Thursday, May 10, 2012

Interview Week: Marie Lu, author of LEGEND

Welcome to Interview Week!
All this week, I'm interviewing awesome authors--and giving away a copy of their book! Come back each day this week for another author and another chance to win an awesome book.

Quick Stats on Today's Author:
  • Marie Lu is the debut author of LEGEND
  • The sequel, PRODIGY, will come out later this year, and I cannot wait!!
  • I was lucky enough to tour with Marie, and I totally kept trying to steal her computer so I could get a sneak peek of PRODIGY
  • Marie's hero, Day, originally had three sisters and first appeared in novel Marie was writing in high school. You can learn more about it here
  • Marie also has excellent taste in tights. Just saying.
We can read all about your life from your bio in the jacket flap of your book. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?

I was bitten by a rat when I was three. On my eyelid. I know. I like to think of it as my Spiderman moment, though, and that someday my superpowers will manifest. Especially since I was born in the year of the Rat. That’s got to be some sort of good luck, right?

As a kid, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up? 

My absolute favorite book as a kid was Mattimeo, part of Brian Jacques’s Redwall series. It was my first introduction into the world of fantasy and sci-fi, and I have to say that my reading tastes haven’t changed all that much!

In your book, LEGEND, there’s dystopian government that rules with an iron fist. Because I had the pleasure of touring with you, I happen to know that you have a little experience with controlling governments. Can you tell us about this?

(Beth's note: I totally devised this question on purpose because I think Marie has a cool story that goes with this! Advantage to touring: accumulating insider info, lol!)

Beth knows all sorts of random secrets about me…. :) Anyway, yes—I’ve definitely experience some dystopian things when growing up, although my mom was the one who actually lived through the Cultural Revolution in China (a true, full-blown dystopia). I was born in China and left for the States in 1989, when I was five years old. At the time, I lived in Beijing with my aunt, and our home was a few blocks away from Tiananmen Square. The students in the square protested for a couple of months leading up to the actual massacre, and for us locals, it was something of a sightseeing event. My aunt would take me out to the square every weekend or so to see what the students were up to. I have vague recollections of the white statue of liberty they erected in the square. I was actually at the square on the day of the massacre, although I think the shooting didn’t happen until later that night. I distinctly remember seeing the tanks out in the streets, and that kindergarten was canceled the following day. Of course, I didn’t understand the full magnitude of this event until I was older, but a Tiananmen Square-inspired scene does appear in Legend.


It's the inevitable question: what inspired LEGEND? 
One day in 2009, I was sprawled on the carpet in my living room and lazily watching TV (this is how I daydream), and the movie version of Les Miserables was on. As I watched the criminal Jean Valjean face off against police detective Javert, I started thinking about how fun it would be to write a teenage version of this premise: a sharp young criminal versus an equally formidable teen detective. The thing that inspired Legend’s dystopian setting was when I saw a map online of what the world would look like if all of our freshwater ice melted and our oceans rose 100 meters. It was a fascinating, terrifying map, and since I live in Los Angeles, I immediately thought about what a half-flooded LA would be like.

One of the things that stood out to me in LEGEND was the strong theme of love—and not just romantic love. Both June and Day have strong ties to their families. Is love in varied forms a theme you intended to bring in, or was it a happy accident while writing.
I think a lot of the love themes came into the story by accident, although I can totally see why they snuck onto the page. I’m an only child (a product of China’s One Child policy!), and I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have siblings. As a result, almost everything I write involves strong sibling friendships, rivalries, and/or dark pasts.

Can you tell us a little bit about the process--particularly the timeline--of writing & publishing LEGEND?
Oh man—Beth knows my looooong road to publication. Legend was my fifth manuscript. At the time, I had another (unpublished) story that my agent was pitching, and while we slowly received rejections back on it, I distracted myself by writing Legend. Legend came relatively quickly to me—the first draft took about 5 months, and then my agent and I did two big revisions on it. I’d say the whole writing process took about 9 months. We sent it out in late summer of 2010 and it sold at auction a couple of weeks later. Considering that I pitched my very first manuscript when I was fifteen, I’d say it only took two weeks and twelve years!

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from LEGEND, what would you want it to be?
Day’s motto in the book is: ‘Walk in the light’. I suppose this is the takeaway idea from the story—to Day, ‘walking in the light’ means seeking out the truth and refusing to take the world around you at face value. Not everything is as it seems in the real world, either, and I hope people always seek to find out how their everyday decisions really impact their society. ‘Walking in the light’ also symbolizes doing the right thing and being a moral person, even when you’re surrounded by darkness.


What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
I’ve learned that there are so many more elements to a writer’s job than just writing, something I never really considered until Legend sold. There’s the marketing and promotion, chatting with readers, touring, meeting people, traveling….all wonderful and fun things, but definitely unexpected!

Beyond the typical--never give up, believe in yourself--what would be the single best advice you'd like to give another writer?
Don’t be afraid to write a bad book. Sometimes you have to squeeze all the bad stuff out before you can get to the good stuff, and don’t be intimidated by the idea that you have to set aside something that just isn’t working and begin on an entirely new story. Staring at a blank page is one of the most terrifying sights a writer can see, but you have to be able to let go of bad writing.

What do you think are your strongest and weakest points in writing?
I think my strongest point might be character creation, only because I’m borderline obsessive-compulsive about it. My character profile sheets are ridiculously long and I have to know as much as I possibly can about all of my characters before I can start writing. I know silly things like their blood types and hexadecimal color codes for their skin/hair/eye colors. I have no idea why. My weakest point? Outlining. I suck so hard at outlining. Every time I attempt one, I veer off by the fourth chapter because my characters have wandered off onto their own path, leaving me to scramble after them. It makes for some very haphazard first drafts.

 And now for a giveaway! Leave a comment with your email address below to be entered to win a ARC copy of LEGEND--and it's SIGNED! One winner will be picked next Monday; sorry, but this needs to be North America only. 
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