Updated summer 2020. Thank you to Bethanie Finger from Prince Kai Fan Pod for helping collect some of the info below. Please check out The Happy Writer Podcast for our Q&A (Episode 25, July 16, 2020) where I answered lots of fan questions!
There is also a ton of information at the Lunar Chronicles Wiki (which I do not manage), so for TLC-specific questions, you may want to check there, too.
Will any of your books be turned into movies or TV shows?
I would love for this to happen (for any and all of my books!), but this is out of my control. At this time, the movie / TV rights for TLC have been optioned and a script is in the works. Fingers are tightly crossed!
Also, Ally Carter has an awesome blog post on how books get made into movies. Check it out here: http://allycarter.com/blog/how-movies-happen.
If they do make a movie, can I be in it?
It’s unlikely that I’ll have much involvement with this, but if the studio decides to host open auditions I will post that information on my blog and newsletter.
What was your major in college?
I have a BA in Creative Writing, emphasis on children’s literature, and an MS in Publishing.
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 submission 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 the book.
About a week later, the series went to auction between two publishing houses and we finally 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 outline your books? Use critique partners? How many drafts to you write? (etc.)
For details on my writing process (and probably more insight into my organizational neuroses than anyone wanted to know), check out this series of blog posts: My Writing Process: 9 Steps from Idea to Finished.
If you’re wondering if you should outline your novel, I think it’s a good idea to give it a try and see whether or not it works for you. Every writer is different and there is no right or wrong way to write a novel—as long as you write it!
How do you write a graphic novel?
When I set out to write Wires and Nerve, I had no idea how one goes about writing a graphic novel, so the first step for me was to do tons of research on the format and process. I’ve since shared everything I learned in a series of blog posts that you can read here: Marissa’s Guide to Writing a Graphic Novel.
What’s your favorite book?
My all-time favorite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
If you’re looking for book recommendations, some of my favorite YA books and graphic novels are listed on the Recommended Reading page.
Do you have kids?
Yes! In 2015 my husband and I adopted beautiful twin daughters – Sloane and Delaney. They bring more joy than I ever thought possible. I often post photos and funny quotes from them on Instagram if that interests you.
Do you have any pets?
We have two cats: Calexandria Josephine and Blackland Rockwell III.
I’m writing a book! Will you read and critique my manuscript?
I’m sorry, but I’m too focused on my own writing at this time to be able to review the work of others. I encourage you to check out Wattpad or other online writing communities to find a critique partner.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I sure do, and you can read it here: My Best Advice for Aspiring Writers.
My podcast, The Happy Writer, is also full of tips from myself and other published authors. We often talk craft, career, and general writing life advice, so check it out!
Did you really use to write fanfiction?
Yes! I wrote fanfiction for the popular 1990s magic girl anime Sailor Moon for ten whole years, completing almost 50 fanfics in that time, many of which were 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. My writing benefited from it immensely.
Can I write 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.
Can I make fanart based on your books?
Please do! I love fanart!
You can also checkout my Instagram, where I do regular #fanartfriday posts.
Can I sell my fanart/fanfic?
As of this time – yes! I have no problem with creators selling their work or merchandise inspired by my books. That said, should a studio decide to develop a TV show or movie based on that book, there could be a merchandising rights clause that would prevent others from selling and profiting on the characters, so I would request that you be prepared to pull those items from your shop. I figure we’ll cross that bridge together when we get there.
Where can I buy merchandise for your books?
Litographs now has a fabulous line of CINDER and SCARLET posters, T-shirts, tote bags, and more! You can also find some fun fan-made stuff on Etsy and Society6.
Can I make a song / movie trailer / musical / [fill in the blank] based on your books?
Yes! And please tell me about it! I love seeing how the stories have inspired other types of creative ventures. You can let me know via the contact form on my Connect page.
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 (mostly because my mom was awesome and a great seamstress), but I rarely get to anymore. Back in the day, I cosplayed as Sailor Moon (both scout and princess version), Princess Zelda, Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts, Aoshi from Rurouni Kenshin, and, a long long long time ago, Princess Leia.
Will you come to my school / local library / bookstore, or do a Zoom/Skype visit with my book club?
Check out the Connect page for information on setting up in-person visits. Unfortunately, I am unable to do Zoom/Skype visits at this time.
Can I have a review copy of your books?
Check out the Connect page for information on requesting review copies, but please note that we do not send review copies once a book is available for sale. I encourage you to check with your local library.
If you weren’t a writer, what would be your career?
An aspiring writer, haha! #fakeanswers
No, seriously, I would have kept trying to be a writer my whole life. But when I was working on Cinder I was a freelance book proofreader, which I really enjoyed, so I’d probably still be doing that.
Are you going to keep writing / How many books are you going to write?
Abso-friggin-lutely! Writing was a hobby for me long before it was a career, and I still love doing it. I have tons and tons of ideas for more books (both YA and a few other genres as well…), and hope to have a very long career. I hope you will enjoy whatever I come up with next!
What made you change genres to write Instant Karma?
As a reader, contemporary romance is one of my favorite genres to lose myself in. When the idea came to my mind of a Beatles-obsessed teen who sings John Lennon’s “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” at karaoke one night and inexplicably develops the ability to exact instant karma on those around her, I couldn’t resist! I fell in love with the idea, and had a ton of fun writing Prudence and Quint’s story. I definitely hope to write more Fortuna Beach stories and contemporaries in the future.
Will you be making a book like Stars Above for Renegades?
I don’t currently have plans to write more in the Renegades universe. That said—never say never! There are definitely more stories to explore (as is made clear in the epilogue of Supernova…), and I would love to return to Gatlon City in the future, after I’ve gotten some of my other big ideas off my mind. So we’ll see!
Are you going to write any more Lunar Chronicles books?
At this time, I don’t have any plans for continuing the TLC story (and I’m quite satisfied with how the story wrapped up). That said, I hadn’t planned on writing Stars Above or Wires and Nerve, either, but sometimes inspiration just hits! If I get another idea for this world that I’m super excited about, I would definitely pursue it. (In the meantime, there’s lots of fanfiction out there for anyone suffering withdrawals!)
You can also check out my newest Lunar Chronicles short story, COVID-128, inspired by the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020:
Okay, but… how about a Cinder/Kai wedding story?
I know how badly fans want this, and I haven’t written it off as a possibility! I do have some ideas for when and how I might write a wedding story, but haven’t committed to anything at this time. Maybe someday…
When does COVID-128 take place?
It takes place after Wires and Nerve.
What is the correct reading order of the Lunar Chronicles?
I recommend reading the books in this order: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Winter, Wires & Nerve (vols. 1 and 2), Stars Above.
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. The two prompts I chose: Set the story 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 science-fiction fairy tales! (The best part of that story is that only two stories were submitted for the contest—and mine came in second place. Ack!)
So I started to brainstorm what futuristic twists I could give to some of my favorite fairy tales. A couple months later I was drifting off to sleep when the lightning bolt struck: Cinderella… as a cyborg! My head instantly filled with all sorts of ideas and I had to crawl out of bed and start taking notes. That idea would of course go on to become Cinder and The Lunar Chronicles.
Was Cinder a NaNoWriMo novel?
Yep! So were Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Heartless, and Renegades.
(Not familiar with NaNoWriMo? It’s a great program that encouraged writers to draft a 50,000-word novel during November. Check out their site for more information: 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 70,000-word first draft of Cinder, so essentially I wrote the first draft in about 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…
Between writing the first word and considering it ready to submit to literary agents took just under two years.
I love how there are Easter eggs and little nuggets of information that can be tied between all the books. Did you already have the full concept with major plot lines and twists before starting Cinder, or did it evolve on its own while you were writing it?
I’m an outliner, so I had the whole series planned out before I started writing it. I did that intentionally, because I did want to drop in those little secrets and hints throughout the books. One of my biggest inspirations is Harry Potter, and I so admire how J.K. Rowling was able to infuse the books with hints and foreshadowing, so I wanted to do that, too. It’s been really fun as more of the books have come out to hear from readers who are so surprised and excited to see how things connect. I feel like all that forethought is starting to pay off!
Would you classify The Lunar Chronicles as Science Fiction or Fantasy? There is lots of really interesting technology like spaceships and cyborgs but the Lunar gift is a kind of magic plus there is the fairy tale retelling elements.
I go the Star Wars route and call them “space opera!” 😀
What do TE and FF stand for?
T.E. stands for Third Era—which, in the world of The Lunar Chronicles, is the period of time that starts after the Fourth World War. The time that you and I live in now is considered the Second Era, and what we refer to as B.C.E. would be the First Era.
FF is an abbreviation that means “and the following.” It’s used in modern-day indexes, or in the Lunar Chronicles, in net profiles to indicate that “the following” are all of the media posts known on that person.
Why did you choose to set Cinder in futuristic Asia?
Some scholars believe that the earliest Cinderella tale came from 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 having Cinder set in China was my way of paying homage to the story’s roots.
It also seemed more interesting than setting another book in America!
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 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
Why is Scarlet set in France? Have you ever been there?
I wrote a whole blog post on why I chose to set Scarlet in France, which can be read here: Why France? Scarlet and the Beast of Gévaudan. (Hint: It includes werewolves!)
Though I had not visited France prior to writing Scarlet, I did have the opportunity to visit for the Paris Book Festival in 2019. It was amazing to meet so many French readers and see a bunch of sites in Paris that inspired settings in Scarlet (including the opera house!).
Is Cinder Asian? What color are Scarlet’s eyes? How tall is Wolf? (etc.)
Read all of my character descriptions here: A Guide to Lunar Chronicles Character Traits.
(And if you’re drawing fanart, have fun!!)
How do you pronounce the names in The Lunar Chronicles?
See this handy pronunciation guide: http://www.marissameyer.com/blogtype/the-lunar-chronicles-pronunciation-guide/
What is Kai’s last name?
“Of the Eastern Commonwealth.” >.<
If you were to change something in the The Lunar Chronicles, what would it be?
I would give Kai a real last name!
In your novels, why did you name the queen Levana? / How do you come up with character names?
The name Levana can mean “moon” or “to rise,” and both meanings were relevant to Levana’s story, so when I stumbled across the name, it immediately felt right for her. I try to give most of my characters meaningful names like that, and many of them are inspired by their fairy tale counterparts, too. I spend a lot of time on baby naming web sites! Sometimes I’ll also get names from movie credits, especially surnames. I will often change a character’s name multiple times until I find one that feels just perfect!
Why did you decide to write Levana’s story in Fairest?
Levana was one of the first characters I thought of when I decided to write a series of sci-fi fairy tale retellings, and I’ve long been fascinated by the evil queen from Snow White. I always wanted to know what would make a woman place so much value on her beauty that she would do horrible, unspeakable things just to stay the “Fairest of them all.” So Levana’s story has really been building in my head from the very beginning when I started writing this series.
Then as I was working on Winter, I found myself getting stuck on scenes that involved Levana and her relationships to Winter and Selene, so I decided to pause and write Levana’s story. Once I gave it a chance, her story came pouring out of me, and I learned so much about her and made so many connections that I hadn’t put together yet. It was definitely time to put her story on paper! And it did help me get past all those places that were giving me trouble in Winter, too, so it worked out really great. I’m just glad my publisher actually wanted to publish it, ha!
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.
Are there any other fairy tales you’d like to adapt?
Yes, lots! In fact, I have another fairy tale retelling in the works right now…