Marie Lu discusses the challenges of dark characters, the allure of fantasy, and what to expect in book 2 of The Young Elites: The Rose Society.
About ‘The Rose Society’
Adelina Amouteru’s heart has suffered at the hands of both family and friends, turning her down the bitter path of revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she and her sister flee Kenettra to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army of allies. Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her.
But Adelina is no heroine. Her powers, fed only by fear and hate, have started to grow beyond her control. She does not trust her newfound Elite friends. Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends, Raffaele and the Dagger Society, want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good, when her very existence depends on darkness?
Interview with Marie Lu
What was it like to write your second sequel? You have experience in tackling Book Twos from the Legend trilogy, but was The Rose Society different?
It’s actually really interesting that you ask that, because I felt like even though I had a really hard time both times, the experience felt very different — mainly because of the differences between the two stories. Prodigy [the sequel to Legend] was incredibly hard for me to write. I definitely had the “sequelitis” with that, but it wasn’t uncomfortable to be in Day and June’s heads, because they’re really good people. Even though they’re surrounded by a lot of evil, they themselves are good people, so I could write from their point of view and it’s obvious what’s wrong.
But that wasn’t the case with The Young Elites, because Adelina is crazy — and in The Rose Society is gets even darker than The Young Elites. So I really had to struggle to create that book, because [Adelina is] continuing her descent into darkness as a villain, and I have to think from her point-of-view, to try to make her propensity to try and kill people sound logical in some way! So it was really really tricky to do that, and it made the book really challenging to write. And I’m sure the third book will be even more challenging to write… But it’s a good challenge. I’m having a good time — despite crying in the middle of the night!
Have you had any challenges in moving from Legend to The Young Elites?
I was definitely surprised at how hard it was going to be to be in Adelina’s head. I don’t know why I thought that was just going to be smooth-sailing fun the whole way — like, “It’s going to be so much fun to write from Darth Vader’s point-of-view!” — but actually he’s really twisted! So that was different. It forced me to think about things differently from the way I’d been thinking about them before. It’s also the first time I’ve written [in the] third person in a long, long time. I wrote some third-person stories when I was in high school, but I’m usually much more comfortable in the first-person. There are some third-person segments in this series that were challenging for me to wrap my head around.
And just setting it in a fantasy setting was tricky too. I’m so used to being in a sci-fi setting that bringing it back to a time before our own was a bit disconcerting at first. I had to get myself out of thinking of everything from a futuristic point-of-view. When I first started writing the series, there were a lot of anachronisms in there, and I had to wean myself out of those things, so that was a bit of a transition there, too.
You’ve made it clear that The Young Elites is largely the story of Adelina’s journey to terrible villainy, a la Darth Vader. What is it like to write that story, and how do you maintain the tension around Adelina’s choices?
It’s a really, really hard, fine line to walk, because I worry about veering her too far into the territory of being completely unlikeable. In the first book, [Adelina is] trying to be good to some degree, but people keep turning their backs on her. So in book two, she just basically says, you know what, forget it. Forget you all, I’m gonna do my own thing.
And doing that was weird, because I still had to make her relatable somehow. Most of us don’t go around trying to get revenge on everyone that’s wronged us in life, and so I had to give her something to hang onto sometimes. Her sister [Violetta] is still a huge part of her life, and it’s kind of like her ray of light that she clings to to keep herself sane. [Though] a few things do change about their relationship — that’s pretty much what I can say about what happens between them.
But yeah, it’s very, very difficult to write someone who is, from others’s point-of-view, a villain, but still make her seem human and have emotions and love people — in her own sort of crazy way!
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