Exclusive Interview: Warcross Author Marie Lu

In her Legend trilogy — which included the novels Legend, Prodigy, and Champion — writer Marie Lu imagined a dystopian future in which, among other things, “Antarctica is home to a completely gamified society.” And while she went gaming free for her next couple books — the fantasy trilogy of The Young Elites, The Rose Society, and The Midnight Star — it’s an idea that apparently stuck with her. So much so that it’s become the basis of her new novel, Warcross (hardcover, digital), the first in a new duology.

Marie Lu Warcross

Photo Credit: Primo

 

I always like to start with the basics. So, basically, what is Warcross about?

Warcross is a science fiction story set in our very near-future — think ten years into the future — about an eighteen-year old bounty hunter named Emika Chen who, in a desperate attempt to make money, hacks into the opening ceremony of Warcross, the world’s most phenomenally popular game. It catches the attention of the game’s young billionaire creator, Hideo Tanaka, and from there, Emika’s life goes completely off the rails.

Where did the original idea for Warcross come from, and how different is the finished novel from that original idea?

The original idea stemmed from a bit of world building I never got to fully use in my first series, Legend. In that series, future Antarctica is home to a completely gamified society, where everything you do in life is a game. I wanted to keep playing with the concept, so it eventually evolved into Warcross. The finished novel’s plot has deviated wildly from the first inspiration, but the characters and world have stayed largely intact.

Warcross is classified as a young adult novel. But young adult novels seem to fall into two different categories: novels written for young adults, and novels written for everyone, there’s just nothing inappropriate for young adults. Where does Warcross fall, and why did you decide to make it that way?

YA is fiction centering a young person up to the age of eighteen in an “immediate,” present way that adult fiction about young people doesn’t. Adult fiction, for example, can be about an adult looking back on her youth, but YA is always in the here and now. It’s not really that YA is “inappropriate” so much as the way it tackles difficult topics. I do agree that YA is for everyone, and I definitely hope that Warcross can appeal to a wide audience.

So then do you think an old adult would like Warcross? Like a 49-year-old Rush-loving Rick & Morty fan who reads a lot of sci-fi?

I think so.

Are there any writers, or specific books, that you feel were a big influence on Warcross, but were not an influence on your earlier novels?

I loved Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One back when it first came out, as well as such more recent young adult science fiction as Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae, which gave me back the itch to return to science fiction after stepping into fantasy for a while with The Young Elites.

How about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or video games that had a big impact on Warcross?

Modern technology itself was a huge influence on Warcross; the current wave of innovation in VR, AR, and artificial intelligence are all fascinating to me. I’m a big fan of the show Black Mirror, too, and much of Warcross’ tournaments were inspired by esports championships.

As you said, people in Warcross are hooked on a video game of the same name. But what kind of game is Warcross and why did you decide to center your novel around that kind of game, as opposed to another? Because the name makes me think of Macross, the anime series that was rechristened Robotech when it came to the U.S.

Yes, I remember Macross. I think I pinned a bunch of mechs from the show on my Warcross Pinterest board.

The game of Warcross is a team-based game, where two teams of five battle each other in a virtual level, each team trying to take the other team’s Artifact. It’s intentionally structured to be a Capture The Flag-type game so that readers can immediately understand how the game is played, but I also wanted to throw in all sorts of fun embellishments to make the game feel new and interesting.

Warcross is the first book in a series. When did you decide to make it one, and what prompted this decision?

I read almost exclusively fantasy and science fiction as a kid, so I tend to think of stories in series structure. Having said that, I feel like I’m slowly working my way down to a standalone book. Warcross is the first in a duology, so there’s only one sequel in this series. I just couldn’t fit the story into a single book.

Now, aside from Warcross, you’re also got a Batman novel coming out early next year called Batman: Nightwalker. I don’t know how much you can say about it, but what is the book about?

Batman: Nightwalker is about an eighteen-year old Bruce Wayne and his confrontation with a new villain named Madeleine Wallace. It’s part of a collaboration between DC and Random House called DC Icons, which features four young adult novels about four iconic superheroes. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo is already out on shelves, and it’s fantastic. As for Batman: Nightwalker, it comes out January 2, 2018.

Speaking of your other books, there are already plans to make movies out of the books in your Legend series. What can you tell us about the films?

I can’t say much about what’s happening at the moment, but I always keep my fingers crossed and hope that somehow the stars will align.

Has there been any interest in adapting Warcross into a movie? Or a TV show or video game?

Warcross is currently out on submission, so I’m hoping for the best.

Marie Lu Warcross

Finally, if someone enjoys Warcross, which of your other books should they read while waiting for Warcross II: Electric Boogaloo to come out?

That’s the new title of the second one, let’s do it.

Okay, calm down.

If readers enjoy Warcross, they could check out my first series, Legend, which is also science fiction and [as she said] loosely tied to Warcross. I’d also highly recommend they check out such other fantastic young adult science fiction as Cindy Pon’s Want, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae, and Axie Oh’s Rebel Seoul.

 

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