Fans of dystopian young adult fiction have been transported everywhere from Panem to Portland, Maine. This fall, “Legend” puts a new stamp in readers’ literary passports: It’s set in 2130 in California, the home state of the trilogy’s 27-year-old author, Marie Lu. Told from dual perspectives, Lu’s story pits two 15-year-olds against each other, cat-and-mouse style—Day, the charming boy on the run who happens to be a wanted felon, versus June, the genius who has been trained by the government to squash any resistance movements. The book garnered plenty of advance buzz, from a bidding war for the rights to a movie deal. So where does that leave Lu? Bookish talked to the author about “Legend” and how it feels when your childhood dream finally comes true.
Bookish: How did “Legend” come to be? Where did you find inspiration for your characters, June and Day?
Marie Lu: The most concrete inspiration for “Legend” came probably in early 2009, when I was watching “Les Miserables” on TV—the movie version. And that got me thinking about one of the protagonists from an old manuscript of mine that was never published. That was Day. He still had the same personality and everything was intact except he was in this fantasy world. And after watching “Les Mis,” I got to thinking that, “Well, it would be really interesting if I paired him up against a teenage detective type of character—like a teenage version of Jean Valjean and Javert.”
Originally, June was a boy character. I remember I was talking to my boyfriend in the car about how I was thinking of putting in this third character, a girl that the two would fall in love with. And he was like, “You know, you should really just combine those last two characters into one and just make the teen detective a girl.”
Bookish: Why did you decide to tell the story from two different points of view?
ML: I feel like it’s interesting to have two protagonists who are equally matched.
I remember watching “Catch Me If You Can” with Leonardo DiCaprio a few years ago and I just loved the dynamic between him and Tom Hanks’s detective character.
They both have stories that are probably completely opposite of each other. And it just felt right to have both of them have an equal amount of page time just because they both had to be equally developed, but opposites of each other.
Bookish: There was a great deal of buzz surrounding your book pre-publication. Are you feeling pressure or are you just tuning that out?
ML: I would like to say that I can tune it all out, but honestly it is a lot of pressure. I never really expected anything that I wrote to [be published]… I mean, you always dream about it, but you never really think it’s going to happen to you. I’ve been feeling more and more terrified of what will actually happen when the book comes out.
I just feel like a person sitting in her little bungalow and writing in her own little world, and I still can’t quite believe that this is actually happening. I can’t even dare to think that this would make me famous. I would just like to live to write another day.