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Mozart had a sister? This new YA book tells the story of a lesser-known prodigy

‘I just found myself constantly haunted by this idea of this incredible young genius, who could have been just as good — if not better — than her brother.’ — Author Marie Lu

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Marie Lu, author of the “Legend” and “Warcross” series, released her new book “The Kingdom of Back” on March 3.


Marie Lu has been writing fiction for more than 10 years now, but The New York Times bestselling author said the release of her newest book has her nervous.

“It kind of feels like a debut in some ways,” Lu said of “The Kingdom of Back,” which was published March 3.

The historical fantasy novel tells the lesser-known story of Maria Anna (Nannerl) Mozart, the older sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Learning the famous composer had a sister who was just as musically talented drove Lu to write “The Kingdom of Back.”

The author of the “Legend” and “Young Elites” trilogies talked to the Deseret News about what makes her new book so unique, what she loves about writing young adult fiction and what’s coming next.


The new YA novel “The Kingdom of Back” by Marie Lu tells the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s lesser-known sister.

G. P. Putnam Books for Young Readers

Deseret News: Your latest book, “The Kingdom of Back,” was just released. How does it feel to finally have it out? You’ve published several books already, so does it feel a little bit like “same old, same old?”

Marie Lu: This one is quite different from my other ones in that it was actually the first book that I ever got an agent for. And it never sold. So I wrote this book maybe 12 years ago. At the time, my agent sent it around to publishers, but we just never got anyone to buy it.

But it was always a story that I really loved and was very close to my heart, and I found myself continually going back to this book — trying to rewrite it and make it work. Now fast-forward like 12 years: We were finally able to sell it, and I can’t believe it’s coming out now.

I’m anxious for it in ways that I usually am not now with my other books — it’s very different from my other books. It’s a standalone, and tone-wise it’s very different. So I do feel a little bit more nervous for this book than for my others.

DN: What was it that inspired you to write this particular story? What drew you to the Mozarts in particular?

ML: The thing that first startled me was finding out that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had a sister. I never knew that.

I also didn’t know that she was considered a prodigious genius as much as her brother was at the time. She had even toured with him, and as young children they had played for all of the royalty in Europe. But of course, the main difference with her was that, because she was a girl, she was not allowed to continue composing after she turned 18. She was expected to stop and settle down and forget that part of herself.

So I was so surprised by this young lady and the fact that we’ve pretty much forgotten about her entirely. And I just found myself constantly haunted by this idea of this incredible young genius, who could have been just as good — if not better — than her brother.

But we’ll never know. We don’t have her compositions; they’ve all been lost to history. So I just found myself thinking about her, and about that loss. I think that was the first inspiration for creating this book.

DN: As a female writer and artist, do you relate to Nannerl in any way? Do you feel like there are still ways that female artists are restricted today?

ML: Absolutely. I don’t think I’m a musical genius like Nannerl was, but I think I was haunted by what had happened to her because I tried to imagine myself as a young, aspiring writer— wanting to share stories with the world, wanting to do something creative — and being restrained from doing that simply because I’m a woman.

I can’t imagine not being allowed to write because I’m a woman. And the crazy thing is, things like this still happen today. Female performers are treated very differently from male performers.

And in a lot of ways, things have improved. But I think that it’s a reminder for all of us that we can still improve and still try to continue removing the barriers in the way of young girls trying to achieve their dreams.

DN: A lot of your writing has been young adult fiction. What is it that appeals to you about writing to young adults, and would you ever consider writing to other audiences?

ML: I would. I think that I originally wrote young adult not really being aware that I was writing young adult.

I didn’t know that I was writing young adult when I wrote “The Kingdom of Back,” nor did I know that with “Legend.” I think that I naturally fell into that category because of the voice that I had, and because of the ages and nature of my characters.

And honestly, once I was aware — I learned that I loved young adult, because it’s a category that is very optimistic. And I think that’s something that all of us need these days; something to just remind you that there is a ray of light out there, and that young people are that ray of light. Our next generation is just so extraordinary.

And it’s just very heartening to me to write in a category where in every single one of these books, you see young people taking charge of their lives and making changes in their world. I just love that about the young adult category.

And I think I will branch out in the future. I don’t think I’m always going to write exclusively for young adults. But it is a category that is always going to be close to my heart.

DN: Now that “The Kingdom of Back” has been released, what are you working on next?

ML: I have another book coming out this fall called “Skyhunter,” which is the first book in my new sci-fi series. So I’m really excited about that one. It’s my first new series since “Warcross,” so I’m excited to share it with people.