01/23/2015

Twice the artist

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One of the best things about being a part of this generation is that we are free to be whoever we want. We don’t have to pick one label to describe who we are. It’s okay to be an illustrator-slash-singer-slash-actor-slash-boxer. Life is an adventure of self-discovery and there’s nothing wrong with claiming everything you are good at.

But there will be certain moments in your life — say, when you need to finally decide what job to go after — where you start to question what is it that you really want to do. When you’re stuck at a career crossroads, remember that you don’t have to choose one over the other. You can create an intersection of your interests and possibly make a living out of it. Take young adult author Marie Lu for example.

Before getting her first young adult dystopian thriller Legend published, Marie worked at a video game company as an artist. Even though she decided early on that she wanted to pursue a career in writing, she still explored the arts to save money to follow her dream. Now that she’s a best-selling author, she uses her art skills to develop her characters like in her latest novel Young Elites. She also has plans to release a graphic novel for Legend in 2015.

Like her first trilogy Legend, Young Elites follows the story of a young girl called Adelina who goes on a journey to find her true identity and the truth about the society she’s living in. This week, Young STAR caught up with Marie Lu to talk about writing about feminism, writing and doing what you love.

“I don’t think I set out to intentionally make them strong female characters. I feel like with male characters, nobody ever considers whether or not they’re strong. As long as they’re interesting characters, it’s good. I wanted my women to be the same way.”

YOUNG STAR: Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?

MARIE LU: Technically, the first story I ever wrote was when I was five. It was about farm animals. (Laughs) My first real novel never got published. I wrote that when I was 14. That was a fantasy novel. I basically wrote a very bad version of Lord of the Rings.

In your first book Legend, you nicknamed Daniel Altan Wing, one of the main characters, Day. Is it somehow related to Daniel Day Lewis?

(Laughs) It was a coincidence. I came up with the name Day first. Daniel came about because I wanted to give him a name that sounded kind of similar to Day. The TV happened to be on one day and there was an interview with Daniel Radcliffe. So I guess, he was named after Daniel Radcliffe.

Who’s your favorite character in the Legend trilogy?

I love Kaede. She was really fun for me to write. I call her my wish-fulfillment character. She’s who I wish I could have been because she flies jets and I loved fighter jets when I was a kid.

Like Legend, your new book Young Elites has a lot of empowered female characters. Was it a conscious decision to develop these characters in the story?

I don’t think I set out to intentionally make them strong female characters. I feel like with male characters, nobody ever considers whether or not they’re strong. As long as they’re interesting characters, it’s good. I wanted my women to be the same way. They can all be different things in different ways. There’s this notion that to be a strong female, you have to be physically strong. Basically, to be a man as a woman. I feel like it’s more interesting to create females that are strong in their own ways. Everybody is different. I wanted to make sure that they all felt like real humans.

The Legend trilogy was a big success. Did you feel any pressure while writing Young Elites? How did you get over it?

I don’t know if I ever got over it. (Laughs) Eat a lot of chocolate. That’s always helpful. It’s easier said than done but it helps to remind yourself that you can’t make everyone happy. No book is ever going to please everybody. If you try to please everyone, you please nobody. You just have to write something that you like yourself.

Listening to music can be helpful, too. What are you listening to right now?

I am listening to “1989,” like the rest of the world. I really, really love Bad Blood and Blank Space. I also listen to a lot of video game soundtracks when I’m writing. I used to work in a video game company as an artist.

Before you write your characters, do you draw them?

I do. I find that I can’t get into my characters’ heads unless I see them on paper. It’s a part of my writing process.

Any tips for young writers?

The one piece of advice I always give to aspiring writers is to don’t be afraid to write something bad. A lot of young people feel the need to make it perfect. The more important thing to do is to finish something as long as a novel. It can be the worst writing on the face of the planet. But the word count has to be there. That’s the biggest hurdle an aspiring novelist has to get over.

Check out Marie Lu’s latest book The Young Elites in National Bookstore branches nationwide.

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