Science fiction readers, there’s a new book gearing up for release later this year that promises to be everything you’ve want in a sci-fi book and more. Marie Lu is the author of ‘Legend,’ a highly anticipated futuristic thriller that’s been acquired by Penguin Group; the release of the first part of this trilogy for November 2011. In addition, about two weeks ago CBS Films proudly announced that they have secured exclusive media rights to Marie Lu’s book and plan to turn it into a movie.
Ms. Lu graciously agreed to an interview and I was able to ask her some questions about ‘Legend,’ her science fiction interests, the challenges she faces as a writer and more. Keep reading to find out more about this extremely talented author and be on the lookout for the release of ‘Legend’ toward the end of this year!
1. When did you realize you had a passion for writing?
I think I’ve always enjoyed it, although I didn’t start writing seriously until I was about 14 or 15. I remember stapling together my first “book” (a 12-page illustrated guide to farm animals) when I was five. It wasn’t terribly coherent, to say the least. I wrote my first so-called novel, an 80-page handwritten book about a squirrel kingdom, when I was eleven. I was 14 when I realized that people actually submitted manuscripts to publishers in order to turn them into the books I saw in bookstores. That’s when I started writing with the goal of publication. It only took twelve whole years from that point!
2. What was the inspiration for Fuzz Academy?
The Fuzz Academy came about very spontaneously. I’m a longtime member of the online art community deviantArt, and back in 2006 they had a contest for creating desktop wallpapers that could span two screens. I drew a series of fat baby polar bears lined up in a row. The bears became surprisingly popular, so I decided to draw more animals in the same style. Those critters ultimately became the Fuzz Academy, a kids brand geared toward promoting environmentalism and education.
3. Who are some of your favorite authors?
This is a dangerous question–I could go on forever! A lot of my favorites are from childhood. Brian Jacques’ Redwall series comes instantly to mind; I was so sad to hear about his recent passing.
Favorite authors/books: J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Richard Adams, Orson Scott Card, Charles Dickens (‘A Tale of Two Cities’), George Orwell, David Eddings, Jacqueline Carey (‘Kushiel’s Dart’), and Lois Lowry (‘Number the Stars,’ ‘The Giver’). Authors I’ve recently grown to love include Lauren Oliver, James Dashner (‘The Maze Runner’), and Susan Beth Pfeffer (‘Life As We Knew It’).
4. What science fiction creators inspire your work?
Orson Scott Card had a big influence on me with ‘Ender’s Game’ and ‘Ender’s Shadow.’ Child prodigies are such fascinating characters. And Suzanne Collins blew my mind with ‘The Hunger Games.’
5. What scifi television, movies and videogames do you watch and play?
I don’t watch much TV, but one show I obsessed over for a while was Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly.’ I’m still miffed that it was so short-lived.
There were such great female characters, and Nathan Fillion wasn’t exactly hard to look at. I’m also a big fan of the History Channel’s ‘The Universe’ series and Discovery Channel’s ‘Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking.’ I geek out a bit when it comes to astronomy. As for scifi movies, ‘Contact’ is easily one of my all-time favorites. That scene where Jodie Foster first hears the alien signals out in the array field–OMG. I get chills just thinking about it! I haven’t played many scifi games (most are a bit too hardcore for a casual gamer like me), but I do play a little ‘Starcraft 2.’ My boyfriend plays more of them, like ‘Gears of War’ and ‘Resistance: Fall of Man.’ (Does ‘Super Mario Galaxy’ count as a sci-fi game?)
6. What are some things you love about writing?
Creating an entire world from scratch, making a character come to life…. Then there’s the absolute joy in finding just the right turn or phrase to describe something. That’s such a satisfying feeling.
When I’m having a good writing day, my surroundings melt away and I get to live in a wild, imaginary world. It’s like a free vacation.
7. What are some challenges you face as well in your profession?
Of course, there are the bad writing days, when every paragraph I write sounds like crap and I end up chucking it all away, when I can’t get the characters to follow my neat little outline and they go off to do their own thing, and when I just end up staring at a blank Word doc for hours on end because I don’t know how to fix a plot kink. Those days suck.
8. How long did it take you to write ‘Legend?’
‘Legend’ came fairly quickly to me relative to previous (unpublished) manuscripts I’d written. I came up with the idea for ‘Legend’ around early summer of 2009, and finished the book in October of the same year. So about 5 months. That doesn’t include two more months of rewrites and revisions I did with my agent Kristin Nelson’s feedback.
9. Your portrayal of the United States in Legend is chilling. Just reading the description on your website left a very strong impression on me. How do you envision the future? Do you think modern society will ever decline to such a degree?
The dystopian societies in ‘Legend’ were inspired largely by three things: (1) Sparta, (2) how extreme and bitter American politics has become since the start of the recession, and (3) North Korea’s regime.
Do I think modern society will ever decline to Legend’s degree? Well, I think that equally chilling dystopian concepts have already existed before–North Korea, Nazi Germany, the eugenics movement of the early 20th century, China’s Cultural Revolution, the United States’ Japanese internment camps during World War II, etc. When we allow irrational panic and fear to take control over our better judgment, we are very capable of creating dystopian societies that are even worse than those in ‘Legend.’ The irony is that almost all of the aforementioned events were initially implemented with what we thought were good intentions.
While I always feel a bit nervous about what the future might hold, I think the widespread availability of the Internet and social media (hence, knowledge) is a huge beacon of hope for the next generation. It will become harder for leaders to keep their subjects ignorant, and harder for regimes to keep the rest of the world out.
10. When you’re creating your characters, do you base their personalities on people you may know in real life?
Most of my characters have personality traits harvested from a large swath of people I know in real life, although a few do have fictional traits. Day (the main boy protagonist), for example, does and says things that I’ve heard various friends say and do. But June (the main girl protagonist) has qualities I wish I had in myself. So she was created as who I wish I could be, rather than from people I actually know.
Visit www.marielu.org for more information on ‘Legend.’