Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Marissa Meyer in Bethesda

I was delighted when I heard Marissa Meyer was planning a book signing at the Bethesda Library in Bethesda, MD. I was little nervous after my previous excursion to this location, but this time I was far from the only adult reader present. The crowd was much smaller, so it was easier to find a seat and enjoy the event. Politics and Prose had both Cinder and Scarlet on sale with some of the proceeds benefiting the library.

Meyer started by explaining the story behind Cinder and Scarlet and how it all started with Sailor Moon fanfiction and a Star Trek walk-on. She'd been writing for some time, cutting her teeth in the Sailor Moon anime fandom. She was surprised so many people in the room knew the series; apparently she's asked the question in other locations and they've usually stared at her. She explained how she'd entered a Sailor Moon writing contest where she had use several elements -- she chose science fiction and fairy tales. Because Sailor Moon has its share of talking cats, she wrote a version of Puss in Boots.

Still with the science fiction/fairytale blend stuck in her brain, she had a Cinderella inspired dream where instead of her shoe falling off, her whole foot came off, thus inspiring the idea of the cyborg Cinderella. She merrily continued planning and plotting and gathering inspiration when Nanowrimo came around again in November. Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month where participants try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days or less.

The Seattle ML upped the ante for that year -- the person writing the highest word count would receive a walk-on role in the new JJ Abrams Star Trek movie. Meyer comes from a very geeky family, the sort that wasn't above dressing in costume for Star Trek movie nights or apparently completely redoing their attic as a Enterprise bridge! So the walk-on prize was very exciting to her. She'd done Nano successful several times; she'd just have to write a lot more. She wound up writing 150K for that Nano comprising of Cinder and Scarlet and some of Cress. She actually did not win the contest, falling about a thousand words short of her victory and finishing third. Undeterred Meyer went back and revised the hell out of the first book until it was ready, found an agent and then they shopped it around to various publishers. They sent the book out on a Friday and received their first offer on Monday. (I should have asked if they'd shopped it as one book or the complete series, because the titles were already lined up in the first hardcover.) The funniest punchline is she received the news of the book selling on November 1st, the first day of Nanowrimo.

Meyer read two small sections of "Scarlet" aloud. One introduced Scarlet and Wolf, the new main characters in the second novel. The other section reintroduced Cinder to reassure her fans that she wasn't gone from the story. The scene was from Captain Thorne's POV who she described as possibly her favorite character of the whole series.

Before Meyer took questions, she discussed fairy tales and the parts of the story left out in most adaptations. Her examples included Little Mermaid, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood. I'd heard the unsanitized version of Cinderella before; Sondheim had incorporated the stepsisters chopping up their feet into his musical Into the Woods. But instead of the birds being the ones to alert the prince it was spirit of Cinderella's mother. (I shudder how they'd have to adjust their feet if the glass slippers were geared to fit my narrow feet.) I had not heard the earliest version of Little Red Riding Hood with the cannibalism and nudity. What an... edifying version to take to dinner with me.

Then she opened up the floor for questions:

- Four books are in the series and they cover different fairy tales. Cinder is Cinderella, Scarlet is Little Red Riding Hood, Cress is Rapunzel and Winter is Snow White. But all the main characters will continue to appear throughout the series.
- Wolf's photo inspiration was the Turkish pop star Tarkan. An audience member surprised her by knowing his name!
- She picked her locations because of their connections with the original fairy tales. For instance, one of the earliest Cinderella stories was found in 9th century China, while Little Red Riding Hood is tied either to France or parts of Eastern Europe. The fourth book deals with the moon, so there's connection there.
- She didn't have a specific ethnicity in mind for Cinder, thinking she was mixed -- brown hair, tanned skin, very thin and no curves. She wouldn't stand out in Eastern Commonwealth, but rather blend in.
- Meyer was not mechanically minded. Her husband rebuilt old cars and helped explain certain parts and sometimes she'd rename parts/tools so they'd fit her world/voice better. She did laugh when her neighbor read her book and asked why Cinder hadn't used a specific tool used for removing screws in the one of the first scenes. She hadn't known such a tool existed, but allowed as how it would have been a boring scene if she'd used it.

Two of the fans behind me had created a pair of adorable necklaces -- one of Cinder in her ballgown w/ cyborg arm and leg and one of Sailor Moon/Usagi.