Marie Lu has had to search up a lot of strange things while writing.
“Can you survive a four story jump? What are the properties of a paper clip? I need find out the entire history of a paper clip to use for two lines of dialogue,” said Lu.
Her Legend series, which consists of Legend, Prodigy, and Champion, tell the story of military prodigy June and notorious criminal Day. Their lives intertwine when June’s brother is announced dead and Day is their number one suspect. The story delves deeper into a dystopian world where war with neighboring countries seems inevitable and these two teens might be the only ones who can spark rebellion.
“The initial inspiration for it was that I saw a map online of what our world would look like if all the freshwater ice melted and the oceans rose by 100 meters. It was just a really fascinating map because all of Europe was gone and the entire US southeast was gone. There’s also a huge lake near my hometown and I thought it would be really fun to flood it! And that’s how the world came to me,” said Lu.
Fascinated by the subject, Lu did a lot of research into real life dystopia.
“Just the idea that even though it’s a fictional dystopia, everything that exists in that world exists in ours and is happening now. I was interested in reading about North Korea and the Holocaust and eugenics and they all played into the Legend research,” said Lu.
Lu has been writing ever since she was in high school, which is where she created Day.
“Day’s been in my head a really long time. In an old novel of mine that never got published that came out in high school, that’s where he first appeared. He was sort of inspired by the whole ‘thief with a heart of gold’ type: the Han Solo, Robin Hood trope, and I’d always been drawn to that. I find his voice came very naturally to me,” said Lu.
However, not every character came to her so easily.
“With June, she was inspired by Sherlock Holmes but I definitely had a lot of trouble getting into her head because she’s analytical! And I’m not like that at all so we have nothing in common. And it was challenging because she’s smarter than me and it’s hard to write a character whose smarter than myself,” said Lu.
Lu finds herself most in the secondary characters, like Tess.
“Tess is the most like me; very much how I was in high school. Very shy and insecure. I see a lot of myself in her,” said Lu.
Lu received a lot of angry and frustrated mail from concerned fans about Prodigy‘s cliffhanger – but Lu saw it as a good thing.
“It meant that it frustrated readers enough to have an emotional reaction and I think that the reaction all authors are afraid of is ‘meh’. No one wants to think their book is just okay,” said Lu.
Even she had no idea about how Prodigy would end for a long time.
“I think I found out the ending for Prodigy when I was almost done with Legend; I’m a ‘write by the seat of my pants’ kind of writer so I didn’t know what would happen until I got there. The plot of prodigy was pretty vague to me until I actually started the book so it came to me in bits and pieces,” said Lu.
Despite that pants-er writing style, she finds herself unable to write without music, although she’s slowly branching out.
“I can not write in silence. I also can’t write with lyrics; it always has to be soundtracks. So I have these long playlists from things like Tron or sci-fi type movies and that helps me get into the zone. I usually write in my home office but more and more I’m realizing I have to adapt out of that so now I can find my zen in a variety of places. My favorite spot now is the train; it’s very soothing,” said Lu.