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Reinventing Cinderella: Marissa Meyer Interview
Feather Magazine: You were pretty big in the Sailor Moon fanfiction world and a lot of people looking forward to your book remember you for that. How did that help you move onto writing a book series?
Marissa Meyer: The Sailor Moon fandom was such a huge influence on me—both in that I learned a lot about the craft of writing, but also because readers were so enthusiastic about my writing. It can be hard to write in solitude and never know if what you’re writing is any good—with fanfiction you get an instant response and can gauge how a story is or isn’t working. After many years and many, many stories, I felt that I had a decent grasp on how to intertwine different plot lines and keep suspense and conflict going over many pages. Then there reached a point when my imagination was captured by so many original stories I couldn’t ignore them anymore, and it was time to start writing some novels.
FM: What inspired you to take on a retelling of a classic fairy tale?
MM: I’ve been in love with fairy tales since I can remember and I doubt it’s a surprise to people who know me that my first novel is a fairy tale retelling. That said, the story of Cinderella in particular has been told a million times and I knew that to stand out I’d have to do something truly different—just setting it in the future wasn’t going to be enough. It was important to me to take the bones of the story and make it my own, and that challenge really appealed to me as a writer. I hope I’ve succeeded!
FM: In Glitches, the prequel to the book, Cinder seems lost and unsure of her new body. How has that changed by the beginning of Cinder?
MM: Yes, in Glitches Cinder has only been a cyborg for a few days—her muscles are weak and her neurosystem is still trying to figure out what to do with these new prosthetic body parts. It’s a lot for an eleven-year-old girl to deal with! By the beginning of Cinder, though, which takes place five years later, she’s adjusted to her body so that the cyborg parts are just like an extension of her biological limbs. Well, all except for her left foot, which she’s outgrown, but that’s a whole story in itself.
FM: How is life in New Beijing different from the more rural lifestyle usually associated with Cinderella?
MM: Just that—New Beijing is a thriving metropolis of a city, albeit one that’s a little dirty and run-down in places. The city of New Beijing was one of the first elements of the story that came into my head and one of the few things that hasn’t changed during revisions—if anything, it’s only become more crowded and high-tech! But it works for the story in that I needed a place for Cinder to work (she’s a renowned mechanic) and also for readers to see the cyborg oppression and prejudice she has to put up.
FM: Cinder seems to live in a gloomy world that’s reminiscent of the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen tales. Did the original texts inspire the world you created around your characters?
MM: I’m sure they did on a subconscious level—when I think of fairy tales, I think of them as dark and gritty stories, not their peppy Disney-ized versions, so that mood fits the book. But if anything truly inspired the setting of Cinder, it would have to be the cities seen in Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Whedon gave his worlds lots of grungy overtones and a mesh of different cultures, and also a fascinating mix of shiny new technology even though at times it seemed as though civilization was in decline. I wanted to capture the same sort of feelings in Cinder.
FM: Twenty-somethings were raised on Disney and their version has almost no focus on the prince. How is Prince Kai different from Prince Charming?
MM: That’s one element of both the fairy tale and the Disney movie that always bothered me—how Cinderella has only just met this guy and we’re supposed to expect true love and happily ever after from that? I never bought it, even as a kid. I hope readers will find that Prince Kai is a much more love-worthy hero that has, you know, a personality and stuff. They’ll find him to be very loyal and intelligent, and while he has a hint of a rebellious streak, he also understands the importance of his princely responsibilities…which can be rather unfortunate at times.
FM: While we’re talking about differences, how is Cinder different from most representations of Cinderella?
MM: Usually we think of Cinderella as being overly good and selfless to the point of being a pushover, and also very feminine and gentle. Cinder, on the other hand, is more of a tomboy: she’s a gifted mechanic with a sharp tongue (that her stepmother doesn’t care for), and is much more comfortable in a pair of cargo pants and boots than she’d ever be in a fancy ball gown.
FM: Cinder is one of four books. Are the books connected or are they independent of one another?
MM: The books are all connected, although beginning with book two there will be multiple storylines coexisting with each other. We’ll continue to follow Cinder as she seeks to find out more about her past, but we’ll also meet three new fairy-tale inspired heroines (Scarlet/Red Riding Hood, Cress/Rapunzel, and Winter/Snow White) as they join forces against the evil queen in an attempt to end a war and save the world.
FM: Your second book is Scarlet, a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. The Big Bad Wolf has always been associated with sex because of its intended message about being preyed upon by men. Do you pay homage to that viewpoint in the novel?
MM: What an excellent question! I’m fascinated by the symbolism in fairy tales; it’s part of what made me fall in love with them. And yes, I do pay homage to some of the sexual tones of Little Red Riding Hood, but it’s in a subtle, sensual way. I very much look forward to hearing readers’ responses to my Big Bad Wolf.
FM: What do you want people to take away with them after reading Cinder?
MM: I’m not a writer with too many ulterior motives: my biggest goal is to entertain. I hope people come away from Cinder feeling as if they’ve just been swept away by a great story, and eager to return to the world and characters in Scarlet.