Legend, a young adult novel by local author Marie Lu released on Tuesday, is set in a dystopian future of Los Angeles, California. The story is told from the perspective of the two main characters, who are teenagers, a boy named Day and a girl named June, on different sides of a civil war pitting the Republic versus the Colonies. Day is a criminal and June needs to hunt him down.
Lu has been writing since she was a teenager and built a loyal following from those read her self-published stories online, but Legend is her first published novel. For her day job, for many years, she worked as an art director for a video game company. She even developed a popular website aimed for children called Fuzz Academy. Now, Lu writes full time, surrounded by her two corgis and a chihuahua.
Lu has always been influenced by young adult books. "I think my maturity just stopped at 17 years old," she says. "I remember my favorite books when I was a kid: The Redwall Adventure series, Ender's Game, things like that. Nowadays I still read a lot of young adult. I love Hunger Games, of course. I feel like right now is a really good time to read young adult fiction because there's so much of it coming out and it's all because of Harry Potter."
I asked her why she chose Los Angeles, a realistic location, as the setting for her story. "I want to say I picked L.A. for a profound reason but it was only because I live here," she says, laughing, over her tea inside a Starbucks in Pasadena.
"I think it was probably the right setting because the socioeconomic structure of Los Angeles kind of mirrors what it's like in the Republic. The fact that you can go down the street and you run into a wealthy neighborhood. Then two blocks later, it's a really poor street. It's very extreme and I think that is kind of symbolic for Legend where there is no middle class."
The dystopian genre had picked up steam among young adult readers, with the Hunger Games movie as evidence of its growing popularity. Lu believes this is a reflection on how the younger generation are affected by the world as it is today.
"We see a shrinking job market and the slow death of the American middle class, the widening gap between rich and poor, environmental problems... there is a great deal of darkness on our minds right now, and books have always reflected the times in which they were written. We are both disturbed and fascinated by visions of bleak futures, predictions of what might come if we as a society aren't careful."
Lu was barely digesting the excitement on her book trilogy deal with Penguin when CBS Films snatched up the rights to turn Legend into a movie.
"I didn't really know much about how movie deals went before Legend happened," Lu explains. "The movie deal just kind of came out of the left field. I wasn't expecting it...It just sort of happened. I didn't know it could happen before the book could go on sale."
Everything came together very quickly, with Twilight producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey on board and Jonathan Levine (50/50) set as the director.
One last question I had to ask was why she named the antagonist of her story, the Republic's dictator, after her boyfriend Primo.
"Primo asked, why couldn't you have made my name, you know, Day's name," she says. "I could have been the protaginist. I said no, 'Primo' is not the name of a protagonist. It's just sounds too all powerful. It means 'number one' -- that's such a perfect name for a dictator."
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Check out the trailer for the book:
Legend's official book launch party will take place tonight, Thursday, Dec. 1, at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, 2810 Artesia Blvd., Redondo Beach. Check out the Facebook Event Page for more details. Visit the author's websites at www.marielu.org or www.legendtheseries.com. You can also follow her on twitter at @Marie_Lu.