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As an Academy sophomore in 1998, Livia King ’00 Blackburne was certain of one thing: she did not want to participate in the 10th grade mandatory camping trip. “I had already gone on the 7th and 9th grade trips and that was enough for me!” she says. “I am just not a camper.”

So, Livia took advantage of a little-known policy that would allow her to skip the trip if she submitted an acceptable proposal for an alternative project. Livia proposed that she would write a novel instead of camping, and her proposal was accepted.

During her sophomore year, Livia wrote about 40 pages of the novel, then set it aside. Two years later, she decided to revisit the novel as her Senior Project.

“The story was about a girl thief named Llana who discovers she’s a wizard,” explains Livia. By the end of her senior year, she submitted nearly 80 pages of the book to her Senior Project adviser, Stuart Lipkowitz.

“Stuart read the story and gave me some really valuable advice,” she recalls. “He told me that only one character – Kyra, Llana’s best friend – had a very distinctive personality,” she says.

But, after graduating from the Academy, Livia didn’t do much writing for pleasure. She attended undergraduate school at Harvard and then moved on to Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue a doctorate in neuroscience, conducting research on the neural correlates of reading.

Not only did Livia not have a lot of time for leisure writing, she says, she didn’t have much time to read for pleasure either. However, while in grad school, Livia found herself drawn to the display for theTwilight series while waiting for a bus at the Harvard bookstore. “I read the series and I found it really addictive,” she admits. “They reminded me of how much I loved reading.”

They also inspired her to pull out her old novel. She decided to take Stuart’s observation to heart, building an entire novel, Midnight Thief, around the character of Kyra. Livia finished the book while simultaneously earning her PhD.  In fact, she sold the book to Hyperion before she finished school. Midnight Thief was published in July.

While waiting for Midnight Thief to be published, Livia wrote a prequel novella, Poison Dance, the electronic version of which is currently available for free on all ebook formats. She is working on the second book in the duology (which is due out in July 2015) and is planning an additional prequel as well.

Livia lives in Southern California with her husband Jeff, a scientist that she met at MIT. While she is currently focused on her career as a young adult fantasy novelist, Livia continues to dabble in neuroscience. Check out her blog on the intersection of writing and brain science.