All good stories start with Once Upon a Time… and so the story of how I know author and fairytale retelling mastermind Marissa Meyer does too.
Once upon a time there was a Japanese manga called Sailor Moon that found its way to American television as a dubbed anime in the late nineties. The love story that focused on a boy who teases a clumsy junior high school girl, unknowingly fights crime beside her as their alter-egos, and was also her prince a thousand years earlier on the moon, struck a chord around the world.
And as dial-up internet stabilized, and online communities became more established, fans found each other across great distances and wrote. Oh how they wrote. Mountains of fanfiction appeared alongside archives, contests, and interviews. And best of all, uniquely lasting friendships.
One of the best fanfiction authors of the day was a girl who wrote under the penname Alicia Blade and I have been her friend and penpal for over ten years! I have watched her diligently read, research and write, write, write. She managed three novels in one Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and today the first novel in that series is poised to release this January to all of you lucky readers.
That novel is Cinder, a thrilling sci-fi retelling of Cinderella, and that fanfiction author and Nanowrimo superstar is Marissa Meyer.
I now have the pleasure and privilege of interviewing my dear friend about her debut novel! Ladies & Gentlemen: Marissa Meyer
Indigo Teen Blog: Can you tell us a little about the full series and which Fairytales you’ll be using?
Marissa Meyer: Gladly! The series will progress with Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel), and Winter (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves). Although Cinder will continue to be the main protagonist, in each book she’ll be joined by a new fairy-tale based heroine who has her own problems to solve and love interest to deal with. As their paths intersect, they join forces to fight against Queen Levana, the evil Lunar queen, who is set on ruling Earth through whatever means necessary.
ITB: What was it like writing the character of Linh Cinder? Did she surprise you at any point during the writing?
MM: Cinder is still surprising me! I’m constantly impressed by her strength and level-headedness, even when things are falling apart around her. She has an uncanny ability to see what needs to be done and do it. I also never expected her to become so cool. A lot of her cyborg abilities (such as built-in Google-like search engines and lie detectors in her brain) came to me over many drafts, like I was slowly uncovering her secrets.
ITB: There are some Sailor Moon call-outs folded into this tale, a Moon Kingdom, a long lost Princess, can you touch on these without revealing any spoilers?
MM: Oh goodness, I’ve so long been a Moonie and written so much fanfiction that I think Sailor Moon is just a part of my brain now. Part of the origins of the Moon Kingdom and lost princess were inspired from a fanfic I’d written for a contest, which was a futuristic telling of Puss in Boots. When I first started brainstorming for the Lunar Chronicles, I’d toyed with the idea of expanding that fanfic into an original novel. While that idea got nixed pretty early in the outlining stage, the elements of a Lunar society and lost princess lingered. The funny thing is, these elements that my subconscious “borrowed” form Sailor Moon are probably what make Cinder and this series so different from other sci-fi titles out there right now.
ITB: Prince Kai read very squee-worthy as a Prince doing his best to rescue his people but in doing so unable to rescue himself. Did you have that contrast planned out from the beginning?
MM: Actually, yes, this is probably one of the few elements of the book that stayed the same over many, many revisions. I always saw Kai as being caught in the middle—wanting things he couldn’t have, being constantly torn between his political duties as a leader and his craving a happy, normal life. And, of course, there was always this forbidden attraction to Cinder when he knew that a marriage alliance was a very real possibility for him. Sometimes I feel like Kai has the hardest role of any character in the whole series—while my other heroes and heroines get to go gallivanting around fighting for their cause, Kai is largely stuck at home trying to hold his country together while everything falls apart around him.
ITB: The different spin you put on various fairytale items from the original Cinderella (the shoe, the pumpkin, the dress) became something really fun to watch out for as I read. Can you talk about what it was like planning out where you put those details and maybe give us a hint of items to come from the next three fairytales?
MM: Dropping in these little fairy tale hints has been one of my favorite parts of writing the books and I’m glad that readers are having as much fun hunting them out! Fairy tales are so iconic—oftentimes people will forget an entire story, but they’ll remember Rapunzel’s hair or Cinderella’s glass slipper, so I wanted to make sure that those iconic things were captured in my stories too. Just… futurized. A lot of them fell right into place, but for others it took some brainstorming and revising before I found the perfect way to update a specific element. You’ll be seeing the same sorts of twists throughout the series, but you’ll have to wait and see what they all are!
ITB: We have a New Year’s/Valentine’s Day feature coming up here at Indigo with the hashtag #BookBoyfriends. I know I’ll be nominating Prince Kai, can I ask who a few of your favorite YA Book Boyfriends are and why?
MM: Oh thank you! Kai would be so flattered. As for me, let’s see… I know there are lots of girls willing to fight me for this one, but I’d have to say Peeta for sure. I mean, he bakes for goodness sake! I’m also kind of crazy about Nate, the pirate in Lisa Mantchev’s Eyes Like Stars series. He’s rugged and loyal and talks with a sexy sailor brogue. Rawr! And since I have to throw in at least one prince charming, Prince Brigan from Kristin Cashore’s Fire. I love how smart and brave he is, and how much he grew out of his prejudice throughout the course of the book. Oh, and speaking of prejudice, definitely Mr. Darcy! Because it’s Mr. Darcy. And—okay, I’d better stop there.
ITB: And finally, as I know you are very well read in Fairytales, particularly the sometimes gruesome originals, may I ask which Fairytale you would choose to find yourself in one day and which you would like least to end up in?
MM: Cinderella would actually be a good one to be in—the good girl is rewarded without too much up-front horror, and even if you don’t become a princess, you still get to go to a ball! As for the tale I’d least like to end up in… probably Bluebeard. A psychopathic serial killer for a husband doesn’t sound like something you’d get over for awhile.
Thank you so much for inviting me to be on the Indigo blog, Nat-chan!
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