How did you get the idea for The Lunar Chronicles?
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 didn’t win!)
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. Thus, The Lunar Chronicles was born.
Was Cinder really a NaNoWriMo novel?
Yes indeed. So were Scarlet and Cress. (Not familiar with NaNoWriMo? Check out their site: http://www.nanowrimo.org.)
How long did it take you to write Cinder?
Oh, the crazy NaNoWriMo that was November 2008. That year I decided to challenge myself and instead of writing the expected 50,000 words in 30 days, I wrote 150,000. (150,011 to be exact.) This included the entire first draft of Cinder, so essentially I wrote the first draft in two weeks. After that I set it aside for a few months, then would work on it a few months, then send it to beta readers and leave it alone for a few months, then work on it again for a while, etc., etc.
From writing the first word to submitting the manuscript to literary agents took just under two years.
How long did it take you to get your agent and book deal?
I’m one of the very rare, lucky authors who had a relatively fast submissions process. I started querying agents on August 16, 2010. Two months later I had three offers of representation and ended up signing with Jill Grinberg, who happened to be the first agent I’d queried. After a couple weeks of minor tweaking to the manuscript, we went on submission on Friday, October 29, and had our first offer the following Monday, November 1—on the two-year anniversary from the day I’d started writing Cinder.
About a week later, the series went to auction between two publishing houses and we accepted the offer from Macmillan’s Feiwel and Friends on November 11, 2010, less than three months after I’d sent my first query.
It was a really dizzying three months!
Do you have discussion questions available for classes that are reading your books?
Yes! Discussion questions are printed in the paperback editions of the books and are also available on the Books page. (And thank you, teachers, for choosing Cinder for your classroom discussion!)
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on revisions for the rest of The Lunar Chronicles. I’ve also just recently sold a new book to my publisher, which is a YA fantasy stand-alone. I look forward to sharing details about it soon.
I’d like to review one of your books. How can I get an ARC?
Please contact Macmillan’s publicity team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that we do not send review copies once a book is available for purchase.
Will you come be a guest speaker at my event?
Why did you choose to set Cinder in futuristic Asia?
The easy answer: it just popped into my head that way. It probably had something to do with my first inspiration for Cinder’s character being Japanese actress Mew Azama, who played Sailor Jupiter in the live-action Sailor Moon show.
I was also inspired by what some scholars believe is the earliest Cinderella tale, “Ye Xian,” which was written in 9th-century China. Additionally, some believe that the iconic glass slipper (which was gold in the Grimm version) came to us from China’s tradition of foot-binding and a culture in which women were praised for tiny feet. So setting Cinder in China seemed to have a great cyclical quality to it.
Read more about this early Chinese Cinderella tale on SurLaLune Fairy Tales.
There’s a live-action Sailor Moon show?
Have you ever been to China?
I went to China for 10 days when I was 13. It was an awesome experience and I’d love to go again! Sadly, I didn’t realize at the time that I would someday write a book set in futuristic China, so I didn’t take very helpful setting notes. All cultural and setting details for Cinder came from research and my own imagination. If I got anything wrong, I sincerely apologize.
Why are names in Cinder backwards, and what’s up with the weird suffixes?
In many Asian countries, it’s customary to say a person’s surname or family name before their given name. For example: Meyer Marissa. So where western countries would say Cinder Linh, in the Eastern Commonwealth she’s Linh Cinder.
The suffixes are called honorifics. Generally they denote respect and are similar to our usage of Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc. The Chinese languages have tons of these honorifics and they can get very specific. For my futuristic culture, I simplified it to the following five honorifics used in the Eastern Commonwealth:
-dàren: for a high-ranking official
-shìfu: for an older male
-jūn: for a younger male
-jiĕ: for an older female
-mèi: for a younger female
What is Cinder's ethnicity?
This question is answered in CINDER (Chapter 19), but when people ask this, I think what they really want to know is what does she look like. There’s been much confusion over this, in part because the actress in the book trailer is very fair, but also because I avoid specifying a race in the book. I envision Cinder as a mix of many races. Tan skin, brown hair, brown eyes. She has the type of coloring that’s very ambiguous and allows her to blend in just about anywhere (especially in a world where cultures and ethnicities have been merging for hundreds of years, like the Earthen Union).
I hear Scarlet is set in France. Have you ever been there?
A large part of Scarlet IS set in France, but sadly I’ve only been to the Paris airport. I hope to change that as soon as possible.
How do your characters understand each other if they're all from different countries?
The language conundrum will be clarified more in CRESS (Book Three), but the simple answer is that there’s a universal language that’s spoken throughout the Earthen Union and on Luna. Although it never specifies in the books, I imagine it to be mostly a mix of English and Chinese, with hints of the romance languages (Spanish, French…) thrown in.
That said, different regions still have their own dialects, accents, and slang, and some communities are multi-lingual, speaking both the universal language and a language of their own.
Did you know that your androids aren’t technically androids?
So says you!
Okay, actually, you’re right. The dictionary defines androids as humanoid automatons. With their squat stature, single sensor “eyes,” and treads instead of legs and feet, most of the androids in The Lunar Chronicles wouldn’t be considered androids by modern-day standards (with the exception of escort-droids, which are life-like humanoid robots).
But here’s my linguistic explanation: scientists are currently working on creating androids and are actually doing a fine job of it (see my Real-World Technology page for more information). Although robots come in all shapes and sizes, there is a fascination with making robots that look like us. True androids.
In the history of my fictional world, the first working robots available to the masses were true androids, with humanoid features. However, as the novelty wore off, robot manufacturers realized that the humanoid model was inefficient and not as useful as simpler, more compact body styles would be. So they started redesigning the robots and, over time, the common mass-produced robots became the robots you see in the books—treads and all. However, the term “android” was too ingrained in the language at that point, so the terminology stayed.
How much of the technology in The Lunar Chronicles could be real someday?
Almost all of it! Yes, even cyborgs. Check out the Real-World Technology page to learn about how close we are to this science-fiction future.
Do you use beta readers?
Yes! I have three phenomenal beta readers and I don’t know what I would do without them.
Do you write on a computer or longhand?
I brainstorm longhand, write via computer.
Is there going to be a Cinder movie?
I would love for there to be a Cinder movie, but writers are rarely in control of this. Fingers crossed! (Ally Carter has an awesome blog post on how books gets made into movies. Check it out here: http://allycarter.com/blog/how-movies-happen.)
What are your favorite books?
My all-time favorite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. For YA favorites, check out my Recommended Books page.
Do you have any pets?
I have three cats: Calexandria Josephine, Blackland Rockwell III, and Stormus Enormous. I’d like to take credit for the names, but that was all my husband’s doing.
I’m writing a book! Will you read and critique my manuscript?
I’m sorry, but my schedule doesn’t allow for me to review other writers’ work. I encourage you to check with local and online writing groups to find a critique partner.
Did you really use to write fanfiction?
I did! I wrote fanfiction for the popular 1990s magic girl anime Sailor Moon for ten whole years, completing more than 40 fanfics in that time, 6 of which would be considered novel-length. I met a lot of great people through the fanfic community, received tons of encouragement, and was able to learn about the craft and discipline of being a writer. I know that my writing has benefitted from it immensely.
Can I write a fanfic based on your books?
Absolutely. I believe that fanfic benefits both the creator and fans of a work, and encourage anyone to do with my characters and world as they wish. That said, for both legal and personal reasons, I cannot read any fanfics based on my books.
What is cosplay and who have you dressed up as?
Cosplay is fandom terminology for wearing a costume, typically of a fictional character. It’s mostly seen at fandom (sci-fi, fantasy, anime, gaming, comic) conventions. I used to do lots of cosplay when I was a teenager, but sadly a lack of time means that I rarely get to anymore. Back in the day, I cosplayed as Sailor Moon (both scout and princess version), Princess Zelda, Alice in Wonderland and the Queen of Hearts, Aoshi from Rurouni Kenshin, and, a long long long time ago, Princess Leia. Right now I’m working on a steampunk Little Red Riding Hood.
Do you outline your books first or just start writing?
I’m big on outlines. Maybe a little neurotically so. I like to create as detailed an outline as I can before I start writing, and adjust it frequently as I go along. However, things always change, and often in huge ways that I never saw coming. There’s still a lot of exploration and surprises, and no amount of outlining seems to change that.
What do "T.E.," "ff ___ media hits," and "reverse chron" mean?
In the world of The Lunar Chronicles, each person has a unique profile page located on the net that contains basic information about them: their name and occupation, unique ID number, birth date, and any mentions they’ve received in the media (such as on news sites or blogs – of course, just about everything on the net is considered “media”).
The abbreviations used on the profile are as follows:
T.E. = Third Era. The Third Era began with the end of the Fourth World War. The era that you and I are living in would be a part of the Second Era. Everything we know as “B.C.E.,” or Before Current Era, would be the First Era.
ff ___ media hits = “ff” is an abbreviation still found in our modern indexes. It’s from a Latin term that translates to “and the following.” So, in the case of Prince Kai’s profile in CINDER: “ff 88,987 media hits” means that following are 88,987 references to Prince Kai found in the global media.
reverse chron = reverse chronology, in that all those upcoming media hits will be displayed beginning with the most recent
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The best advice I can give is simply to write as much as you can and read as much as you can. These are the two most important things for learning what stories grab you, how to build suspenseful plots, and for developing your own voice and style.
Additionally, I would encourage all writers to never forget why they’re writing to begin with: Because you enjoy it. Because you have something to say. Because you’re drawn to create these stories and characters and worlds. As you start thinking about publication or writing as a career, it can put a strain on your creativity. Suddenly it becomes more about agents and editors, less about plot and characters, and that’s not how it should be. Yes, it’s important to take your writing seriously, but it’s also important to keep having fun with it! After all, writing is like playing make-believe all the time. It’s drawing readers into a world of your own imagining and letting them fall in love with characters you’ve already fallen in love with. Yes, there will be days when it’s tough and you start to doubt yourself (everyone has those days – I STILL have those days!), but if you remember why you’re writing in the first place, then those days will eventually pass.
In essence: Protect your passion and enjoy the process!
I want to write a book but all my ideas are terrible. How do you get good ideas?
Inspiration and ideas are elusive and it’s difficult to pinpoint where they come from. A great idea can come from anywhere – a sign, a newspaper headline, song lyrics, a snippet of dialogue you overhear, a dream… absolutely anywhere.
For me, once I have that initial seed of an idea (say, what if you combined fairy tales and science fiction?), I’ll start asking “What If” questions.
What if Cinderella were a cyborg? What if cyborgs were seen as second-class citizens? What if the prince needed her help, but didn’t know she was cyborg? What if there was an evil queen that wanted the prince for herself? What if that evil queen had crazy mind-control powers?
You can try it yourself by choosing a favorite book, movie, or story, and making a list of “What If” questions that would change the plot in interesting ways. For example, if you chose Peter Pan, you might ask:
What if Peter Pan was secretly in love with Tinker Bell? Or what if this story was told from the perspective of the crocodile? Or what if Peter Pan was Hook’s son?
Etc. etc. You might end up with a story idea that has nothing at all to do with Peter Pan, and that’s great! The goal is simply to open your brain up to new ideas.
I’ve just written a book. How do I get it published?
The first step in getting a book published is to make sure you’ve written the best book you can. If you’ve only finished one draft, it will almost certainly require extensive revisions to ensure that the plot and character ARCs are as strong as you can make them. (CINDER went through five major drafts followed by three or four editing rounds before it was finished.) I would suggest reading a couple craft books, such as Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell or How to Write a Breakout Novel by Donald Maas, for ideas on how to make your book solid and spectacular. I also recommend giving it to some trusted, unbiased readers who will critique your book and help pinpoint both your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
Once you’re sure that you’ve taken the book as far as you can, the next step will be to find a literary agent. The web site agentquery.com is a great resource, both for finding agents that represent your genre and for learning about what agents do and how to avoid being scammed: http://agentquery.com/writer_la.aspx.
You’ll have to write a query letter to submit to agents when the time comes. For that, I suggest reading the archives of queryshark.blogspot.com to get a feel for what makes a good query letter.
And most important, once you’ve sent out your query letter to some agents, it’s time to start on the next book! It will keep you distracted and ensure that you’re always improving as a writer. Good luck!
Where can I get a signed copy of your book?
If you’re unable to make it to a book signing, you can order signed books online from Garfield Book Company.