It’s More Than “Good vs. Evil” for Young Adult Fantasy Novelist Marie Lu

Her dystopian novels set in Los Angeles have captivated both readers and critics.

Los Angeles-based Marie Lu is best known as for her young adult books, notably the Legend series set in a dystopian and materialized future. She’s also a pianist and video game enthusiast. Her stylish loft in trendy LA Arts District, which she shares with her videogame artist husband, has been featured in a prominent shelter magazine. At 33, she’s just getting started.

In Warcross, her latest novel, the protagonist is teenage hacker Emika Chen, who while struggling to make ends meet, works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

According to a story on NPR, Lu’s main character may be fiction, but her inspiration comes from a very personal place. “Unlike her protagonist, Lu doesn’t know how to code. But she does have a tattoo of a mythological phoenix on her back, and like Emika, she’s Chinese-American. Lu was born in Beijing. Her family lived a bike ride away from Tienanmen Square, where her aunt used to take her to get popsicles and watch students protest. But when students were massacred there in 1989, the family fled to the U.S.”

After relocating to Baton Rogue with her family, she eventually made her way to New Orleans, Houston and eventually Los Angeles for school. Along the way, she discovered a love of video games, which led to a short stint in that industry and heavily influenced her future writing. She was also hired by DC Comics to write about the 18-year-old Bruce Wayne before Batman. That job further revealed her knack for storytelling and character development, particularly the complex world of good vs. evil.

In the NPR story, “bestselling YA author Leigh Bardugo, who recently published Wonder Woman: Warbringer, says she admires Lu’s young female heroes and antiheroes. ‘Marie has a really good handle on what most people would describe as morally gray characters,” Bardugo says. “She writes these incredibly dark, intense, full-throttle stories and then you meet her and she’s just the kindest, most generous, most fun person.’

You can read more about Lu and read some of her latest book here.

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