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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Retell Me a Story Guest Post: Marissa Meyer

I'm super excited to welcome my next guest poster, Marissa Meyer.  She's the author of Cinder and the forthcoming Scarlet, both part of The Lunar Chronicles series and both imaginative retellings of fairy tales.  She can also be found on twitter and Facebook.  Thanks for being here, Marissa!

CINDER: On Writing a Fairy Tale Scavenger Hunt
When I decided to write a series of futuristic fairy tale retellings, I was determined to write a series of books that were entirely unique, despite their fairy tale ties. After all, these stories (and Cinderella in particular) have been told and retold a million different times in a million different ways, and while I adore many retellings and rags-to-riches tales, I didn't want my book to become "just another Cinderella story."

So it became a challenge to figure out where the boundaries of the Cinderella story were, and how far I could bend and twist them, while still maintaining that air of familiarity that I love about retellings. I wanted readers to have the sense that this was still the fairy tale from their childhood, just not quite how they'd read it before.

I began by re-reading the most well-known versions of the tale - Grimm and Perrault - and also revisiting some popular retellings, such as ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine. From that, I began to pick out the elements that, to me, make up the most iconic moments of the Cinderella story:

- Cinderella as a lowly servant or in a low social class
- The Prince
- The Wicked Stepmother
- The Ball and the means by which Cinderella gets to it (help from a fairy godmother or kindly spirit, the pumpkin carriage)
- The Slipper

Once I knew which elements seemed necessary to me to keep that Cinderella feel, I was able to let the story grow and expand, through new plot twists, unexpected characters, and futuristic world-building. Soon I had a heroine who was part-machine, a plague ravishing Earth, and a society of cruel mind-controlling semi-humans from the moon who were plotting war against Earth, and I went with it, so long as I still maintained the framework of those original elements.

I also had a lot of fun taking those elements and working them into the context of my futuristic world. Cinder's low social standing is a direct result of her cybernetic make-up. The ball is an annual event that celebrates 126 years of world peace following the Fourth World War. The slipper is represented by (what else?) a too-small cyborg foot.

I've had readers describe CINDER like a scavenger hunt, in which they would forget they were reading a retelling at all until they stumbled across one of these iconic elements that harked back to its fairy-tale roots. I love this analogy, because it perfectly captures what I was aiming for when I wrote it. I'm attempting to keep that same combination of new-meets-familiar throughout The Lunar Chronicles, which will also be retelling Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. I hope the sensation of a fairy-tale scavenger hunt continues, and that readers have as much fun hunting down these iconic elements - some more subtle than others - as I've had writing them in.

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

16 comments :

  1. Thanks so much for posting this! I have read both Cinder and Scarlet, and loved them both! I had worried because I liked Cinder so much, and have been so disappointed in the past with subsequent volumes to series, but she does a great job with Scarlet! Can't wait for the rest of them!

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  2. I never really thought of it like a scavenger hunt, but yes! That's EXACTLY what it was like! Definitely a huge fan of this series and can't wait for the next book!

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    1. It's fun to see if you can spot all the little (and big) details from those original stories!

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  3. That really was one of my favorite things about CINDER (and about others of my favorite fairy tale retellings), finding the subtle hints and allusions to the essential elements of the original.

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    1. I like them best when they are subtle too :)

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  4. I love retellings and I am wa huge fan of the series! I cannot wait to read scarlet because little red riding hood is one of my favorite fairy tales!

    Thanks for this!

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    1. I'm pretty ecstatic to finally get to Scarlet too!

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  5. I do agree that the best retellings are the ones were there are just HINTS of the original story, and not blatant, in-your-face, moments.

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  6. Yes, the subtle hints made it even more effective, I think.

    Also, I *knew* that was a Rapunzel hint in Cinder. I KNEW IT.

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    1. Ooh, I can't remember a Rapunzel hint! Now, I must go reread. :)

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  7. Well, you already know how much I love CINDER and SCARLET and the reason I love them so much is exactly what Meyer is describing -- they're familiar fairy tales, yes, but told in an original, NOT predictable fashion. The elements are there, but they come as SURPRISES. I love that. It's a great series!

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    1. Something so fascinating about the unusual with hints of the familiar, huh?

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  8. Oh! I forgot to say that I'm giving away a copy of CINDER right now on my blog. If you haven't started the series, or just want a copy of your own, stop by and enter: http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/2013/01/my-lunar-chronicles-extravaganza-with.html

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    1. Too bad I already have a copy...maybe I need another? :)

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