Marie Lu and Margaret Stohl Hold Event at Book People

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  • Ms. Marie Lu and Ms. Margaret Stohl conduct a conversation to answer pre-written audience questions for the speaking event.

  • Ms. Stohl signs a copy of Black Widow: Red Vengeance that librarian Lauren Kluck purchased for the Westwood library.

  • Jenny Wang ’19 waits for Ms. Lu to sign books from both the Young Elites and the Legend series.

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Avid fans attended a book signing by Ms. Marie Lu and Ms. Margaret Stohl hosted by the Book People on Monday, Oct. 17. Ms. Lu and Ms. Stohl, who both recently released their books, The Midnight Star and Black Widow: Red Vengeance respectively, discussed their new publications during the first section of the event. Afterwards, the authors answered reader questions, then concluded the speaking part of the event to sign books for their fans.

“I always love coming to book signings,” librarian Lauren Kluck said. “Sometimes [the authors] surprise you. The Marvel stuff surprised me; I thought it was very interesting that [Ms. Stohl] said she was the second woman in 80 years that had been involved in that meeting.”

Ms. Stohl recently attended the Marvel Creative Summit. Due to working in the video game industry for 16 years before leaving the field to become a full-time author, Ms. Stohl still keeps in touch with games and comics, especially Marvel. Her latest book, Black Widow: Red Vengeance, featuring superhero Natasha Romanova, draws from Ms. Stohl’s experience working on Marvel video games such as Spiderman and Fantastic Four. Ms. Stohl will also be taking over the monthly comic for Captain Marvel soon. Although Marvel comics have been dominated by male superheroes for years, the series has made tremendous progress, going from zero female-led titles to 23 in the last five years.

“I have never been part of a company that has that big of a seat change that quickly,” Ms. Stohl said. “And they have had a focus on diversity titles, on inclusivity. There is a lot going on or I wouldn’t be there.”

Bringing new viewpoints into literature is extremely important to Ms. Stohl. During the speaking event, she also discussed expanding the focus of literature and comics to include perspectives from different ethnicities, the LGBTQA+ world, people with mental illness, and females.

“It hasn’t been a girl world,” Ms. Stohl said. “It’s really important to get girls in those [male-dominated] rooms because it changes the perspective of the people inside. You can’t tell other creators how to create the things they’re passionate about, but what you can do is advocate for other perspectives right there.”

Ms. Lu also discussed writing about uncommonly explored subjects. Her newest series, The Young Elites, features Adelina, a character who gradually transforms into a villain throughout the series, as the main protagonist. In addition to the new experience of writing a villain, Ms. Lu also wrote The Young Elites series in first person, in contrast to the Legend series, set in the third person. This point of view also forced Ms. Lu to explore darker parts of her personality while writing and creating Adelina.

“There’s definitely pieces of myself in Adelina, like the moments she’s angry, or bitter, or sad,” Ms. Lu said. “It’s like when you’re stuck in traffic and you’re really pissed at a guy who just cut you off, and you just want to crush their car. And what if you could? I would be doing it all the time by accident. I really feel for Adelina. If I had [her] power, I would probably be doing some really terrible things by accident too.”

In addition to challenges relating personally to Adelina, Ms. Lu also questioned whether readers would be able to like Adelina. Due to Adelina’s questionable sense of justice as a villain, Ms. Lu also worried that Adelina would not be relatable as a main character.

“If people have such deep hatred for a character like Bella Swan,” Ms. Lu said, “whose only fault is being infatuated with a really hot guy, what are they going to do with Adelina, who is like, ‘I kill people sometimes?’”

Ms. Lu pointed out that popular characters such as Loki are often immoral and violent, but females are often expected to be ‘likeable’, a word that has come up often during former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. However, Ms. Stohl pointed out that the types of characters most readers have a hard time sympathizing with are those with lives and problems that are too perfect, such as Bella. Readers can still relate to and admire characters that are faced with realistic, important problems, even if they make the wrong choices in the end.

“[Adelina] says something in the first book like when they say be yourself,” Ms. Lu said, “they don’t actually mean that. They you to be a version of yourself that they like. But Adelina wants to be herself for herself. There’s bits and pieces of her that I identify with that I didn’t think about enough until I wrote her down.”

At the end of the speaking event, Ms. Stohl and Ms. Lu both expressed appreciation for fans coming to the event and researching the authors’ backgrounds to write and ask questions. The authors also gave parting advice for their readers about speaking up to bring new perspectives and ideas to light and conversed individually with them while signing readers’ books.

“You’re the powerful people in the room,” Ms. Stohl said. “I don’t want you to aspire to be less than you already are. So that’s the main jam, just be yourselves and get yourselves in those rooms, and as long as you’re representing your true self and not being afraid to be the person you are, all those rooms are going to change. Because I’m seeing it myself.”