Marissa Meyer the author of Cinder and Scarlet from the Lunar Chronicles, one of my very favorite series, is here on the blog today. In the Lunar Chronicles Marissa melds a classic fairy tale with a futuristic world. The second book in the series, Scarlet released last month (February 5th).
Hi Marissa, thank you for answering my questions.
Thank you for having me!
What encouraged your interest in fairy tales and old myths?
It probably started when I was taken to see “The Little Mermaid” in theaters when I was five years old. I absolutely loved it! Not too long after that, I was given a little book of fairy tales. The first story in that book was “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen, which I read eagerly, only to discover it was nothing at all like the movie! It’s an incredibly sad and tragic tale, and my little five-year-old heart was devastated. But it also started this fascination with all things fairy tales and this idea that Disney was hiding something from us. I wanted to learn more and more about the lesser-known tales, and that curiosity continues to this day.
What inspired you to place the settings of Cinder and Scarlet in New Beijing and France?
I chose China for Cinder because many scholars believe the original Cinderella story comes to us from 9th-century China and that first story, called “Ye Xian,” eventually made its way to Europe through some of the trade routes. Also, there’s a theory that the idea of the slipper fitting the smallest foot was a direct result of the Chinese tradition of foot binding. So I chose that setting for my futuristic retelling as a means of paying homage to that original tale.
When trying to choose a setting for Scarlet, I wanted a place that had a history of werewolves and werewolf stories—although the people in my futuristic world aren’t superstitious about such monsters, I liked the idea of a very old fear being replaced by a new, very real fear. So when I saw a documentary about a series of killings that happened in 18th-century France, and at the time were believed to be the act of a real werewolf, I felt that worked perfectly for a way to tie the mythology together with my own werewolf-like characters.
The Lunar Chronicles will be four books total, Cress and Winter being the last two. Can you give us details of each?
The books are being released a year apart, so Cress will be out early 2014 and Winter in early 2015. Cress is based on Rapunzel, but instead of being stuck in a tower, Cress is a computer hacker stuck in a satellite orbiting Earth, being forced to spy on the Earthen leaders for Queen Levana. Winter is based on Snow White, and Princess Winter is Queen Levana’s stepdaughter. But Winter, not wanting to be like the cruel queen, has made the decision to never use her glamour—which means her sanity is slowly dissolving.
At the Scarlet signing event I attended when asked how the title Cress corresponds to Rapunzel you said that Rapunzel and Cress are both types of lettuce but you didn’t have time to elaborate…can you now?
Cress I took from “watercress,” and yes, rapunzel and watercress are both types of lettuce. The story of Rapunzel begins when a poor man’s pregnant wife is having mad pregnancy cravings for rapunzel, but it only grows in the witch’s garden. The husband sneaks into the garden to steal some but the witch catches him and they strike a deal—he can have the rapunzel for his wife, but he must give her the child when she’s born. So when he has a little baby girl, he gives her to the witch and the witch names her Rapunzel after the lettuce she was traded for.
For my giveaway for Scarlet on the blog, I asked people to share which fairy tale they would love to see take place in the future. People submitted great suggestions; the two most common were Beauty and the Beast and Peter Pan. I can totally see the Beast being one of Queen Levana’s army. I was curious have you ever added other fairy tale characters in as side characters?
I love the story of Beauty and the Beast and actually feel that Scarlet shares a lot of similarities with that tale (in addition to Little Red Riding Hood, naturally). It’s a great archetype! I’ve also heard from readers who feel that Cinder makes use of some elements of Pinocchio, too. In my original plans for the series, I’d wanted to use “Puss in Boots,” and had planned for it to be the fifth and final book of the Chronicles. But as I began figuring out how to tie all the tales together, that story no longer fit with where I was taking the series, so I eventually had to cut it. I think there might still be a mention of a “robotic talking cat” somewhere in the books though…
Do you have any plans for novellas, possibly one from Queen Levana’s POV?
Actually—yes! I would love to one day tell Levana’s story, how she became queen and why she’s so vain and wicked. There are no official plans for writing it, but I hope it’ll happen someday.
When writing a villain like Levana do you find aspects of her you like even though she’s evil?
Absolutely. Because I know Levana’s history, I actually have a great deal of sympathy for her. All of her cruelty and ambition really stems from a desire to be loved and accepted by people who never did love or accept her, and eventually she was driven to control people the way she does in order to get that sort of companionship. It’s a tragic story.
If you could pick to be any one of your characters which would you choose? Why?
Probably Cress. I have a strange envy for Rapunzel characters in general. I sometimes daydream about being stuck in a tower (or satellite!) with nothing but my laptop and an enormous stack of books. Oh, all the reading time!
Is there a book you wish you had written or character you created?
I adore the Gallagher Girls books by Ally Carter. I’m a sucker for spy stories like James Bond and Jason Bourne and I wish I’d had the idea for write about a school for spies first. But I’m glad she’s written them so I can read and enjoy them!
You’ve said that you are inspired by the show Firefly by Joss Whedon; who is your favorite character in the series?
Argh, I really couldn’t choose! That’s the great thing about Firefly—all of the characters are phenomenal. They’re each unique and three-dimensional, with their own strengths and weaknesses, motivations and flaws. I love them all, and I really love how they interact with each other throughout the series. I hope people will say the same thing about my crew of misfits as the series goes on.
I’ve got to give a shout out to Firefly—it’s one of the best shows ever created! It has the feel of the old animes Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star to me.
Cheers to that! I loved both those animes too. <3
If you’re not eager for the next installment of the Lunar Chronicles (even after reading that the next character is based on Rapunzel) here’s a teaser for CRESS:
She bit her tongue against a reminder of all she’d done for Her Majesty during her imprisonment. Designing countless spy systems for keeping watch on the Earthen Union and its leaders, jamming satellite signals so that countless soldiers and operatives could slip down to Earth undetected… it made no difference. Sybil cared only about Cress’s failures, and not finding Linh Cinder was Cress’s biggest failure to date.