If you haven't already been drawn into her dark and addictive dystopian series, Ann Aguirre is the author of the best-selling Enclave trilogy. Bonus---book three, Horde, came out late last year, so you can read them without the interminable wait in between. In this Omni exclusive, Aguirre has some questions for Marissa Meyer, author of another highly addictive series, the Lunar Chronicles, now up to book three, Cress (a Best YA Book of February).
Ann Aguirre: There will be four books in the Lunar Chronicles; Cress is the third. You planned and plotted all four books--and wrote rough drafts of all four--before even approaching agents. Why did you enlist that strategy?
Marissa Meyer: A common piece of advice given to aspiring writers is not to query a full series--rather, they say you should write and finish one novel, and if an agent and/or editor thinks it can be expanded, then start considering the next book of the series. After all, it's risky to put a lot of time and effort into a project that has no guarantee of selling! So my decision to outline and draft the series before approaching agents was definitely unorthodox.
But I felt really passionate about these books from the beginning, and, to me, the real selling point wasn't just the idea of a "cyborg Cinderella" or "fairy tales in space"--but of multiple fairy tales merging together into one continuous story. I felt that if I could get a publisher to see the same potential that I saw, they might catch my enthusiasm, and I would have a better chance of showing them the overall concept if I had more than just the first book written. It was a gamble, but I'm so happy it worked!
Ann Aguirre: Since the series is four books and you've said that each plot is becoming more complex and incorporating characters from prior books, how do you manage the cast to maintain the same emotional intensity, spread across more characters?
Marissa Meyer: This is definitely one of the biggest challenges in writing this series. I expect readers to have "favorites"--favorite protagonist, favorite love interest, favorite plotline--but I want them to enjoy the other subplots too. I've spent a lot of time trying to distinguish the personalities of all of my main characters and make each one of them interesting and talented, strong in some ways and flawed in others, so that (hopefully) readers will be rooting for everyone, and horrified when things go wrong.
I know that not every reader will love every character, but I try to build that emotional resonance throughout. I've also spent a lot of time contemplating the relationships between various characters, so that no one is ever entirely forgotten, even if they're not the focus of that book.
Ann Aguirre: As a series progresses, readers (from fans to your publishing team) grow protective of certain characters and storylines. How do you deal with people’s “advice” about where to take your characters and story? Is this more or less challenging than you envisioned before being published?
Marissa Meyer: I absolutely love hearing reader hypotheses for upcoming books, and there have been times when a reader might mention something like, "I can't wait to see what happens to _insert minor character here_!" and that will make me realize that, oops! I wasn't planning on including that character anymore! When this happens, I consider if the series would be stronger or weaker with that extra inclusion, and I go from there.
I've found it pretty easy to stay true to my original plan for the books and not get swayed by advice and suggestions, and I'm lucky that my editor and publishing team have given me a lot of space to do what I think is best. You hear horror stories sometimes about writers being forced to change something in their book that they didn't want to change, but I haven't experienced that at all. I find that I can often distinguish pretty quickly between which advice I think is worth pursuing or worth ignoring.
Ann Aguirre: There's one more book after Cress in the Lunar Chronicles (Winter coming out in February 2015). What are you most looking forward to about the series being finished? And what makes you feel proudest in regard to the finale?
Marissa Meyer: It is such a bittersweet feeling to think that it's almost finished--when it feels like Cinder just came out just yesterday! I am definitely excited to be moving on to my next writing projects. My first non-Lunar Chronicles book, "Heartless," a prequel to "Alice in Wonderland" focused on the Queen of Hearts, will be published in the fall of 2015, and I have many ideas for my next series as well. It's so refreshing to start building something brand new--new worlds, new characters, new stories. I look forward to taking readers on many more adventures.
As for what I'm most proud of in regards to the Chronicles, I look back on my plans for the series when I first started writing it, over five years ago, and I'm often floored that I thought I could do it at all. At the time, I had never completed a novel (only a whole lot of fanfiction!) and in hindsight it seems crazy to take on a four-book project with eight main characters, complex world-building, and countless intertwining subplots. As I finish up Book 4: Winter, I'm so proud of myself not only for tackling this story in the first place, but for seeing it through to completion. I love these books even more now than I did the first day I started working on them, and it's such an honor to see them out in the world, and to know that so many readers have fallen in love with them, too.