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 really a NaNoWriMo novel?
Yep! So were Scarlet and Cress. (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.
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!
What are you working on now?
I am currently wrapping up the second Lunar Chronicles-based graphic novel (Wires & Nerve, Volume 2) and also starting a new trilogy about teenage superheroes. The first in the series will be released in Fall 2017.
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!)
Sadly, I’ve never been to France. I hope to change that as soon as possible.
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!!)
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 fake 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. 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 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!
Is there going to be a Cinder movie?
I would love for there to be a movie, but this is sadly out of my control. At this time, the movie rights have been optioned and the studio is looking to attach a director. Fingers are tightly 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.)
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’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 are listed on the Recommended Reading page.
Do you have any pets?
My husband and I have three cats: Calexandria Josephine, Blackland Rockwell III, and Stormus Enormous.
I’m writing a book! Will you read and critique my manuscript?
I’m sorry, but I can no longer read un-contracted or unpublished works for reasons relating to boring legal mumbo-jumbo. I encourage you to check with local or online writing groups 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.
Also, check out the comments in that post. There’s a lot of great advice there, too!
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 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. I know that my writing has benefitted 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.
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 Skype visit with my book club?
Check out the Connect page for information on setting up in-person and Skype visits.
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!
(Unfortunately, we will not be printing advance copies of Fairest or Winter.)
Where can I buy Lunar Chronicles merchandise?
Litographs now has a fabulous line of CINDER posters, T-shirts, and tote bags!