four kids reading books on the grass together

Q&A with Marissa Meyer: Celebrating 10 Years of Cinder

Marissa Meyer is the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Lunar Chronicles, Heartless, The Renegades Trilogy, and Instant Karma, as well as the graphic novel duology Wires and Nerve. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University and a MA in Publishing from Pace University. In addition to writing, Marissa hosts The Happy Writer podcast. She lives near Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and twin daughters.

First Book was excited to sit down with author and First Book donor, Marissa to learn more about how her dream of writing became a passion (and a career!) and why donating to First Book is so important to Marissa and her husband. Dig in with Marissa below or download her Donor Spotlight to learn more about why they give and how they hope to bring books to every child.

Ask Marissa Meyer

What educator (or adult) had a significant impact on your life and/or on your development as a writer? 

I was lucky to have a lot of really wonderful teachers all through school who were so encouraging when I told them I had a dream of being a writer. Two that really stand out for me are my 7th and 8th grade English teachers—Mrs. Morris and Mrs. Koval. They were both so passionate about books and stories, and I recall Mrs. Morris giving me book recommendations that went beyond the typical curriculum (like Les Miserables, which was by far the biggest book I’d read by that age. Maybe still is!), and Mrs. Koval not batting an eye when I took an assignment to write a three-page story and, six weeks past its due date, turned in a short novella instead. Their support really meant a lot to me, and made me feel like my dream was something I could actually accomplish.

What message of encouragement do you have for kids right now? 

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, or that your dreams are too ambitious, or too impossible, or too anything. Those are the words of cynics, and cynics tend to be people who don’t get anything done. Make a plan, be willing to work hard, and stay focused on your goals. Ignore everything else.

You and your husband are generous supporters of First Book. Why do you choose to support our mission, and what would you say to someone contemplating supporting our work?

Some of my happiest childhood memories were when we would get the book fair catalogues. I would spend hours reading the descriptions for every book and circling the ones I wanted, and when I showed it to my parents, their answer was always, Yes. I don’t think they let me get every book I wanted, but I do remember my parents always being willing to buy books when we wanted them. That was so huge for me—to know that stories were valued, and to have access to many much incredible literature.

Now, as an adult, I can see what an enormous privilege that was, and I know that not every kid has that same sort of access. So many kids don’t have any books at home. So many schools and libraries are in need of more materials to be able to provide for their communities. Books change lives—I hear it from my readers all the time—and every young reader deserves to have access to them. We’re really proud to be able to support First Book in making that happen.

You’re celebrating Cinder’s 10th anniversary! How has your life changed since creating this character?

I cannot believe it’s been 10 years already! In some ways it’s gone by so fast, but also, my life has changed in so many ways. I was lucky to be able to quit my day job early on and become a full-time writer, which has been a dream come true ever since. I became a mom and am now homeschooling my 7-year-old twins. My husband and I have been able to travel the world on various book tours and I’ve met so many incredible readers and writers. I also now host a podcast dedicated to bringing more joy into our writing lives. It’s been a whirlwind of a decade, but so fulfilling!

What do you hope readers will take away from your books, especially Cinder?  

Though my primary hope is always that readers will have fun reading the story (and maybe even want to read it again and again!), there are a lot of messages of love, courage, and acceptance throughout Cinder and all of my novels. I’ve had readers tell me that Cinder’s story helped them stand up against bullying and break free of harmful relationships, among other things, and while I never could have foreseen that writing these books would have such an impact, it’s incredible for me to know that the story has influenced readers in such powerful ways. I think Cinder can teach us all to be a little more brave and a little more understanding of those around us.

What is it that excites you about writing or that makes you want to keep creating books?  

There is nothing else I would rather do! I love that every new book is a journey that I get to go on. I love when I have a new idea for a story and it’s so full of potential, and in those early weeks or months my head fills up with character voices and exciting scenes and plot twists and settings and subplots… And then I get to sit down and take all these random pieces and try to string them together into a story that is suspenseful and interesting and actually makes sense. To me, writing a book is a lot like building a giant puzzle, and I really enjoy that problem solving nature of it.

What is the most unusual or surprising way a book idea has come to you? 

The idea for Cinder came to me in a dream. I had had the idea some months before about writing a series of fairy tale retellings set in the future, and I’d been mulling over it for a while. Then one night I had a dream in which I saw Cinderella in her big ball gown, but rather than losing a glass slipper, her whole foot fell off. I woke up and my first thought was that she was a cyborg with a poorly fitting mechanical foot! I was so excited by the idea, and my head immediately started to fill up with thoughts of who this girl was and what her story would be. I’m still so grateful to my subconscious for that one!

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