It's time to say goodbye: The Midnight Star , the final book in the bestselling The Young Elites series, hits bookstores on Oct. 11, and author Marie Lu is ready to say farewell to Adelina, Violetta, Magiano, Raffaele, Enzo, and the other characters she lovingly created (and, occasionally, destroyed) over the past three years. Though #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu is ready to close the chapter on this series, she hopes fans will make a forever home in their hearts for Adelina and her comrades.
"Bidding farewell to The Young Elites feels bittersweet and wistful," Marie Lu tells Bustle. "I imagine my characters leaving my mind, actually, and entering the larger space of the creative world, that they now belong to my readers and no longer to me. I'm thankful for all that I've learned."
Now that The Young Elites has reached its conclusion, Lu can turn her attention to her next books. She has two huge projects in the works — including a highly-anticipated retelling of the story of Batman.
I chatted with the author about the conclusion of The Young Elites, about writing a sympathetic villain as the main character, and about her forthcoming novels. Here are five things I learned:
1. She Had A Method For Getting Into Adelina's Headspace
Marie Lu took a huge risk when she made the series' major villain the main character. Adelina may be a hero in her own head, but her actions are guided by vengeance, hate, and a quest for power.
"I think walking that line between Villain and Sympathetic Protagonist is incredibly tricky," Marie Lu tells Bustle. "I wanted to make sure I surrounded her with at least a few likeable characters for whom she cares for deeply, to ground her in some humanity."
Marie Lu admits that getting into Adelina's headspace was challenging, but she had methods for staying true to the character.
"Finding a way to show the logic behind Adelina's decisions and stay true to her character — without pushing her completely into unlikeability — was the biggest challenge," she says. "I did have a playlist titled 'Evil' that I listened to every day in order to get into the mood, but at the end of the writing day I'd have to switch back to a 'Happy' playlist and snuggle with my dogs in order to shake Adelina off."
2. The Love Triangle Emphasizes Adelina's Best — And Worst — Qualities
Over the course of the three novels, Adelina falls in love twice — once with Enzo, the benevolent, steadfast leader of The Young Elites, and once with Magiano, the charming, unpredictable thief. One of these young men brings out her light, her goodness. The other mirrors her darkness, her pain, her hunger for unmitigated power.
"Adelina is a girl who walks in darkness, who hungers for the power inherent in wickedness even as she struggles to resist it," Lu says. "Enzo has very similar alignments to that hunger, so he has a tendency to amplify the worst in her. Magiano, however, is her foil; he is the light and laughter she needs, and the one who holds her back from destroying herself. Most of all, he exerts no dominance over her, nor does he exploit her. That's always the sign of a good love interest!"
3. She Didn't Plan Who Would Live & Who Would Die
OK, no spoilers here, but of course not everyone makes it out alive. I mean, this series has been completely brutal, and we know Marie Lu doesn't pull punches.
"Aside from Adelina's personal arc, I did know who would ultimately perish and who would make it out alive," Lu says. "It doesn't mean I like all of the outcomes — but certain arcs require certain fates!"
4. She's Nervous About How Fans Will React To The End
"I knew it would end in one of two ways, but I didn't know which way it would go until I was almost halfway done with the book," she admits. "The reaction so far has been encouraging — although I say this in a hesitant voice as I bite my nails!"
5. Her Next Projects Are Very Different From The Young Elites
Marie Lu has a busy schedule ahead of her. In 2017, she's releasing Warcross , the first novel in a duology about two teenage bounty hunters who are hired by a young billionaire to stop a hacker in the world's most popular virtual reality.
Seriously, how awesome does that sound?
But she also has another project in the works – one that will draw in fans from across genres and will allow her to flex her writing muscles on the ultimate tortured hero: She's working on a YA adaptation of the legend of Batman. In her version, Bruce Wayne is an 18-year-old orphan struggling with the reality of becoming a billionaire overnight and grappling with the pain of first love.
"It's been both an absolute dream and a true challenge to explore the mind of teenage Bruce Wayne," she says. "The creative process is very different from what I'm used to, but I love picking apart the Batman universe and putting it together in a new way.... What is first love like for a scarred teen vigilante-in-the-making? What is it like for Bruce Wayne to step from boyhood into adulthood? There are so many interesting questions to tackle."
I'm sad to see The Young Elites come to a close, but I can't wait for what comes next.
Images: Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers