One of the books I'm most looking forward to in the new year is Prodigy (available January 29, 2013), the second book in Marie Lu's knockout dystopian trilogy that started last year with Legend . A great "what to read next" for Hunger Games and Divergent fans, Lu is definitely one to watch with this next installment.
Where Legend takes off in dystopian Los Angeles, Jessica Khoury's debut, Origin, looks at dystopian society from a "how did they get there" perspective set in the far reaches of the Amazon jungle. Both novels are emotionally charged and sharply plotted with edge-of-your-seat danger and romance. The authors recently got together to talk about their books, author influences, and pet peeves. You can also check out the book trailers for Legend and Origin after the jump.
EXCLUSIVE Q&A WITH MARIE LU and JESSICA KHOURY:
Q: Both of your books
have some dystopian elements – do you think that your fiction could become
JESSICA: Parts of Origin already are reality. The Amazon rainforest, for example, and the fact there
are hidden tribes there. And Little Cam itself, and the philosophy of the
scientists, are rooted in the eugenics movement of the early 1900s. So even
though I doubt we will ever discover a flower that bestows immortality, the
ideologies and methods of the scientists who created Pia could one day manifest
in things like forced euthanasia, eugenics or forced sterilization of people
who don’t fit the government’s “ideal” (this has actually happened in some
countries!) These practices are natural consequences of relying too heavily on
scientific objectivity without any kind of moral/emotional check. In dystopian
society’s like Marie’s, or Ally Condie’s or Lois Lowry’s, we see worlds where
this kind of thinking reigns over entire societies. In Origin, I look at the beginnings of a dystopia and explore the
ideas that ultimately give rise to dystopian societies. So it’s kind of like a pre-dystopia in some ways.
MARIE: I actually think a lot of the dystopian elements in Legend have either already come to pass
or are happening right now. The Trials were inspired partly by ancient Sparta’s
law that infants considered too physically weak were thrown into a chasm. As
Jessica mentioned with regards to Little Cam in Origin, the Trials in Legend
were also inspired by the U.S.’s eugenics movement in the early 20th
century, when people with ‘undesirable’ traits were sent off to insane asylums
or sterilized. Totally a real-life dystopian situation, right? Modern-day North
Korea, as well as China during the Cultural Revolution, also heavily influenced
me. I was living in Beijing when I was five years old, and can still remember
the Tiananmen Square protests. I ended up putting a very similar scene into Legend.
Q: Pia [Origin heroine] and June [Legend heroine] are
forced to take on situations and behave with maturity beyond their years. But
sometimes, they make us realize that they are still teens. Do you use any of
your teen experiences or memories as you write?
JESSICA: Definitely! Not that I’m immortal, was raised in a
lab, or have a pet jaguar—but I can totally relate to Pia’s journey of
discovery. I grew up in a small town and though I wasn’t completely isolated
from the world, I still had to go through the same feelings of “Oh, the world
is much bigger than I’d thought!” And
I also had a few shocks when I encountered people who thought very differently
than me, and who shook my ideas of what is right and what is normal.
MARIE: Mine was memories of taking the SAT! Oh man, how I
feared that test. At the time, I really did feel like the SAT had a
life-or-death quality to it, that if I didn’t score well, I’d be doomed for all
eternity. It totally helped me get in the mindset to write about the Trials in Legend. As for June in particular, her
reverence for her older brother wasn’t based on my personal experiences (I’m an
only child), but I did draw on the way I would admire people older than me, and
aspire to become like them.
Q: Pia and June both
experience central turning points where their previous views of the world are
shaken. Have you had such an experience?
JESSICA: I’ve never had a stunning revelation such as Pia’s
near the end of Origin, but I have
experienced gradual growth and chance in my perspectives. Growing up in a
small, Southern town, you don’t get a huge variety of worldviews, and as I’ve
seen and done more outside my hometown, I’ve had to examine and revise some of
my own views.
MARIE: In college, I definitely had a turning-point
experience (although perhaps not to the same level as June!). When we’re young,
we tend to be so accepting of everything around us, and when something suddenly
comes along to tell us that either someone we loved can’t be trusted, or
something we always believed in is actually false . . . it really defines us
for the rest of our lives. If I went through as extreme of an experience as
June, though, I’m sure I would’ve had a panic attack!
Q: What books have
influenced you most in the writing of this book, or in your writing in general?
JESSICA: Origin is
inspired by an array of books: Nation by
Terry Pratchett, Flowers for Algernon by
Daniel Keyes, Lost Horizon by James
Hilton. But my writing in general has been most influenced by Lloyd Alexander’s
Westmark trilogy. It was at the age
of thirteen, after I finished reading the third book, that—with tears still in
my eyes—I knew I wanted nothing more than to write, and I began working that
very day on my first novel.
MARIE: In general, I’d say Brian Jacques’s Mattimeo introduced me to the
fantasy/sci-fi genres and forever solidified my love for it. I’m not sure if
I’ll ever venture outside of writing fantasy/sci-fi! For Legend in particular, I was most influenced by Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow, as well as Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables (albeit the movie version) and Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities.
Q: Do you have any
writing pet peeves? (Someone reading over your shoulder, or you can’t think of
a synonym for ‘mind-blowing’, etc?)
JESSICA: Okay, this is weird, but I can’t have long
fingernails when I’m writing. I hate the clacking they make on the keys, and my
fingers get clumsy with them. So I keep my nails really, really short all the
MARIE: I cannot write without some sort of instrumental
music playing. It’s just too…silent!