Author Spotlight: Marie Lu

We ask the L.A. writer about her debut novel, Legend

Photograph by Paul Gregory

In Legend, one of our Critic’s Picks for November, two 15-year-old rivals face off and fall in love in a dystopic future Los Angeles. CBS Films is already developing a screenplay based on the book, the first in a planned trilogy. Marie Lu, the author and former video game art director, grew up in Los Angeles and studied political science and biology at USC. Read on to discover where she got the idea for the book, and what we can expect in the next one.  

Where did the idea for this book come from?
The original idea for the book first came from an afternoon when I was watching Les Miz on TV. I thought it would be interesting to translate a story of a teenage detective versus a teenage criminal—sort of like a younger version of the Les Miz story. The dystopian setting for the story came from this map that I saw online. It was a simulation of what the world would look like if all of the oceans rose 100 meters after all of our fresh-water ice melted. It was a really fascinating map because all of the south United States was completely gone. California had this enormous lake from L.A. all the way up to San Francisco. I saw that and thought it would be so fun to mess with my hometown a little bit and make that the setting for a dystopian world, where the chase between this teenage criminal and teenage detective would happen.

But in Les Miz it’s two men; in Legend it’s a boy and girl. How did that happen?
June, the girl detective in the story, started out as a boy. I remember discussing this with my boyfriend in the car, going over the storyline. He was like, “You know, it would be really interesting if you could just make the detective a girl. That would make so much more conflict.” I said, “Oh you’re right!” Now I just sort of run everything by him. 

Can you divulge any developments that will happen in book two?
It is a little longer than the first one, and most of the characters from book one will appear again. There will be some new characters to add some drama into the story. People will get to explore more of the world, too, so it won’t be restricted to L.A. anymore. They’ll be traveling to other cities in the Republic, and there’ll be some insight into the Colonies as well.