THE CRYSTAL RIBBON through February 18th
SIREN SISTERS through February 18th
FROSTBLOOD AND SUZIE TOWNSEND QUERY CRITIQUE through Febrary 25th
THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE through March 4th
Linda Camacho Query Critique through March 11th
Upcoming Agent Spotlights With Query Critique Giveaways:
Kristy Hunter, Wednesday, March 22nd
MARIE LU INTERVIEW AND LEGEND GIVEAWAY
Here’s hoping everyone has lots of good news to share. We’ve got an awesome couple of months already planned for you.
I want mention a blogger friend, Candace at The Misadventures of Candyland, who is going through a really hard time right now. A number of bloggers are reaching out to help her. It's great how supportive our writing community is. If you want to offer moral or other support, go here.
So I have a lot of winners to announce. Yea! I love giving away books.
The winner of WILDEFIRE is:
The winner of UNTRACEABLE is:
The winner of WISHLESS is:
And finally the winner of RADIANCE is:
Congrats everyone! E-mail me your addresses so I can send you your books.
Today I am SO excited to start the New Year by interviewing Marie Lu about her debut book, LEGEND. I’ve heard such great things about LEGEND for a long time so I was super happy when Marie agreed to be interviewed. I loved everything about LEGEND—the writing, the main characters, June and Day, the dystopian world set in Los Angeles that Marie created. It was such a fantastic, never boring read. My only problem was that I had to share reading it with my daughter, so I couldn’t take it to read on my lunch hour. She really enjoyed it too.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias' death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets. Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.
Welcome Marie. Thanks for joining us. And congrats on having LEGEND named one of the top 100 books by Publishers Weekly.
1. Tell us a little about yourself, especially your early life in China, and how you became a writer.
Thank you so much for having me here, Natalie! Well, I’ve been writing since I was about five years old, which is around the same time I came over to the States from China. I think I started writing as a way to teach myself English, and quickly I learned that I enjoyed it as a hobby as well. I remember stapling together little short stories and booklets when I was a kid.
2. That’s an interesting way to get into writing, but I bet a good way to learn a language. I’ve read that you came up with the idea for LEGEND while watching Les Miserables. How cool! How did you take that idea and develop it into your own unique story?
The initial idea came very suddenly, and it was just a quick: Teenage versions of Valjean and Javert, playing a cat and mouse game with each other. I stewed around with this early idea for a couple of weeks before I stumbled across a map online that simulated what the world would look like if all our freshwater ice melted and the oceans rose 100 meters. That was such a compelling map that I thought it’d be fun to take my seed of an idea and set it in this world.
3. I think it’s a compelling coincidence how the idea for the story and the map happened so soon after each other. Sort of like the book was destined to be written. I loved June and Day and read that Day was an easier character for you to develop Tell us how you developed June and Day and why you chose to create them the way you did. Do you have any tips on creating the voices for two POV characters?
Yeah, Day has been in my head since I was a teenager, so I feel like he’s an old friend whose voice comes pretty naturally to me. I’d always wanted to write about a teen criminal—I just couldn’t find the perfect story for him to be in. It wasn’t until that day when I watched Les Mis on TV that I realized a great foil for him would be an equally clever young detective agent. So that became June. June was initially a boy, too, because I was modeling her and Day off of Javert and Valjean’s relationship in Les Mis. But my boyfriend said to me, “Why don’t you make the detective a girl?” And right away I knew that’d be a better fit, because now the story had a female character who really rounded out the whole cast well.
As far as tips, I’d say the first thing to do is try to find a unique personality trait for each protagonist that can help distinguish their voices. This is still something I’m working on, but I tried to give June a very unique personality (i.e. she’s analytical to a fault, in a Sherlock Holmes way) so that when her POV was talking, you could tell it was her for the most part. Day, meanwhile, is a street boy who uses slang and more casual language than June does.
4. That’s a great tip. And awesome how your boyfriend helped you decide to make the detective June. What research did you do in creating the futurist United States with the Republic and the Colonies and what influences from your own life did you draw on?
When I was five, I lived really close to Tiananmen Square in Beijing. That was 1989, the year the massacre happened, and I can still remember going out to the square with my aunt to see the crowds of student protesters as well as the tanks in the streets. I think that left a permanent impression on me, and definitely influenced how I created the Republic in Legend. I also drew from what I see as real-life examples of dystopia—ancient Sparta, the eugenics movement in the United States during the early 1900s, Nazi Germany, China’s Cultural Revolution, North Korea, etc. I wanted to create a dystopian society that felt like it could really exist. Finally, I also drew from our current state of American politics. The sort of extremism we’ve seen lately on both sides is something that inspired the civil war atmosphere of Legend’s United States.
5. Sad you had to experience Tiananmen Square but I’m sure it helped you, with your research, to develop your amazing world. And that’s interesting how you used the current situation here at home.
Your book has gotten such hype and until I read your journey to publication, I thought your journey was a dream one. Especially since Kristen Nelson is your agent. I’d so love to work with her or Sara Megibow. But you had bumps along the way to getting an agent and a book deal. Can you share your experiences with us?
I love Kristin so much! She’s amazing, as is Sara. But you’re right—I definitely had my share of setbacks…I started submitting my first novel back when I was fifteen, and I think I accumulated over a hundred rejections on my query when I realized I just had to write a better book. I ended up writing three more that went nowhere, although two of them got me agents. I went on submission twice before Legend, and both of those times we would get slow rejections from publishers over the course of years before my agent and I would finally agree to shelve the novel. It was certainly disheartening at times, but I think it made the sale of Legend that much more of a happy moment.
6. Wow! Hearing about your road to publication is even more inspiring because of those difficult times. It really tells the rest of us the importance of continuing to write and of querying. You were interviewed by Tavis Smiley on PBS on November 18th. (Guys, here’s the link.) Tell us how that came about and what it was like being on TV.
Oh my God, I was SO nervous! My Penguin publicist put it together. I still can’t remember a thing of what I said while I was up there. Afterward, when I watched the playback, I was like, “Did I say that?” It was a really cool experience. Getting my makeup done before the show was especially fun!
7. I’d be petrified, even with the makeup. I read that CBS Films is making a movie of LEGEND and it sounds like the process is moving right along. When did you sell the movie rights in relation to your book publication and tell us about the process so far.
CBS Films bought the rights for Legend back in early February of 2011, a few months after Legend’s book sale happened. Right now the director, Jonathan Levine, and producer, Wyck Godfrey, are working with the screenwriters on revisions of the screenplay. The process has been amazing! CBS Films is very forward-thinking and passionate about the project, so they’ve been fabulous about keeping me updated and included in all parts of the process.
8. That’s great how far along it is. And that you’re being updated because some authors don’t seem to be in the loop for much of the movie development. How have you been marketing your book? What advice would you give to us aspiring authors for when we hopefully become debut authors?
Penguin has been doing an unbelievable marketing job for Legend, and I’m so grateful that they’ve let me participate in a great deal of online promotion. Before the book sold, I’d created a little Facebook game for the story, and afterward I became fairly active on Facebook and Twitter to promote the book. Before I became a full-time writer, I was an artist for video games—so occasionally I’ll also draw pictures of how I envision scenes or characters from Legend.
For aspiring authors, I’d say it’s worth it to get familiar with social media as that has turned out to be a powerful promotion tool. Twitter has a fantastic writers’ and readers/bloggers’ community, and Facebook is a great way for people to find you and see what new things are happening with your book. Embracing technology is vital, I think. And it’s pretty fun, too.
9. I read about your background in video games. That’s cool you put your expertise to use. And you’re making me want to get on Twitter. What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on a last round of line edits for Legend 2, and starting on Legend 3. I also have begun working on a new idea that’s been incubating in my head for several months. I’m very excited to dig into this one.
Yea for book 2 in your series. I can’t wait. Thanks so much Marie for all your advice.
Thank you so much again for having me! This has been a blast. Here are a couple of places I can be found:
Legend’s official Facebook page (run by Penguin)
My personal site
I’m giving away my copy of LEGEND to one lucky winner. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on January 21st. I’ll announce the winner on January 23rd. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.
If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.
Here’s what’s coming up the next few weeks. Next Monday I’m interviewing Caroline Starr Rose and giving away an ARC of May B.
Then the next Wednesday, January 18th, we’re having our 2000 FOLLOWER GIVEAWAY. Casey and I are planning it out. It’s going to be awesome! I really hope you’ll all come back for this.
The following week I’ll be interviewing a panel of 7th graders whose teacher had a fabulous blog and who follows here. I can’t wait to hear their answers.
Hope to see you next Monday!