Saturday, December 14, 2013

Meeting Marvelous Marie Lu

Find out about "Pantsers vs. Plotters", interrupting Marie Lu, a new series with the Black Death leading to magical powers, the history of paper clips, and Day being named after Daniel Radcliffe.

The blogging world may not know this yet, but I am thoroughly OBSESSED, CRAZY, EXUBERANTLY ENTHUSIASTIC, about the Legend Trilogy (Legend, Prodigy, Champion) written by Marie Lu. I could literally talk all day about how much I love her as a human being, and I will do that in fact when I write my "Series Overview: The Legend Trilogy" coming really soon. For now, however, I am going to be talking about December 7, 2013, or last Saturday when I went to the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in Redondo Beach.

This is her original Goodreads post with all the details of the signing:

That however isn't how I found out about the signing. I found out about it through Twitter when Marie Lu announced she was touring for Champion. I don't remember the specific date she tweeted this (trust me, I looked in my archive), but I'm guessing from mid-September all the way to late October is when she tweeted about it. Marie Lu did in fact tweet me confirming the details on November 8, 2013.

Now that I knew for sure when the date was, I had to hatch my plan for asking my mom. I live in the Los Angeles Country, and Redondo Beach is around 45 minutes or more away, so I didn't know if my mom would take me or not. As you guessed it, (since I'm writing this post) she said yes, only because I had only been talking about the Legend Trilogy for the past 11 months. I even so far as to make a tri-fold for book report before Champion came out.

Anyway, onto the actual signing itself on December 7th. The weather had been really weird, ouring one moment, sun streaming the next. So I hoped that there would be less people. Anyway, we got there a good 45 minutes and it was good thing we had. Already almost all of the seats were taken, the remaining people forced to stand. So my friend from school Joyce, had convinced her entire family to drive down to Redondo Beach, so I met up with her there. Random Fact: I actually took over her Dad's seat, so her little brother had to sit in the middle of two chairs between her mom and dad. Anyway, so Joyce and I stood next to each other for a solid half hour discussing the Legend Trilogy. Random Perverted Fact: We got a funny look when I asked her---brace yourself, it's a valid question--if she thought June and Day used protection between the pages 212-216 of Champion--seriously they're in the middle of a war did they think of it? The bulk of our conversation was us repeatedly wondering out loud if Marie Lu was right behind the door (we were standing in a hallway, and there was this swinging door that the bookstore workers kept going in and out of) and we could go in like those crazy One Direction Fangirls and then get thrown out. Point in case, we didn't. At around 2:20, we sat down in our seats and then one of the bookstore workers walked by saying, "Oh, and by the way, Marie Lu cancelled." that just about freaked out us for half a millisecond.

Onto when Marie Lu finally came out of that hallway. I whipped out my iPod the second she did, and filmed her for 20 minutes through her talking, and the Q&A session. She had such cute clothes on, this picture is extremely grainy, but I hope you get the gist of it. Black jacket with little (I think) beaded epaulets, white infinity scarf, red plaid skirt, some lovely (maybe diamond) earrings, and what is not depicted, some four-inch heels. The picture is grainy, but it was a screenshot of the video.

 My transcription of Marie Lu's spiel (around 6 minutes long): 
So I'm gonna talk really really briefly because I don't wanna take of too much of the time, and want to open up the floor for some questions for you guys as soon as possible. We're gonna try to keep the questions spoiler free, so for anyone that hasn't finished reading Champion yet, if you have questions about the plot, feel free to ask them, but try to word it in a vague sorta way so we don't actually give anything away to people.

Basically, I've noticed there are two types of people I come across in life, the first kind is a "Plotters" and those are the writers that are super organized, and they plan out everything in advance. I have some friends like this, they have their outlines down and they know what's gonna happen in the books and they're very neat and organized with everything. The second kind are "Pantsers"and what a "Pantser" is, is a write rthat writes by the seat of their pants, as in we have no idea what's going to happen next and its just chaos, and that's the kind of writer I am. I do not plan anything in advance. With the Legend series, I started out by basing it off Les Miserables, I thought the story was gonna be like a teenage version of Jean Valjean versus Javere, like a teen criminal versus team detective. That was the original idea, but beyond that I had no planning when I went into the story. So there were a lot of things that had changed wildly from those early early moments. June started off as a boy in my very very first drafts. Especially in the very first books, there were some characters that I thought were gonna be like cameo walk-on characters that ended up staying for much longer than I thought they would. For example Thomas, Merias's best friend was supposed to show up once and give June a ride in his car, and that was it, he was supposed to go away, but he didn't. Kaede was another character that was supposed to just be a bartender that gave Day a clue once in Legend and then disappeared forever, but then she just kept coming back. That's all part of being a "Pantser" where characters disappear for no reason halfway through my first drafts.

When I first gave the story to my editor, when we were just pitching Legend. What happens is, it was pitched as a trilogy, so the first book was finished, and then I had to write these one-page summaries about what happens in books two and three. Being a "Pantser" I had no idea what would happen in books two and three. So my agent was like "Just make something up, make something sound cool," and I was like, "Okay," So I wrote these really really rambling one-page synopses and ?I just went back and read it a couple of weeks ago, and they are totally different from what actually happened in the books, especially for Champion which was titled "Legend 3" at the time because I had no idea what it was going to be called. It was vague to the point that if you read it, the synopsis says something like "It's a dark and stormy night, bad things happen, some people die, and some people make it out, the end." That was my synopsis, that's what I gave my editor.

So when it came time to actually write Champion, I didn't know what the ending was going to be. I didn't know what the plot was going to be. I went back and read over my original synopsis and I was like, "This is I can't use this." My editor even was like, she's very sweet and tries to work things in a positive way, so she was kinda like, "So what exactly is gonna happen in book 3? Maybe you should write a new synopsis." and I was like, "Yes you are absolutely right, I totally know what's gonna happen in book 3." which I didn't.

So I ended up really struggling with the third book. I thought book 2, Prodigy was going to be absolutely the hardest book I'd ever have to write, and was comforted at the fact that most of my writer friends struggle with the second books, it's sorta known the second book is your "Sophomore slump". So I figured if I could just get over book 2 and make it into writing book 3 that it was just going to be smooth sailing from there. I could not have been more wrong, book 3 almost killed me. It was honestly the hardest thing I've ever had to write because not only was I "pantsing" my way through this series. I had to now make sure all the threads that I "pantsed" had to come to a close at the end of this book. There was no fourth book to throw stuff into as a "stay tuned". There was no more of that. It had to come to an end. So there was a lot of crying and eating chocolate in the middle of the night, but it turned out okay, in that I finished. A lot of people ask me what it's like to finish the last book of the trilogy and I always compare it to how parents must feel--theoretically, I don't have a kid, yet--theoretically how it must feel to send your kid off to college. Where part of you is relieved and you're like, "Oh thank god," and the other part of you is like really sad, 'cause you know they're leaving, and I think that's kinda how I feel at the end of the book. I feel like the characters aren't really mine anymore, and they've sorta left the confines of my head, which makes me sound like a crazy person--'cause they obviously don't exist--to live out where characters go after series end, and I just sorta hope they don't get themselves into too much trouble. "Don't get drunk, I don't want you to end up in jail. Take care of yourselves out there." So now it's come to a close, that's kinda how I feel. It's a good feeling, it's a very wistful feeling, and I think I'll look back on it with a lot of fondness. 
*I understand that this is not all grammatically correct, but this is after all a transcription, so it is (my best attempt) exactly what she said*

The Q&A Session and my thoughts on it (around 17 minutes long):
  • What's the ending of the book? Everyone dies. Just kidding, that was a question actually asked by the bookstore worker who introduced Marie Lu when she came in, and was also the one who said the signing was cancelled, which freaked everyone out.
  • Since you're a "Pantser" have you ever written a storyline and when it came time to tie up the threads, you're like "I can't even begin to put this in there, it doesn't make any sense, and there's no way to write myself out of this corner." If so what did you do, or how did you figure it out? I've done that a lot in the Legend series, I did that with Legend. The very first draft that I had of Legend, I ended up having to take out the entire second half. So now I don't think there's a really easy way to do it, but I've talked about the process with some of my other writing friends who are plotters, who outline their way through. I think being a "Pantser" is basically a different version of being a "Plotter" in that our very messy first drafts is our method of outlining, it just doesn't look like a traditional outline. With Legend, I did end up having some threads that didn't end up making the final book. My agent, who is a very good editor in her how right was the one who pointed them out to me. I don't know if there was an easy way to get out of it other than I had to go back, and just rip out all of that stuff that didn't work and rewrite it. So for me, the process is very much about rewriting. I do the vast majority of work in revisions because my first drafts are so rough. Prodigy had a lot of that kinda thing too, just constant rewrites and edits. I'm working on a new series, and I'm in that first draft mode at the moment, and there are lots of threads that are not working out and making it through to the end. I write myself into corner all the time and I think I'm up to draft like 34, literally 1.34. It's kinda a tricky, messy process. Other writers may have an easier ways of doing it but I sorta just stumble around in the dark until I find the right path, and it eventually happens, it just takes me some time to get there.          
  • *When did you know how Champion would end and how did you decide to put your characters much? I didn't know what the ending of Champion was gonna be until I got to the very very end of Prodigy. So I was starting to think about what the plot of the third book, thinking what is the end of the third book. The only slightly "Plotter" part of the entire Legend process was when I wrote "Ending Options A-E" and wrote out little paragraphs and showed them to my fiance and was like, "Here's options A-E, which one do you like?" It was very much something that came later in the process. It was not an ending I had known from the very beginning and my... I hate to admit this, but I actually did kinda-sorta interrupt Marie Lu. So page 367 of Prodigy? Right in the middle of a sentence, where she says "my..." that's where I interrupted. I was mortified. Yes, that's how many pages Prodigy has? Well, the page number where, yes. Ya pretty much, that's when I figured out the ending of Champion. Actually now that I think about it, there is a paragraph at the ending of Prodigy. I think I may have figured out how this is gonna go. Even as I was writing the first draft of the third book, I did not know that was actually going to be the ending. The actual ending ended up being slightly different, a combination of multiple options.
  • What made you come up with how Day got his name? Day is his streetname. He was a character in my head from when I was back in high school. In an old high school manuscript that never got published, and I liked him as character. I think the reason I called him that was as a reflection of his optimistic personality. Even though he lives in a very dark world, he's able to "walk in the light", that's his slogan. To seek out the truth, and to do the right thing even though everyone around him is kinda doing evil, horrible things. He's able to make sure he stays the core. Which is why his name is Day. Daniel his real name--this is part of where the "pantsing" comes in--a lot of my names I just sorta put in because they sound nice or complement the other names well. For him, I just wanted a real name that sounded kinda like Day. I was watching an interview with Daniel Radcliffe online, and I was like "Daniel sounds kinda like Day," So I guess he was named after Daniel Radcliffe.   
  • Do you ask Primo to read your drafts, or is it just you reading your own? Primo's my own fiance. He read some of the earliest chapters of Legend and I always run my plots through him. So he gets spoiled for everything, super early on. Like "I'm just gonna tell you the plot for everything," and he's like, "No, why?" but then I do anyway, and he'll tell me "Oh, no that doesn't sound right..." or "This sounds better..." I do think he's very helpful in figuring out overall story lines.
  • Is there any information on a possible film, and how much will you be involved in making sure it stays true to the books? The last I've heard is that the screenplay is done and they're in the process of trying to find the right person to direct. That is as far as I know. Right now the producers are working on the "Fault in Our Stars" which I'm really excited about, and "The Maze Runner" some very cool movies that are coming up. I think in general, writers don't have a lot of involvement in the film process. I think I've been very fortunate that CBS Films and Temple Hill, the producers have been very good about keeping me in the loop. While the screenplay was being written, they would contact me asking if the world building was correct. they would ask me details about characters to make sure they were getting it right. The thing with Legend is that translating any book into film is a little bit tricky, just because the mediums are so different. With Legend, especially in the second half, a lot of it takes place in June's head, so if the plot were to go literally, I think a lot of it would be June staring at a wall blankly, thinking. I've always said as long as the characters stay true, I am totally fine with the plot shifting in order to meet the demands of the visual film. That's my stance, and I'm sorta flexible with things as long as the characters stay true.    
  • I'll keep on the same vein, are they talking to you about the visual look because the book is very visual and the way L.A. sounds and looks is one of the reasons that caught me right away. It's so early on, they haven't really talked much to me about it, but I have read the screenplay, and so I know what the descriptions are for it, and it sounds awesome. I think they're doing a really great job with that. I remember a really early meeting with Godfrey, the producer and he pictured LA in the future as sort of a grungy, bladerunner-esque thing. He said 'bladerunner' and I was like, "That is exactly the look in my head, so I think we're gonna be good to go." Based on what I've seen on the screenplay, it sounds like it's gonna be heading in the right direction with the visuals.
  • *Do you think June would have ever done what Thomas did to Metias if she had ever grown older because Commander Jameson was saying June would have grown up into Commander Jameson, would she have done what Thomas did to Metias? Translation from my poorly stated question: Do you think June would ever have asked one of her subordinates to kill his/her best friend, or if June would even kill her best friend because of the law. That's a very interesting question, I've never been asked that before. To keep things vague I guess, June...I don't know if she would have made the same decisions that Thomas did just because she's not quite so blindly trusting of people. I think Thomas is very very loyal, he's a very very loyal person to the things he happens to choose to be loyal about, and he doesn't waver at all.  Whereas June I think wavers significantly based on information that she gets. So I think if she had for some reason never stepped out of the Republic's circle, I think she could have gone onto do some pretty terrible things. But I think she would have realized it eventually. I think it just happened sooner because she happened to meet Day.
  • Can you talk a little about your next project, is the setting similar or different to Legend's? Right now the project I'm working on is currently titled the "Young Elites", but I think the title might change, I'm not entirely sure yet. But it's set in this alternate Renaissance Italy type world, and I kinda called it a cross between Ex-men and Assassin's Creed. Which is my favorite game franchise. It's basically about these societies of young people that have survived the equivalent of the 'black death' and some of the survivors of this plague have come out of it with unusual powers. It's this land where magic is very new, and people don't really know how to react to it. It freaks everyone out. So these young people with these powers tend to be condemned and feared. Some people worship them  and it's kind of a story of how each of these societies of young people are trying to find a way to defend themselves and try to gain power, in this world. The story centers on this girl named Adelina who is essentially like the teen female version of "Darth Vader" and I wanted to write a story that stars a villain-type character, and I've always liked "Magneto" and "Darth Vader", sorta like the bad people in comic books. She's kinda like that, so the first book is her spiral into darkness and how she goes from being a kinda sketchy good person to being not so good of a person.That was the challenge I gave myself with her and she's proving to be very very hard to write. It's hard to write about a bad person from a first person POV.     
  • When do you know a draft is finished and when to move onto your next one? Do self-edit as you go, or completely stop and come back? With Legend I gave it to my agent first, who was kinda like my agent/barometer for how it was gonna go. I edit it to the point where I know I'm too close to the book and cannot see what else needs to change. Even though I do know in my gut that  this story is totally not ready to be published yet. I don't know how to change it to make it better, and that's when I know I need to give to another set of eyes. For Legend I didn't have any critique partners yet, so my agent was very much my go-to person for Legend and we went through two very big major rounds of revision on that. With the later books, I started making writer friends, so I had some critique partners, and they sorta became like my agent later on. So for Prodigy and Champion I would write until I just could not figure out what to do with it anymore, so I would hand it off to my critique partners and they would point out all these gaping plot holes, and things that needed to be fixed. So that would start another big round of revisions until I couldn't see how to change it anymore, That's my very chaotic process. 
  • Since it was written between two people's POVs, was there one that was easier to write? The answer changes from the first book to third book. In the beginning when writing Legend it was most definitely Day, because he'd been in my head since high school so I felt like I kinda knew him which makes me sound again like a crazy person. I understood his voice, it came naturally to me. June was very difficult because she's smarter than me, and it's really hard to write about a character whose smarter than you. I would constantly have to stop and do research just so she could say two lines of dialogue. There's this really quick scene in Prodigy where she stars going off about a paper clip's properties, and I had to stop and go to Wikepedia to find the history of paper clips, and read everything there is to know about paper clips. So an hour later I could write two lines of dialogue. She was very tricky because she and I are very different personality-wise, but I did notice during the end of Champion that I enjoyed writing June's POV more so because I had unconsciously been putting bits and pieces of my personality into her without me even realizing it. We deal with certain things the same ways: tragedy, panic, and romance in very similar ways, and I didn't realize that until I was writing Champion. So that was a fun discovery and later on in the series she softens from being a hardened military girl to being someone who lets her emotions through. She was fun, challenging.       
  • *This question was asked by myself when Marie Lu was signing my books Will the Young Elites be written in more than one points of views like the Legend trilogy? Actually, it will be told in first person by Adelina, with short third-person chapters from other people's point of views. The connection I made and how I interpreted this is that it will be like Pledge by Kimberly Derting how we got to see things from Brooklyn's POV or Maxon, or the Body Finder, how we got to glimpse into the killer's mind.

*The questions I asked

Getting the book signed: So Marie Lu signed my books, and while she was doing it felt freaking incredible. She was sitting less than two feet away from me, asking what my name was. That sounds like such a stupid thing to get freaked out about, but I did anyway because if you're a true Legend fan like me, you'll understand. I love the way her M curves over her name, the little heart over the i, and of course, the smiley face.

My final thoughts on meeting Marie Lu: I think she's one of the most down-to-earth people I know (know as in have met before). She is so cute in both the way she dresses and her manner of speaking, which I know sounds really weird especially because I'm younger than her. Anyway, she was so open, friendly, and as my Language Arts teacher would say, 'vivacious'. My single complaint that is completely understandable, but makes me sound like I'm lazy. Marie Lu did use lots of "ummm...sorta...kinda...gonna" it's regualr conversational tone, but it made my transcription sound a bit uneducated in the area of grammatics. Marie Lu seems so full of life, like the kid that would stand staring in awe at presents on Christmas morning, then suddenly pounce on them, but not without thanking her parents a billion times. That comparison sounds really weird like I'm a toddler, but it's what I think of.The overall atmosphere of the booksigning was so cozy, and made me feel like Marie Lu and all her fans were gathered around a warm fire, about to eat some hearty meal. She really tried and succeeded with connecting with her fans, and making sure when speaking to them, like she really was answering their individual question directly to them.

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