from their own point of view. Why did you choose this way of telling the story?

I thought it will be interesting to do two first person points of view, because I find that I write more naturally from the first person. I can get into my characters heads more easily and describe really who they are and what they are thinking. But I also wanted to tell from the two opposites of the story, so I decided do that alternating views. It was interesting to explore, because I wanted to make the story so that Day and June are each others' villains. Depending on which perspective we are looking at one is the protagonist and one is the antagonist and it's different depending on which side you are. That makes some fun for me to explore.

As you say, both figures are protagonist and antagonist as well - it just depends on the point of view. An interesting trick. Did you orchestrate this consciously or did it happen more by chance?

I think that this was probably a conscious decision. When I first started writing, I was directly inspired by "Les Misérables" and so I wanted to write a teenage version of “the criminal versus the detective”. And from the beginning I knew that I wanted to do something where I could display both sides of the story and I wanted to show that each of them had their reasons for doing what they are doing and that both of them think that they are right in the beginning. And it's something that kind of carries over into the second book as well.

Did Day and June have a complete history from the beginning or did you develop their stories later while writing the book?

I think I had - maybe half of them [laugh] - figured out when I first started writing it. And then, as I went started, discovering little things about their personalities and their quirks in the way they talk and things like that. So some of them was definitely discovered in the process of writing, but I knew their histories and backgrounds when I first started.

Do you share Days way of life "Walk in the light"?

[laugh] I'm not as cool as Day. But I try to keep his philosophy of staying optimistic and everything - no matter if you having a really bad day or whatever - that things can always get better from there. And I think it's important to have the general philosophy "Walk in the light" as in to discover the truth behind lies and I'm hoping that's something that young readers maybe will carry over into their life's, so that they don't take everything that they are told at face on a true and so they can see for themselves and read for themselves about the truth of whatever it is in the world that they are looking at.

The characterization of the figures is your favorite part of writing a book. What do you like about it so much?

I think it's fascinating to build imaginary people to make them into real people and I always thought that was definitely the most interesting part of writing. I love to build the world, too, but for me ... when I first started writing a book, I always draw the characters first and then, based on their personality and the way that they live their life's, I build the world around them. So everything for me comes from who their character is and it's kind of fun to discover them, because it's a little bit like discovering myself in little pieces of my mind which I mind not have really paid attention to before. So I find it very fun to explore these fictional people.

While writing a dystopia it's necessary to have credible figures on the one hand, but on the other hand it is also mandatory to develop a comprehensible world. Was this easy for "Legend"?

It was ... a sort of came in pieces as I was going for the world. I thought I would create a very basic understanding of the world first and then, as I'm writing, I will uncover the world as I go depending on how the story goes and how the characters react to things. So the world building was something that came in little pieces in chance and I would have to start writing every now and to do something research on whatever it is. For example for "Legend" a lot of it is very militaristic so every now and then I realized I would have to stop and read about something about the military to make it more realistic in the book.

Are you fallen in love with one of the both central characters - or even with a completely different?

I don't think I'm in love with any of them [laugh], but I feel like their aunt, like I'm a very protective of them, like they are my kids. I don't know ... maybe I have a little bit of a crush on the young elector [laugh], the son of the dictator. And he plays a very big role in the second book.

Despite the gloomy events love - but not only romantic love - is an important part in "Legend". Is it true that this was more by chance?

I think it was a little bit subconscious, but I noticed that when I write I do tend to constantly put in family relationships into my stories, especially relationships between siblings, because I'm an only child. I don't have any brothers or sisters, because of the Chinas one-child-policy. And I always thought it was interesting to have that sort of bond with somebody else who's part of your family. Because I don't have it myself, I find myself constantly writing about that kind of relationship.

Marie Lu 3In January the second book "Prodigy" will appear. Could you tell us what will await your readers in this book?

"Prodigy" will pick up right after the end of "Legend", so it picks up almost immediately afterwards. Day and June are now heading outside of Los Angeles, so we get to see more of the cities in the republic as well as hearing more about what the rest of the world is like outside of the United States. In the second one the protest that they now been hired by the patriot group, the rebels, to assassinate the new elector of the country and so now Day and June have a new conflict between each other that they have to face.

In first book they really hated each other for half of the book and had to come to a mature agreement by the end. And in the second one they still don't quiet trust each others, so they have some more of fights coming up for them. They have very different philosophies on how they think the republic should be right, because of their different class backgrounds causes some conflict between the two of them.


Do you have plans for the time after the “Legend“-trilogy will be finished? Or is there no space for planning at the moment?

Whenever I get a little exhausted from writing "Legend" I do tinker around with some other ideas and I think for the next series outside of "Legend" I probably go back to writing fantasy. This genre was probably may favorite as a child and I always wanted to write a fantasy series. So I think I'll go back to that.

Thank you very much for this interview!

Thank you!

Enjoy the Frankfurt Book Fair!

Thank you so much, it was wonderful!





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