Lunar Chronicles series author Marissa Meyer has visited Salt Lake City numerous times on book tours, and the city holds one of her “favorite book stories” — she was in Utah when she got the phone call in which she learned her first novel made it onto the New York Times Best Sellers' Children's Chapter Book list only one week after its publication.
“I will always have a very special place in my heart for Salt Lake City and the lobby of the Hotel Monaco,” she said of the place where she received the phone call.
Her process of becoming a best-selling author has been full of similar moments with “incredibly fast turnaround,” Meyer said.
In 2008, Meyer had an idea for a series that combined science fiction and fairy tales and decided to write the story for National Novel Writing Month, an event where writers commit to writing 50,000 words of a story during the month of November. She plotted out the story beforehand and got to work.
“I thought, ‘Why would I write just one novel during November, when I could try to write three novels?’ ” Meyer said.
This led to an “insane month” of writing 150,000 words that constituted the first drafts of the first two books in the Lunar Chronicles, “Cinder” and “Scarlet,” and a third of the third book, “Cress.”
“They were horrible, of course, because they were written in a month, but I really loved the concept and I thought they had so much potential,” she said.
Three published books later and with the last installment in the series and a bonus book about the series’ main villain coming out this year, Meyer’s hunch has proved correct.
“Fairest: Levana’s Story” (Feiwel & Friends, $17.99) features the backstory of the evil queen who has been “terrorizing the fairy tale characters,” a woman who is inspired by Snow White’s “fascinating” stepmother. Meyer said she knew Levana’s history “almost as soon as I had Cinder’s story in my head.”
“I’ve always wondered what could make a woman so vain and so crazy that she would kill her stepdaughter just so that she could remain the most beautiful in the kingdom,” she said.
In the main series, Meyer didn’t have time to tell that story, but after she “kept hitting roadblocks” while plotting “Winter,” the last book in the series, she set the fourth novel aside and “whipped out” Levana’s story in a little over a week.
“It was the fastest story I’ve ever written,” Meyer said.
“Fairest” is a shorter, much darker and more sinister story than the other books in the series, and it explores the relationship that Queen Levana has with her stepdaughter Winter and her niece Princess Selene, Meyer said.
Once it was completed, Meyer showed her publishers the story, expecting it to be published as promotional material for “Winter” or as an e-book like some of the other stories she has set in the Lunar Chronicles universe.
However, her publishers told her “readers needed to know this story” and decided to release “Fairest” as a hardback companion to the rest of the series, she said.
“As writers, we have so many ideas in the back of our head about these little stories that happen to our characters and little things in the world that happen that we don’t get to share in the books,” Meyer said. “It’s always fun to take a few days and explore different aspects.”
As Meyer plots the stories, she said, she takes time to consider the different aspects of her characters so she can “write characters that I want to spend time with and follow along for their stories.”
“I spend a lot of time earlier in the planning process thinking not only about the character’s strengths and good qualities but also what are some of her weaknesses, flaws and fears that I can work into the story to try and give them some of that dimension,” she said.
While the characters may have different challenges to overcome, Meyer’s books are free from explicit sexuality and language, which Meyer said didn’t become a conscious choice until she learned more about her readership.
“Seeing that I have 9-year-olds reading these books has definitely made me give more thought to that,” she said. “On the other hand, I don’t think this is a series that requires a lot of sexual material and/or curse words because I don’t think it fits with the story or the world and I don’t think it would add anything.”
The Lunar Chronicles world was born of Meyer’s lifelong love of fairy tales and because she grew up watching “Star Wars” — a combination she hadn’t seen before.
Even though Meyer was confident that she would have loved reading the mash-up as a teenager, she was apprehensive that there wouldn’t be a market for her stories because she had been told that science fiction for teenagers was a “black hole in the industry.”
“I just had to hope that I would find an audience,” she said.
Now, with the success of the Hunger Games and Divergent series as well as her own Lunar Chronicles, science fiction is a popular genre for young adults, she said.
“It’s important to follow your instincts and write the story that you love and keep your fingers crossed,” she said.
Other tips Meyer has for writers is to be OK with rewrites — it took her two years to revise, rewrite and edit “Cinder” to make it “the best book I could.”
“What I wish someone would have told me when I was still an aspiring writer is that it’s OK to take your time and be patient, really take the time to fall in love with the story,” she said. “Don’t feel like you need to rush through a book just so you can get published and start getting your name out there.”
As Meyer finishes editing “Winter” and working on two projects scheduled for 2016 — “Heartless,” a prequel to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and the outline of a new series that will “probably be a trilogy about superheroes and supervillains” — she is setting goals to keep herself on top of her workflow.
“My goal might be, today, I’ll revise three chapters and answer 20 emails and respond to this blogger interview,” she said. “Whenever and however I can work that in is good for me.”
Some days are better than others for meeting goals, though, especially as Meyer adjusts to the happy addition of two babies in her home.
“My husband and I just became foster parents to two newborns, and so that’s taken a lot of adjusting lately,” she said. “What little process I had has kind of gone out the window. We’re still trying to figure out our schedule again. It has been awesome, and we’re very happy and excited about it.”
If you go ...
What: Marissa Meyer book signing
When: Wednesday, Jan. 28, 7 p.m.
Where: The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City
Note: This is a ticketed event. To attend, guests must purchase a copy of "Fairest" from The King's English.
Email: [email protected], Twitter: GinnyRomney