The time we were not in the priority line

Posted October 22, 2015 by Stacee in Signings | 2 Comments

When Marie Lu announced her tour dates for The Rose Society, I wasn’t going to be able to go to the dates she had listed. Then a San Diego event was listed and hooray!!

Michelle, Keiko, and I met up for delicious foods and then headed over to the library. We took one car because the parking lot looked small and the additional parking lots had “walking trails” to get to them. I figured that was a horror movie waiting to happen…We got to the library around 4 and set up to wait on the courtyard. We were told the event was in a meeting room and books would be on sale after the event.

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People came out and set up the table for the books. They let people know that anyone who bought the book with them would have a priority spot in line. {Information that would have been helpful to know before the event.}


They let us into the room around 5:40 and then we waited for a bit longer. Just before 6, the librarian came out and introduced two girls who ran the writing program. They were going to run a trivia game and the winners would get some of Marie’s favorite things.

Marie got to the event just after 6pm. The two girls talked about how they reacted to Marie’s books and then introduced Marie.


Marie said that she would talk about the books and then she would open it up to Q&A as long as it’s not spoilery.

I started writing when I was young and I didn’t speak English. My mom gave me homework that I had to write down 5 English words and use them in a sentence. I learned that I really liked the process.

I wrote a lot of dark stories. Like wanted posters for criminals. Or about a cat who dies saving his family from a fire. Or a piglet getting turned into a belt. That darkness carried over when I started writing more professionally. I saw a map that showed the water rising and I was curious about California. I paired that with a teen detective.

Fast forward to Young Elites. I’ve always loved fantasy and I knew that wanted to do something. The first idea was a very young, very bland character who had super powers and went to find others with super powers and they defeat the bad guy named Adelina.


My editor doesn’t pull any punches and when she read the 100 pages I had written asked if I thought the book was good. She told me that the only part she really liked was Adelina. And that’s what’s started the idea of what The Young Elites became. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I didn’t realize how hard it would be being in a evil person’s head for three books. I have a dark playlist and I would have to blast the music for a half an hour before I could start writing.

Day and June lived in a dark world, but they’re good people. They have good families and know right from wrong. It was liberating to see things from Adelina’s point of view. Everyone is the hero of their own story. She is not interested in saving the world. She is not going to sacrifice herself for the greater good. She’s been a huge challenge, but it’s been great. I just turned in the first draft and I’m still not sure where she ends up. How do you finish the arc for a villain?

The quotes at the beginning of the chapters, where did they come from?

Every chapter begins with a little quote from a work of literature from the world. I made them all up after it was all done. I had a week and tried to make up things that sounded legit.

Are there going to be movies?

They’re both under option. TYE is under 21 century. I just got the first draft of the screen play the other day and it’s really exciting. In Hollywood, there’s like a million hurdles to jump before anything really gets done, so fingers crossed.


How did you come up with everyone’s powers in TYE?

A combination of a few things. I had to come up with a magic system and it’s based on emotions. In this world there’s like 12 gods and goddesses. I took those bits of the personally and figured out what powers would go with those emotions. I also went on Wikipedia and every single thing you can think of for super powers is on there.

Who is your favorite character to write?

Raphael. He was the original main character, but he was really different. He was so bland. Once he became a side character, he was interesting. You can always tell the characters I love by their hair. I have this thing with glossy, thick hair.

How did you come up with the deformities for blood fever?

I was looking online and saw port wine birthmarks and I always thought they looked interesting. I thought it should be symbolic, that it should mean something. A family friend has black eyelashes on one eye and pure white eyelashes on the other and it’s stunning.


Most difficult scenes to write?

For TYE, the ending scene was the worst. It was Adelina’s lowest. She figures out what means the most. In TRS, it was the last chapter because she falls even lower. She gains a lot, but at a huge cost.

How do you come up with celebrations?

I have a lot of fun coming up with that sort of world building. In Legend, there isn’t a lot of celebration outside of what revolves around the dictator. I looked at South Korea. For TYE, I looked at Renaissance Italy since that’s what it’s based on.

Who was the hardest supporting character to write?

In Legend, Thomas was very difficult. He was supposed to be a cameo. He was supposed to give June a ride and that’s it. But then he kept popping up and wouldn’t go away. In TYE, I would say is Teren. He’s pretty major and he’s full on crazy. I’m glad I was writing third person for him because I wouldn’t want to be in his head.


Will there be e-book shorts for TYE?

Maybe. I don’t have plans right now, but it’s not off the table.

How did your transition from gaming to writing happen?

I got the book deal and needed to travel. It wasn’t something that I could take a lot of time off, so I needed to choose between the two. I was used to being in an office and being a full time writer was weird. There wasn’t anyone telling me what to do. I didn’t have to clock in. I just had one deadline, which was a year away. I had to learn to balance things out, not lay around for 9 months and then realize I needed to write 80k words in 3 months.

How many hours a day do you write?

I usually start at 7:30-8am and work until about 1pm, then my productivity drops. I’ll usually do social media then.


Character you most identify with?

In Legend, it’s Day. He’s the easiest to write and I could get into his head right away. As the series went on, it was June. I found that I was putting more of myself in the story with her.

In TYE, it’s Adelina and her sister. I feel like everyone has a bit of a villain in them. If you’re sitting in traffic and someone cuts you off, you really want Godzilla to come and crush their car. It doesn’t matter that they have a family or loved ones.

If Day or June had powers like in TYE, what would they be?

Day would align with passion and he would probably have the power of speed. He does parkour around the city anyways. June is a genius, so I guess she would be super intelligent. Maybe speak all of the languages.

How do you come up with names for all of the characters?

Some of them have meanings. For Day, I wanted something that reflected his view on life. He’s really optimistic. June is named for the month because I thought she had the characteristics of a Gemini. A lot of the other names sounded nice. Or I would slap my hands down on the keyboard and if it looked nice, it stayed.

In TYE, I looked at a lot of Italian baby names. Adelina means noble, which I thought was ironic. Enzo means to rule, so I thought that was fitting.


If you were in Adelina’s shoes, would you have made the same choices?

It’s hard to say. It would not be completely out of the question. If you have that dark of a history, I could see justifying lashing out. As I’m saying this from a safe place, I would like to say that I wouldn’t.

When do you shock yourself?

Lots. I’m a pantser, so my first drafts are just a mess. It’s like a nine month panic attack. In Legend, something happened and I didn’t know it was going to happen until I wrote it. I didn’t know the ending of Champion until I wrote it. Thankfully, I was still in edits for Prodigy, so I was able to work things in.

If you had a super power from TYE, what would it be?

Maybe invisibility. I love to travel and I love the idea of being able to go up a lion and take a photo. I would also really like to turn time off and get all of my things done.


Would you feel  safer in the world of Legend or TYE?

It would depend on where I was. If you’re marked in TYE, it would be bad. In Legend, if you were on June’s side, it would be good. Living on the street like Day wouldn’t be that great.

Education and publishing process?

I didn’t know that people made a living writing books. I thought books just shot out of the sky. I read an article in the paper when I was 13 about a girl who just sold her first book and she was 13. I learned about agents and query letters. I learned that process in high school. I sent off 100 letters and got a bunch of rejection letters. Then I wrote another book and got an agent and still got rejected.

I went to college and decided to go for something practical. I thought I would be a lawyer or doctor and I realized that my personality did not work for those professions. I ended up applying for an art internship at Disney. The best thing about writers is that there’s all sorts of twisty roads. Some people go to school, some people have regular day jobs.

Favorite book or series?

I read a lot of YA and adult books that could be YA. I love Ready Player One. Illuminae just came out and it’s so amazing. I also recommend Leigh Bardugo’s books. She just keeps getting better.


There were a lot more questions, but I just got tired of typing.  Marie talked for just over an hour.  When there were no more questions, the library people told us that the signing was going to be outside and everyone who bought a book from the library store got to go first.  They then moved it back to the stage since it was too dark outside.

I asked the guy if there were going to be two lines: one for priority and one for not. He said if I wasn’t going to buy a book from them, then I needed to wait. He also said if anyone bought a book while we were waiting in line, we had to let them go ahead of us.  We sat down for a bit before deciding to stand at the back of the line.  There didn’t seem to be any sort of crowd control or anyone moving the line along, so it took us over 30 minutes to get to Marie.

When we did, a man took my books from me and handed them to Marie, telling her my name, but he stayed standing right in front of me.  I had to move off to the side to be able to see her.  He handed her my copy of TRS and then while Marie was signing that, he was flipping through the copy of Slasher Girls.  He said to me, “I thought you said there was a post-it.”  I told him that I had one where her story was in the book.  He tried fighting me about where she was going to sign, but I took the book out of his hands and he walked away.

I was then actually able to say hi and chat with Marie.  I congratulated her on the NYT and then we talked about Slasher Girls and how it was a great anthology.  I quickly moved over after my books were signed.

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Michelle and Keiko got their things signed and as we were leaving, there were still about 15 people in line. As always, Marie is lovely and her books are amazing.  If you get a chance to see her on tour, I definitely recommend it!

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