Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder and Scarlet, tells us how she came up with the original and extremely popular Lunar Chronicles. Enjoy!
How did you get the idea for Cinder?
MM: I entered a writing contest a few years ago in which the host had listed about ten random prompts and writers had to choose two of them to include in their stories. My two prompts: set it in the future and include a fairy-tale character. My contest entry was a sci-fi version of “Puss in Boots” and I had so much fun writing it that I thought I would try to do an entire series of sci-fi fairy tales! (The ironic part of that story is that only two stories were submitted for the contest—and mine came in second. Ha!)
A couple months after that I was drifting off to sleep when the lightning bolt struck: Cinderella… as a cyborg! I crawled out of bed and spent about an hour brainstorming and jotting notes. That initial flood of inspiration eventually turned into Cinder and The Lunar Chronicles.
Even though your novel is based on the story of Cinderella, you did a lot of twists that were different from the original story–for example, Cinder having to use an old cyborg foot to go to the ball and losing it instead of leaving her shoe behind. How did you decide when to deviate from the original fairy tale and when to stick closer to it?
MM: It was a lot of fun for me trying to figure out how close I wanted to stick to the story, versus how much of my own spin to give it. I started by making a very skeletal outline of what, to me, are the most iconic moments and elements of the Cinderella storyline – the girl treated like a servant, the pumpkin carriage, the ball, the slipper – and then brainstormed ways to futurize them. I also knew early on that this would be a multi-book series that would tell other fairy tales along the way, so I tried to weave in elements of many of them as early on as possible. For example, in Cinder we’re introduced to a new breed of wolf-like soldier that the evil queen is developing. It’s only hinted at in the first book, but those wolves become very important in Scarlet, Book 2, which is based on Little Red Riding Hood.
Prince Kai and Cinder are already falling for each other well before the ball. Their relationship is more complex than the fairy tale’s “love at first sight” at the ball. What made you decide to develop the relationship the way you did? (Or why did you think it was important to do it the way you did?)
MM: As much as I love fairy tales, I’ve always had a problem with the love-at-first-sight trope that’s so frequently used in them. I just don’t think it’s realistic to meet a guy at a ball, or be awoken from a curse, or whatever it is, and instantly fall in love and go live happily ever after. Relationships take time to build and strengthen, and I wanted the romances in these books to have strong foundations – and also to have to go through plenty of trials and tribulations along the way. I think it makes for a much more interesting story, and hopefully a much bigger pay-off in the end.
You made one of the stepsisters likeable and Cinder’s friend. Why did you decide to do that instead of having the usual “two wicked stepsisters”? How do you think that helped your story?
MM: In the first few drafts of Cinder, both stepsisters were “wicked” and didn’t get along with Cinder. However, there’s a scene in the book in which something pretty awful happens to one of the stepsisters (I say, trying not to give any spoilers!). After reading it, one of my early readers told me that she wasn’t at all upset by this scene that was supposed to carry a big emotional impact. She didn’t like the stepsister so why should she care if something bad happened to her? So I decided to go back and change it so that the stepsister was bubbly and vivacious and one of the few people who cared about Cinder – I want readers to feel as if she’s their younger sister, too.
Did you write the whole novel before you sold it to a publisher? And if so, how did you know you could end it with a cliffhanger? How did you know you’d be able to have a sequel to finish Cinder’s story?
MM: Yes, the novel was completed upon selling it to my publisher, and by that point I also had early drafts written of Books 2 and 3 and an outline of Book 4, so that when we were showing it to publishers I could give them a good idea of where the story was heading and why I’d chosen to end it on a cliffhanger. My idea for this series was always much bigger than could fit into a single novel and it was important to me that my publisher understood where I was taking it and supported my plans for the series. Luckily, Macmillan loved the concept and didn’t give me much trouble about the cliffhanger! I know it was the right decision for the story.