The Compulsive Reader: Interview with Marie Lu About Her Newest Book, The Young Elites

Friday, September 19, 2014

Interview with Marie Lu About Her Newest Book, The Young Elites

Some hate us, think us outlaws to hang at the gallows.
Some fear us, think us demons to burn at the stake.
Some worship us, think us children of the gods.
But all know us.

Marie Lu is the author of the Legend trilogy (Legend, Prodigy, and Champion, and they're all out in paperback now!) and The Young Elites, out October 7th! The Young Elites has the same action and danger and world building as the Legend trilogy, but in a very different fantasy world inspired by Renaissance Italy. In The Young Elites, a plague has ravaged the land, leaving some of the surviving children with unexplainable powers. Now teenagers, the affected are known as the Young Elites and are hunted down by the crown. But they want to fight back, and Adelina Amouteru might be the key to helping them defeat their oppressors, but only if she can learn to control her dangerous power. (Review forthcoming!)

I was very fortunate to be a part of a phone interview with Marie about the release of The Young Elites, and she answered some very pressing questions...

When talking about the "origin story" of The Young Elites, Marie says, "I definitely thought of The Young Elites first." After seeing the name online, it stuck with her.  "And after I thought about it for a while, I was like, 'Gosh, it would really fit this world and the people that are living in this world,' because they're--they are extraordinary, but they're very, very young. And that bleeds very much into who they are in terms of their powers and how they're treated by their families."

About the setting, Marie admitted, "It was a completely different experience from writing Legend." A lot of research went into building the world. "For The Young Elites, I did a lot of reading about Renaissance Italy and Renaissance Venice and what life was like back then, and what people ate and how they dressed. And a lot of those things went into the story."

Despite the differences in researching and timelines, the two books are similar in feel. Marie says, "It was definitely a different experience because Legend was sort of looking forward and this is kind of looking back in time. And it was interesting playing with that, because oddly enough they kind of end up at the same place where it's still a dystopia in some ways."

But as for the basics of writing the setting, Marie did have to switch up her writing style:  "I kept trying to avoid using a lot of modernisms that kept creeeping their way into the story. And the first time that I turned in my manuscript, my editor was like, 'I feel we could tone down on the modern tone of your stuff. It's kind of futuristic for an old-timey sort of story.' So, that was an adjustment as well."

One of the most fascinating aspects of this novel is that The Young Elites is essentially a villain's origin story, with the protagonist as the antagonist. On setting Adelina up to the be the villainess of the series, I asked Marie about how she approached writing the scenes from Adelina's perspective. She said, "It was really, really hard to get into that mind space, and it's still very hard for me. I'm working on book two right now."

She went on to say, "I thought of writing from the antagonist's point of view after I was talking to my agent about this book. So, when I first started writing The Young Elites, it was right after Prodigy came out. And I wanted to write a fantasy book, but at the time it actually starred Raffaele instead of Adelina, and Raffaele was a totally different character too. He was very, very bland, just sort of like your every-boy, and he was going to university and he thought he was a Young Elite.

It just--it was a very, very sort of bland story. And I couldn't quite put my finger on what was wrong with it, but I knew I wanted to write something about these types of people. So, I gave the first hundred pages to my agent, and she was like, 'Well, who is this side character over here? She's kind of interesting.'

And Adelina was a side character who is total evil. And after my agent said that, that was when I was like, 'Hmm, I never thought about writing it from her point of view, but that might be an interesting exercise.'

And it was totally different from Legend, because Day and June, they live in a really dark world, but they're inherently good people at heart. They have good families who treated them right, and I feel like that really made them who they are as people when they grew up.

And Adelina is totally different. Her family is twisted and terrible, and that rubbed off on her a lot. And it was kind of disturbing to have to get into that headspace, because I didn't experience any of that. And to be able to try to figure out a way to make this person do horrible things but also not make her totally unlikeable so that you're like, 'God, I just want this character to die already' was a bit of a challenge too."

Marie calls it a "very, very odd" experience that requires some distance at the end of a writing day, but about writing Adelina, Marie says it was "also kind of fun and liberating, I guess, to write about somebody who just--she just doesn't care sometimes. She just doesn't care that she's really angry at the world and she feels very entitled to that."

She went on to say that, "I feel there's something kind of empowering about letting yourself be bad. I guess it's why we want villains so much. I mean, I love, you know, Loki and Magneto. You can kind of feel for them in a way. Like Loki, he kills lots of people, but he loves his mama and, you know, he's had some feuds with his brother. And I think it's fun to kind of imagine that space, because I think we all have issues in our lives.

And we all have that moment sometimes where you're stuck in traffic and someone cuts you off, and you're just like, 'I just want to kill you right now. I just want, like, some force to come eat your car.'And then, I thought, you know, what if I create a character who actually acted out some of that stuff? And then, afterwards she's like, 'Oh, shit, I actually did this horrible thing that I wanted to do at the time, but now I kind of regret it.'

And it's fascinating and kind of an unsettling way to write some of that stuff, because she feels powerful when she thinks that and does those things, but then afterwards she never feels great about it. So, it's kind of like don't always act out your demons--your inner demons kind of thing."

But it wasn't all darkness and villains for this interview. When asked what Young Elite power she would like to possess, Marie said, "I would really, really love the ability to stop time. So, the entire world will stop, but you can still keep going and do some, like, work on stuff.  I'm such a dork. I just want to work more. I mean, this would be amazing for meeting all my deadlines. I could just pause time for 500 years and get it all done, and then you'd just click on again and time keeps going."

I'm sure her readers wouldn't mind terribly if she had that kind of power--think of how many books Marie could write in the space of 500 years. "That would be kind of cool," Marie admitted, "but I think that would mess up the space-time continuum."

The Young Elites will be out on October 7th, so mark your calendar! Check out her website for more information, and definitely give her Pinterest page a look! And read an excerpt here.

About The Young Elites:

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

About Marie:

Marie Lu is the author of the New York Times bestselling Legend series. She spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing Assassin’s Creed, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with one boyfriend, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this fascinating review! It's great to hear about Marie Lu's new book from her own perspective, though I have to admit I am always wary of books with main characters who are not good people. They are very hard for me to read, so I'm going to have to think hard about this book!