Interview by Emily K., Teen Press Corps~
Emily, TPC: Was the writing process for The Young Elites different from the Legend series? How?
Marie Lu: It was different, and it surprised me. I don’t really outline, but with The Young Elites about halfway in I realized that I was writing myself into corners. I started outlining a bit and I actually wrote parts of it out by hand, which I’ve never done before.
EK: Do you prefer working with an outline or without?
ML: I wish I could have an outline because it does help a lot, but I do discover a lot of surprises about the story when I’m just winging it. I think it’s better for the story and I write better things when I don’t have an outline, but having one does make things easier on me.
EK: What’s your favorite book you’ve read this year?
ML: It’s a book that hasn’t been published yet; Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It’s sci-fi, and the unique thing I loved about it was Amie wrote it so the book is a collection of things – chats and secret documents – like someone found them and published it. I though it was really well done.
EK: What’s it like having Legend turned into a movie? Are you involved in the process at all?
ML: I’m not really involved, but it’s really exciting to now that the producers are really excited about it. It’s been really nice to know that we’re all trying our best to push it forward.
EK: Are you worried at all about how Legend will translate to the screen?
ML: I worry sometimes, but I’ve kinda learned to let it go because they’re such different medias. You can’t have a one-on-one ratio of translation between the two, so I don’t really worry about it anymore.
EK: From your debut to now, how have you seen the YA world change and what are your thoughts?
ML: I think the trends are still going strong; YA seems likes it’s always been trendy. I definitely think it’s becoming a more diverse place, which I think is in large part thanks to the We Need Diverse Books campaign (#weneeddiversebooks). It’s an an amazing campaign, and I think that it actually is spreading a lot of change in the way that people view how to write their books, in the ways that readers are searching for books, and in the ways that publishers are pitching books. So that’s been a really nice change to see.
EK: Did you enjoy the world-building for Legend or The Young Elites more?
ML: I don’t know! They were both fun in different ways, I guess. With Legend, I was doing a lot of research on future and past dystopians. With The Young Elites it was really fun to play with a world that isn’t at all like ours, and with lots of fantasy elements. Fantasy is my favorite genre, but the funny thing is that Legend and The Young Elites both ended up influenced in some ways by different dystopians.
EK: For Legend, did you research lots of military dystopias and actual historical documents for the US and things that are happening in the world right now?
ML: I did a lot of research for places that are real-life dystopias. It was very heavily based on North Korea, and certain things during the Holocaust and at the Japanese internment camps in WW2. I wanted to make sure that everything that’s wrong with the world in Legend is stuff that’s already wrong with the world and war, and is still happening now. I feel like it makes the setting more relevant and interesting.
EK: What are some of your writing rituals?
ML: I have to listen to music. I can’t listen to music with lyrics because it distracts me too much, so I have a lot of music from Two Steps From Hell, who makes a lot of movie soundtracks. I listen to a lot of ambient sounds too, like rain. I like to write at home in the mornings, which is when I write the best.
EK:Can you give any hints about what you’re working on now?
ML: I’m working right now on the sequel for The Young Elites, and on the side I’m kind of turning around the idea for a new novel. Definitely not a series, hopefully a stand-alone. It’s really, really early on so there’s not much to talk about.
EK: Halloween coming up – favorite horror or paranormal novel?
ML: Oh, there’s this great one by Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves. It’s also kind of like Illuminae where it’s pieced together from found documents. It’s very eerie and creepy. There are pages with no writing, just one word, just one sentence . . it’s all very cool.