Marie Lu’s Audience Is the Wind Beneath Her Best-Selling Wings

DOYENNE OF DYSTOPIA Marie Lu may be the only writer in recent memory who has been inspired by a political convention. In 2016, watching the Democratic National Convention, the young adult author was moved by Khizr Khan’s speech about his son, Humayun, who died saving fellow soldiers in Iraq. She says, “I could not stop thinking about how many young people from marginalized walks of life go off to war to fight for us, to protect us, then come back to a country that doesn’t give them the respect they deserve. That idea haunted me and it haunts me still.”

Lu, the mastermind behind the wildly popular Legend series, poured that frustrated energy into her new novel, “Skyhunter,” which appeared at No. 8 on last week’s young adult hardcover list. Set 5,000 years in the future in what she describes as a “regressed society,” the story follows a refugee who defends her country against an evil federation that has taken over the rest of the world. The book is definitely striking a chord with its audience. On Amazon, a reviewer wrote, “‘Skyhunter’ subtly (and sometimes not quite so) delves into complex themes, including the refugee experience, corruption in government, nationalism and the caste system.” On Goodreads, another enthusiast put it like this: “I wish Lu wrote my textbooks because I can’t seem to get enough of her books.”

“Skyhunter” is Lu’s second best-selling novel in 2020; the first was “The Kingdom of Back,” which came out in March, just as the pandemic started to gather steam. Still, in the midst of all the uncertainty, the Los Angeles-based author continued to rise before dawn to squeeze in exercise or writing before her toddler woke up. (“I would rather write than exercise. Always.”) Lu says the biggest immediate change in her life has been a sense of exhaustion and “trying to find creativity when we’re not allowed to partake in each other.” She explains, “I’m inspired by places I see and people I talk to — friends, family, strangers. It was strange to be physically cut off from people. I feel that difference when I sit down to write.”

Lu says her fans keep her focused on her work, especially the ones who are “out in the streets marching for these huge issues like climate change and gun control.” She says, “Teenagers shouldn’t have to take on these things. They should be worrying about prom, grades and crushes. But young people have always been harbingers of change — and if we’re going to come out of this it’s because of them. I’m so grateful.”

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