Marissa Meyer on Procrastination, Fairy Tales, and Sailor Moon

Marissa Meyer’s debut novel, Cinder, has been the subject of lots of hype–not least of all around the Figment office, where it’s quickly become a favorite of 2012 so far. It’s about a cyborg mechanic named Cinder who gets caught up in an adventure starring evil intergalactic villains and an adorable prince, and you can begin reading the first FIVE WHOLE CHAPTERS (!) for a limited time here. Below, we ask Marissa some questions about her inspiration, her writing life, and what’s next.

Cinder is an extraordinarily unique retelling of the Cinderella story. What made you see cyborg potential in the classic fairy tale?

I’d had the idea for a series of futuristic fairy tales for a few weeks when the idea for a cyborg Cinderella came to me. It was one of those drifting-off-to-sleep-lightning-bolt moments that are so wonderful and coveted and I immediately began to see the potential. I imagined Cinder toiling away as a mechanic, as opposed to doing her stepmother’s chores; and being disregarded by society due to her abnormalities, as opposed to the servant-status in the fairy tale; and I could envision a helpful android instead of a fairy godmother, and on and on. It was a ton of fun to draw those connections and bring the story to life in such a high-tech world.

What can we expect from the sequel to Cinder? There WILL be a sequel, right? *fingers crossed*

Yes! Actually, Cinder kicks off a four-book series, so there’ll be lots more cyborg-fairy-tale goodness coming up. Book two, Scarlet, is based on Little Red Riding Hood. It continues Cinder’s story as she attempts to escape Queen Levana’s vengeance and learn more about her past. The story also introduces readers to Scarlet, a girl living in southern France whose grandmother has mysteriously disappeared. In order to find her, Scarlet seeks the help of Wolf, a street fighter with more than a few mysteries of his own.

None of your characters end up exactly as they first appear. Which character did you have the most fun writing?

Oh, I probably had the most fun with Iko, Cinder’s android “sidekick.” She has a faulty personality chip, giving her human-like tendencies (such as sarcasm and a deep appreciation for fine clothing), and I never knew what Iko was going to say until the words were on the page. She kind of cracks me up.

In addition to your debut novel Cinder, you’ve gained a wide audience for your Sailor Moon fanfiction. How has your fanfiction writing helped you become a published author today?

Oh gosh, in every way possible! I learned so much about the nitty-gritty craft of writing by writing fanfic, all through trial and error—how to write believable characters and how much description is too much and when it’s appropriate to switch POVs and how to keep the tension and suspense going over tens of thousands of words. And then there was this awesome fandom supporting me and always willing to review and critique and offer encouragement. You can only hear “You’re talented enough to be published!” so many times before you’re forced to believe it, and that really gave me the confidence to attempt an original novel and seek publication.

Between your novel, your blog, and your fanfiction, you write a LOT. How do you hunker down and push out the needed word count? Do you have any writing routines?

Aw, thanks. Some days I still feel like a slacker so it’s nice to hear otherwise, ha! Mostly I start each week with a master list of things I need or want to get done, and then I break it out into daily to-do lists. If I finish up early I move on to the next day’s tasks, or reward myself by curling up with a book. If I get behind, then at least I know I’m behind and can come up with a new game plan. On weeks when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed I’ll make myself strict a schedule: 7-9a.m.: answer emails and write a blog post; 9-12: work on the novel; 12-2: respond to guest post and interview requests, etc. etc. That helps me focus and make the most of my time.

What’s your biggest procrastination time-drain?

Reading! I love to read and the to-be-read list never gets any shorter, so it’s easy to convince myself that reading is a productive part of my job—a good writer is a well-read writer and all that jazz. But sometimes I know that I really should put the book down and get back to writing.

 You recently participated in NaNoPubMo and blogged a month’s worth of tips for the author looking to promote him or herself. What advice do you have for yet-to-be-published authors looking to gain a following?

The great thing about the 21st century is that anyone can build a following these days. (Okay, it may also be the worst thing about the 21st century . . . ) But social networking is your friend. Join Facebook and Twitter, start a blog or a YouTube channel or a Tumblr—whatever seems the most exciting to you. After that, it kind of breaks down into content and community. The goal is to provide content that’s either entertaining or interesting or useful–bonus if it’s all three! Second, participate in the community by commenting on other blogs, chatting with other people on Twitter, liking Facebook pages that interest you, blah, blah, blah. Be polite and engaged and an active part of the awesome writing world that exists online, and people will naturally take notice.

On your blog, you’ve mentioned your policy of saying yes to every possible opportunity. If we could find another willing author, would you participate in a to-the-death grudge match?

Boy, that sounds awfully dangerous and I typically try to avoid things with “to-the-death” in the name, but . . . oh, fine, count me in! But first you’ll have to tell me what a grudge match is. ^_^

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