Kid Reporters

Legendary

TFK chats with author Marie Lu about her debut novel, Legend

January 09, 2012
G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS; PAUL GREGORY

Marie Lu says she was inspired to write "Legend" after watching the movie version of "Les Misérables," about an ex-convict named Jean Valjean who tries to redeem himself.

Legend, by Marie Lu, is set in a future Los Angeles, California. What used to be the western coast of the United States is now “The Republic.” The Republic is at war with their neighbor, “The Colonies.” The story follows two teenagers from different sides of the track named June and Day. June is a military prodigy who was born to a wealthy family. Day, on the other hand, is from a poor family and is the most-wanted criminal in the Republic. Their paths cross when June’s brother is killed. Day is accused of the crime, and June decides to hunt him down. But there’s more to the story than she thinks. As she investigates her brother’s death, June begins to uncover some terrible secrets about the Republic. Will knowing this information cost June her life as well?

TFK Kid Reporter Julia Horbacewicz spoke to Lu about her debut book. Read on to learn what the author had to say.

TFK:

How did you get the idea to write Legend?

MARIE LU:

The first spark of inspiration came when I was watching Les Misérables, the movie version, on TV one afternoon. As I was watching it, I thought it would be really interesting to write a teenage version of Jean Valjean versus Javert—a [story about a] criminal versus some sort of detective-like character. At the time, I already had a picture in my head of a character that was a teenage criminal. But I’d never quite found the right story for him until I watched the movie. That is where it originally started.

The dystopian setting for the book came about when I saw a map online of what the world would look like if all the [polar ice caps] in the world melted and the oceans rose. That gave me the inspiration for the flooded version of the Republic. Those two things combined to inspire Legend.

TFK:

When you were writing Legend did you already plan that the story would be trilogy?

 

LU:

I don’t think I really knew it would become a trilogy. But when I first started writing it, I knew it was going to be longer than one book. I always had a feeling it was going to be a series, but not until recently did I realize that the arc of it fit pretty well into three books. So... I sort of knew!

TFK:

Are June and Day based on real people?

 

LU:

Part of Day’s personality is based on my boyfriend’s and a couple of other people I know. June is the only character in the entire book that isn’t based on anyone. She’s the character that is the least like me. I had to do a lot of random research for her in particular. She was a challenge to put together. But Day was really fun to write since his character has been in my head since I was in high school. Over the years his personality kind of evolved with me.

TFK:

Why did you choose Los Angeles for the setting?

LU:

I chose Los Angeles mostly because I live there. It was the cheapest method for me to do research! For example, if I needed to know where something was, or where a building was, or a street or things like that, I could actually drive out there and see it for myself. Also, I was looking at the map of the flooded world, and it was sort of interesting to see that California had become this gigantic lake that stretched from L.A. to San Francisco. To picture my own home city flooded like that with a lake nearby was really interesting. I wanted to explore that.

Kid Reporter
Julia Horbacewicz

TFK:

When did you decide you wanted to be an author?

LU:

I don’t know if I ever consciously knew I wanted to be an author. I‘ve been writing ever since I was really little. I think the first time I ever stapled together a book was when I was 5 or 6, when I first came to the states. From then on, I just always pieced together little booklets for myself with little stories. When I was about 15 or so, I saw this Houston Chronicle article about a girl named Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. She was 15 when she first got her book deal. That was when I realized that there are actually [everyday people out there] who write books. I always thought books were generated out of a library, like from some underground factory! I never thought I could make a career out of it, though. So it’s been a really pleasant surprise to see Legend [get published].

TFK:

Legend is being made into a movie. Do you think the movie will say true to the book?

LU:

I was very pleased when CBS picked it up because they seemed very passionate about the story line. They had a conversation with me about it when we first signed with them. Everyone agreed that we really want to stay true to the book and keep the characters and the main plot points intact.

TFK:

Does any part of the book reflect your life or your personality?

LU:

The book is pretty optimistic. Day is a very optimistic character, and I like to think that I try to look at the bright side of things in life. There’s also a scene in the book of where the soldiers are closing off the square and taking down the demonstrators. This was inspired by my experience growing up in Beijing, when I was 5 years old, during the time of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. My aunt and I lived pretty close to the square. We were just a couple of blocks away. I still remember us going out to look at the protesters. I remember us being out there and seeing the tanks—although, I didn’t see any actual shooting happen. When I read back over the book, I realized the scene in the square was definitely inspired by my memories of the Tiananmen event.

TFK:

What’s your favorite part of the book?

LU:

I really liked when Day and June first meet each other on the street. That was a really fun part for me to write. They didn’t really know who the other person was, and they had a mutual attraction based just on their personalities.

TFK:

What were some of your favorite books growing up?

LU:

Right off the bat, I can think of the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. That was my absolute favorite book series when I was growing up. It was what made me start reading a lot of fantasy and sci-fi when I got into high school. I still like to go back and flip through the books every now and then. Of course, Harry Potter was a huge favorite of mine when I was young. I remember obsessing over those books with my friends. Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow are still two of my favorite books. I love how Orson Scott Card handled the child prodigies in those books. It influenced how I wrote June.


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