by Sophie Schmidt
We caught up with best-selling author and master world-builder Marie Lu to talk inspiration, gaming and of course, the book we’ve all been waiting for…WARCROSS! It’s set in a world where a video game takes the world by storm and a hacker named Emika discovers that deciding whom to trust may be the most difficult game of all…
Justine Magazine: Hi Marie! So lets start at the beginning. How did you know you were going to be a writer?
Marie Lu: I knew I was going to be a writer when I realized that being a writer was a thing that people could do. I have been writing since I was five years old. I used to write stories to myself, but I didn’t know books were written by people. I never made that connection for some reason. When I was 13 I finally read an article in this paper about this 13 year old girl named Amelia Atwater Rose who had gotten her first book deal with a big publisher. That was the moment when I was like, “Oh, real people write books! She’s my age! You can write a book at any age and get it published.” From then on, I told myself I wanted to be a writer. It’s so strange because I can pinpoint the day, the moment when I knew.
JM: That’s amazing! You can see your growth and find the roots of part of who you are because of it. What did you think you wanted to be beforehand?
ML: I had a lot of weird, impractical job aspirations when I was a kid. I wanted to be a fighter pilot when I was nine. I remember I told my mom, “Mom, I want to be a fighter pilot” and she was like, “You have terrible eyesight, they’re not gonna let you in. Just trust me.” It was a message of “Follow your dreams, but don’t follow that one.” She was right, and all I could do was say, “Oh alright.”
JM: Oh my gosh, is that why Kaede is a fighter pilot?
ML: Yes! Kaede is a fighter pilot for that reason. It was more of a wish fulfillment.
ML: It’s a little weird. When I was transitioning from Legend to Young Elites, I kept being anachronistic because it’s historical, it’s in the past whereas Legend is science fiction, it’s in the future, so my tone had to shift. That took me a few months to get that. With Warcross, it shifted back to science fiction and I had to find myself shifting out of Adelina’s very unmodern, dark, and intense point of view to Emika who is very modern, talks in slang, and is casual with a very different personality. Finding that character is a challenge and always takes a bit of time.
ML: So Warcross was originally inspired by this little bit of world building I had done in Champion, the third book of Legend. In Champion, there’s a brief mention of an Antartican society that is completely game-based and game-related. I didn’t get to play with it as much as I wanted to during Legend so that idea was always spinning in the back of my head and I knew at some point I was going to write a game related book, so that’s Warcross. I wanted to do something that was fun for me – no pressure, no stress, just completely fun. I wanted to put all of my favorite things into one book and that’s what Warcross is.
JM: Would you say that Warcross and Legend are set in the same world then?
ML: I see them set in the same world. Warcross is set maybe 80 or 90 years before the events of Legend and about 10 years from our future right now. It’s very, very near future science fiction.
JM: How did your background in video games help you writing this book?
ML: It was completely essential to the point where a lot of anecdotes from my time in video games made it into the book. When I first started working in video games I was working at Disney Interactive Studios, which is the video game division of Disney, as an intern, and for six months it was just me and seven other interns just causing havoc in the company. We had so much fun, I have so many good memories from that time, so a lot of those random little things made it into the book. There are scenes where Amika is interacting with other players of Warcross in the exact same scenarios that we did as interns.
JM: That sounds like so much fun! So out of all of the worlds you have created which one would you live in?
ML: Probably Warcross since it’s the least violent one. I feel like surviving in the Legend world or the Young Elites world is a bit of a challenge. Warcross is not as dark as the other two series – it’s not all happy-go-lucky, but it’s much lighter in tone and fewer people die. I feel like I would have a better shot at being alive and having fun in that virtual reality.
JM: If you got to be a hacker-spy like Emika, which game would you spy on?
ML: Assasin’s Creed! I would really love to see the inner workings of that franchise. It’s one of my favorite game franchises, and Assasin’s Creed Two: Brotherhood is one of my favorite video games. I think it would kinda be fun to be a spy in there! Although I feel like it’s a lot less glamorous than I’m making it sound. I worked in game dev so I know that behind the scenes is not quite as sexy. You have all the bugs and alphas and betas and all the issues that come with that, but I like to think in my head of it as pretty fun.
JM: We would love to be hacker-spies! You’ve written so many adventurous, powerful characters, which one do you relate to most?
ML: I relate a lot to Emika in Warcross. I put a lot of myself in her, and even though we don’t have the same backstory or history – clearly she’s the cooler one of us two. She’s the hacker and the spy and has rainbow hair, and that’s all wish fulfillment for me. There’s a lot of myself in her – she’s Chinese-American, I’m Chinese-American. I feel bonded to her in a way that I didn’t with Day and June and Adelina even though they’re all my babies. Of course I understand Day and June in their own ways and know the inner workings of their minds, same going for Adelina, but Emika is just so essentially me. I mean my dog even makes an appearance in this – he just walks across the page.
JM: Oh my gosh that’s so cute! Now that you’ve had several bestsellers release, is it more or less exciting/nerve-wracking with Warcross?
ML: I’m so excited and anxious for Warcross. I feel like a debut author all over again with it because there is so much of myself in it, but I really hope that people like the book. I’m really grateful to be talking with you about it, so thanking your time out to chat with me. This was so fun! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that readers will like it when it comes out.
Marie Lu (c) Primo.