Wouldn’t You Like to Know . . . Marissa Meyer
It’s true! Not only did Marissa Meyer finish the first draft of Cinder, her New York Times best selling book, during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month http://www.nanowrimo.org/) but she also completed the first drafts of Scarlet and Cress (books two and three in the Lunar series) during that same NaNoWriMo event. Equally noteworthy, her publisher committed to a four book series before any had been released! For a girl whose favorite childhood toy was a plastic bathbook, who always knew she wanted to be a writer, who earned an undergraduate degree in creative writing and a master’s degree in publishing, plus spending five years as a book editor, Ms. Meyer’s success could not have come to a more deserving person. Proud to be a lifetime resident of Tacoma, Washington, Marissa—and her husband—enjoy entertaining friends, being classic Sci-Fi geeks, and caring for their very own clowder of cats. What’s next for this gifted and creative author? Maybe some international travel (on a book tour perhaps?) and a happy ever after of her very own!
SH: When I was a teenager, people would describe me as a: (jock, band geek, popular, goth, other, none?)
MM: Geek. Definitely a geek. My friends and I were the anime/manga, fantasy, science-fiction loving group of the school, and we didn’t try to hide it.
SH: The best/worst thing that happened to you in high school was?
MM: The best was discovering Sailor Moon fanfiction, which happened in ninth grade. I remember writing my first fanfic in math class and my friends passing it around during lunch and encouraging me to post it online, which I did. It was my first time sharing anything I wrote with strangers!
The worst . . . it’s hard to say, as I think bad things so often shape us more than good things. Perhaps my most painful memory was not getting a role in the school play, Little Woman, because according to the teacher who was directing it I didn’t have the right body type to be an actress. I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life, so that was really hard to hear. While I still think it was a bad choice on the teacher’s part to dishearten a teenager like that, her words did encourage me to start taking my health and weight issues more seriously, which in the end has been a good thing.
SH: Favorite childhood book? Favorite food? Favorite band or album? Favorite television show?
MM: Book: Probably Anne of Green Gables. Carrots!
Food: Peanut butter
Band: The Beatles. I also really love Death Cab for Cutie.
TV Show: Right now a toss between The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory. I also love Top Chef.
SH: Is there a story from your childhood that is told most often, either by you *or* about you?
MM: My dad likes to tell people how, when I was really little, if anyone tried to scold me by wagging a finger, I would wag my finger right back at them. This earned me the childhood nickname of “Sassy.” I also like to tell the story about the one Easter that my older brother crammed a handful of black jelly beans into my mouth, turning me off from jelly beans forever. (And also black licorice-flavored anything, but I think I would have had that aversion either way. Yuck!)
SH: Was there any class in high school you regret paying too little, or too much, attention? If you could add one class to high schools across the country, what would be the topic?
MM: Despite the occasional story-scribbling during class periods, I was a really good student and I don’t recall not paying attention in any classes. However, I do wish I’d had a higher appreciation for history. It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized how fascinating history can be. I wish schools would teach more world history—I just remember learning about America and Washington State over and over again, and there is so much more to human history than that.
SH: If you could be a character from any book, including your own, who would you want to be? Why?
MM: I would love to be in Harry Potter. Even as an unimportant extra in the back of the classroom. I guess I really just want to go to Hogwarts.
SH: Do you read while you’re writing?
MM: Definitely—I try to read for at least an hour or two every evening. Of course, the to-read list never seems to get any shorter no matter how many books I cross off it! But as much as I love writing (and I do), reading remains my #1 love. I would rather read than do anything else in the world.
SH: If you had an important secret or story to share, who would be the first person you’d turn to?
MM: My husband. I tell him everything, even the unimportant secrets and stories. (Which he may or may not appreciate!)
SH: Is there a book, besides your own, of course, that you think everyone should be reading?
MM: There are three books that I think should be on everyone’s list: The Giver, The Book Thief, and Pride and Prejudice (my favorite book of all time). In one way or another, these three books changed the way I thought about books and storytelling and how they can profoundly impact the way a reader thinks about the world.
SH: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
MM: People who talk or text at the movie theater. Argh, just thinking about it makes me want to throw things.
SH: Is there one moment in your life you’d love to live again? To either change it or to enjoy?
MM: My wedding day. For a lot of brides, the wedding day is full of stress and panic, but mine was really well planned out and we had a fantastic wedding coordinator (my husband’s cousin) who kept everything running smoothly, so all I remember about the day is feeling happy and lucky and being surrounded by the people I love.
SH: What do you think would catch a person’s attention if they walked into your workspace, your kitchen, or your family room?
MM: Workspace: I have a collection of fairy tale antiques on display in an old lawyer’s bookcase, including a Snow White lunchbox and an old xylophone.
Kitchen: Everyone always comments on how big and open our kitchen is. My husband built our house, and he wanted it to be a place where people could gather during parties. And they do!
Family room: The fact that my bookshelf is organized by color. It’s very pretty, but not always practical when I want to find a specific book but can’t remember what color the spine is!
SH: When you’re done writing for the day, or taking a little “me” time, do you have a hobby or special treat you indulge in?
MM: Reading! I also enjoy cooking, so I make dinner most nights, or even just watching a movie. We’re homebodies for the most part.
SH: What three words would you use to describe yourself? What three words do you think other people would use to describe you?
MM: I would say: determined, overachiever, daydreamer. It’s a lot harder to think what other people might call me, so I’m going to steal directly from a book blogger who came to one of my signings, and wrote that I was “awesome,” “classy,” and “fun.” I’ll take that any day!
SH: You are sitting down to dinner with five people, living or dead, who you find fascinating. Who is at the table and what are you eating?
MM: J.K. Rowling and Jane Austen—possibly my biggest writing idols, along with Joss Whedon (so I could convince him to write the screenplay for Cinder!), Audrey Hepburn (so I could pick up some fashion and how-to-present-myself-in-public tips), and baseball player Edgar Martinez (so I could pick up an autograph for my husband).
SH: Who was the first person who told you that you should be a writer? What event prompted them to say it to you?
MM: Oh gosh—I don’t think anyone ever told me I should be a writer, I just knew that’s what I was going to be. I grew up telling stories, and was constantly lost in a daydream. When I realized that writing was a real occupation, I knew immediately that’s what I wanted to do with my life.
That said, I had an English teacher in tenth grade who read the start of a novel I was working on and told me she thought I could get it published someday. Which seems silly looking back—it was my first novel attempt—but I always appreciated those words.
SH: Do you have a phrase or motto that inspires you?
MM: I guess my personal motto is “work hard, then pamper yourself.” I believe in diligence and effort if you want to accomplish something, but we can’t work all the time, and it’s healthy to treat yourself once in a while. Or all the time. I try to do something nice for myself every day, even if it’s just lighting a candle or enjoying a fancy dessert.
SH: What one thing makes you feel happiest? What makes you sad? What scares you?
MM: My happiest moments are a toss-up between spending time with my family and friends, or spending time alone reading and writing. Odd that they’re two completely different things! I have to find ways to balance them as much as I can.
I’m always sad listening to the news. It makes me sick to my stomach when I hear about all the horrible things that happen in our world every day.
Lots of things scare me. Spiders. Being home alone at night. Failure.
SH: What is one (or more!) of your favorite features about yourself? It can be anything from an impeccable sense of style to your sense of humor to crazy long toes that can pick up a variety of objects.
MM: Lol—well. I guess that would have to be my overactive imagination. Although it doesn’t always make me the best conversationalist (or driver!), it’s the reason that I wanted to be a writer and it got me to where I am today, and it keeps me entertained at times when most people would be bored out of their minds. I hope I never lose it.
SH: A series of choices: Morning, Afternoon, or Evening? Board Games or Online Games? Phone Call or Email Message? Sunny Beach or Chilly Mountain? Television or Music? Comedy or Drama? Milk Chocolate or Dark Chocolate? Elevator or Stairs?
MM: Evening (it’s my reading time). Board games. Email. Chilly mountain (if I can be inside by a roaring fireplace, otherwise the beach!). Music. Comedy. Dark chocolate. Stairs . . . up to a point.
SH: Any advice for teens, something you wish you had known? Or wish you had done? Or wish you had not done? And why. (Or maybe: Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten, at any age?)
MM: Find something that fulfills you and never stop doing it. If you can get paid for it, consider yourself very lucky, but even if it’s just a hobby or a side gig or a volunteer position, do something with your time that makes you happy. Always be working toward a goal. Stay passionate. Don’t give up.
The Lunar Chronicles
SH: How in the world did you think of what parts of Cinder should be mechanical? And how did you decide exactly how they would work? (Were you a fan of Bionic Man/Woman reruns?)
MM: Most of it just popped into my head—her mechanical foot and hand were necessary for different plot points, and the bionics in her head just seemed really cool. (Email from your brain! Google search on your eyelids!) I did some research on cyborgs, both real and fictional, and pulled together the elements that seemed realistic and fun to write about. Some parts, such as her silicon-based heart, were added later just to make her that much less “human”—again, for plot points. One thing I like to point out is that everything Cinder can do is plausible based on what technology we already have or what scientists are currently working to make possible. They may not work exactly how I’ve described them (Cinder’s internal eye screen would probably be more brain-based, not in her actual eye), but still—possible.
SH: The short pieces that introduce each of the books inside the story are great! Where did they come from?
MM: Thank you, I wrote them myself! Originally I’d taken quotes from a single translation of Cinderella, but then we ran into copyright issues. So I thought, well, the story itself is in the public domain, so I’ll just make up my own translation for it!
SH: Dr. Erland has elements of being a heartless researcher, willing to sacrifice countless innocent lives in his quest for knowledge, and a man who has given up much of his own life for what he sees as a cause greater than himself. Do you get much feedback, positive or negative, from readers about him? What are your feelings about Dr. Erland?
MM: Most of the feedback for Dr. Erland has been surprisingly positive. I think people are charmed by his quirkiness, and he certainly has some redeeming characteristics (particularly, I hope, later in the series). Some people even think he best fits the “fairy godmother” role of the story. Personally, I see him as walking a very thin line between good guy and bad guy. He’s very single minded and has done some truly horrible things, but for the most part his intentions are good.
SH: Cinder has spent so much time doing the bidding of other people. If she had a dream for herself, complete control of her future, what do you think she would want to be doing in ten or fifteen years? (A future in which she never found out the truth of why she is so special.)
MM: I think she would definitely have ended up in Europe, probably running her own mechanics shop and living a fairly quiet, respectable life. Unfortunately, fate has other ideas for her.
SH: Do you know what happened to The Enchanted Doll™ used on the Spanish cover of Cinder?
MM: Ooh, isn’t that doll gorgeous?! I believe the artist, Marina Bychkova, made three Cinderella dolls. I don’t know if they’ve all been sold, but fans can see more pretty pictures here: http://www.enchanteddoll.com/galleries/cinderella2/cinderella2.html.
Scarlet (release 2/5/13)
SH: A red hoodie for Scarlet? Genius! How did you think of it? Are you a hoodie aficionado? Are you getting requests for a Lunar Chronicles clothing line?
MM: It just popped into my head as a pretty natural way to update Little Red Riding Hood’s iconic red cloak. Of course I couldn’t have her without any sort of “hood” at all! My publisher did make some fabulous Scarlet hoodies for promotional giveaways which I love, and there’s been a recent request for T-shirts proclaiming the wearer’s love for the different male leads (Kai is my Prince Charming, Wolf is my Alpha, etc.) I’d love to make some up—maybe after tour!
SH: The letter/number tattoo on Wolf’s arm made me think of Holocaust survivors. Was that intentional or did I give the tattoo too much meaning?
MM: You know, I had temporary tattoos made up for swag, including the Wolf numbers, and when he saw them my husband said the exact same thing. I’d never even thought of it! To me, the tattoos worn by the “Order of the Pack” are more in line with how ranchers mark their cattle—as useful pieces of property.
SH: Iko as the brains of a spaceship? How did you keep her personality so distinct and so–like the blushing!—but make sure we remembered she was a big ol’ vehicle?
MM: Lucky for me, Iko pretty much writes herself. At times it was a challenge to devise ways in which a spaceship could “show emotion,” but I always knew just what emotion Iko would want to convey if she were still in her android form, so I just tried to be creative with it, as she would have been. She’s such a fun character—I love every scene she’s in.
SH: Did you choose the Paris Opera House as a hideout for wolves because they howl (use their voice) to communicate? Or was there some other reason? (Am I reading too much into things again?)
MM: This is what I love about books—everyone is free to bring their own interpretations to it! Again, I never would have thought about the connection between howling and singing. When I figured out that the climactic chapters of the book would be set in Paris, I researched some famous landmarks (I wanted it to be somewhat recognizable), and ended up choosing between either the Paris Opera House, the catacombs, or some big fancy house on a river that was once used to house prisoners (how’s that for a technical description?). I posted the three choices on my blog and let readers vote—they chose the opera house! I have smart readers, as it ended up being perfect in a lot of ways. My favorite discovery was that there’s an actual room in the opera house called la rotonde de la lune: the Lunar Rotunda.
SH: So far there are two pretty butt-kicking girls with good-looking boys to follow along. Would you rather be Cinder or Scarlet? Do you prefer Kai or Wolf? Or is there a butt-kicking girl/good-looking boy coming in one of the next books you’d like to choose?
MM: The two superstars of Book 3 are probably my favorites right now, but maybe that’s because it’s the book that I’ve most recently finished. But I really love Cress, who is like me in a lot of ways—optimistic and often lost in her own head. And Captain Thorne, who readers meet in Book 2, really shines in the next book. He might earn some love/hate reactions from readers, but either way, I hope he’ll make them laugh!
SH: Do you have an ultimate, favorite fairy tale?
MM: Not really—it’s impossible for me to choose! Obviously the four that I’m retelling in this series (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White) all rank highly.
SH: Do you think you’ll ever write fan fiction again? Will Sailor Moon ever make an official appearance in The Lunar Chronicles?
MM: While I love the fanfiction world and community, I don’t think I’ll ever write it again. My novels are keeping me super busy and, you know, it’s nice to get paid. I don’t intend to ever take down the fanfics that are on fanfiction.net, though, so I hope readers will continue to discover and enjoy them for years to come!
SH: Are you a natural techie? Do you look at all the shiny new devices and think: That looks like fun for me, or that looks like fun to use for a book? Or does the mechanical information in your books come from hours of research?
MM: Ahahahaha, no, not at all! I’m always the last to pick up on things, and even once I have them, I never take advantage of all the cool things that you can do with them. I’ve had my iPhone for two years now, but I’m still listening to music on my six-year-old iPod! So, yes, the mechanical information in the books is made up of research-research-research. Weirdly enough, one of my best resources has been the technical guides to the Star Wars universe. They’re filled with cool-sounding terminology.
SH: What’s the best, most surprising question you’ve ever been asked?
MM: I recently answered a Q&A that will be posted for the Scarlet Blog Tour, and one question the blogger asked was “If Cinder were to ask you one question about the writing of her character, what do you think she would most want to know?” I thought that was such a smart question—it really forced me to look at Cinder in a whole new way. In the end, I thought she might be annoyed that I’ve relegated her to wearing cargo pants and T-shirts throughout the whole series, when there are so many opportunities for the other characters to get dressed up!
Cinder: The Lunar Chronicles. Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2012. 400p. $17.99. 978-0312641894. VOYA December 2011. 5Q 5P J S