Marissa Meyer at North Central College/Anderson’s Bookshop, Naperville, IL
I always go see Marissa Meyer when she’s in town and I was so excited to be able to see her again in Naperville, this time for the ARCHENEMIES book tour! The amazing folks at Macmilan/Fierce Reads asked me if I wanted to interview Marissa before the event and of course I said yes! I sat down with Marissa to ask her a few questions about the Renegades series, super powers, and of course, Harry Potter sorting.
(Portions edited for time and flow, only affecting ease of reading and not the actual interview or answers.)
Brittany: We’re celebrating the release of ARCHENEMIES, which is the second book in the Renegades trilogy. The series was initially planned to be a two-book series. Did you always feel like it should have been a trilogy, or did that develop as you were writing the series?
Marissa Meyer: Originally, it did sell as a trilogy so for many, many drafts of RENEGADES. I wrote it attempting to make it a trilogy, but I had thought that the central idea of this hero and villain character falling in love wasn’t itself enough to carry it through three whole books. My plan had been to focus on other characters for the first two books and then Adrian and Nova were going to be the central characters of the third and final book… and it just didn’t work and it wasn’t working and it wasn’t working and after years and years of kind of pulling my hair out, we decided, you know what? Let’s just focus on Nova’s and Adrian’s story and make it a standalone! So RENEGADES became a standalone. I started writing it and finally it started to come together. Finally, I was able to focus on this story between Nova and Adrian, which is what I really wanted to be writing the whole time! So I’m writing it and it kept getting longer and longer and longer, and at some point I realized, hey! I think this could actually be two books. I told my editor and she was thrilled. So we made it two books and I finished RENEGADES. That was done and I started working on ARCHENEMIES, and it kept getting longer and longer and longer… And, at some point it became clear that it was actually three books! And so now it’s a trilogy and working on book three, and I’m preeetty sure we’re done at three. I’m pretty sure.
Brittany: That’s interesting! I like that, though! It’s like you never know where it’s going to take you.
Marissa: Yeah, this book has had a lot of surprises!
Brittany: That was actually one of my other questions! Was there any character scene that really surprised you as you were writing these books and brought you to places you didn’t expect? So I guess we kind of already answer that in part!
Marissa: Yeah. There are tons of things that surprised me! Hmm, what are some specific examples…
Brittany: Were there any characters that ended up getting more page time that you didn’t think were going to be such a big part of the book?
Marissa: No, if anything, there are characters that ended up getting less face time than I expected that they would initially, but it kind of fluctuates. There are characters who you didn’t see a whole lot of in book one, but then they come up more in book two. There’s a character who was supposed to play a huge role in book two and then it ended up not working at all. So now we’re going to see them in book three and that kind of whole [concept] got moved to book three. Then there’s, you know, ideas for scenes that you think will work and end up not working, or you’re writing along and suddenly character says something that completely surprises you and you have to go with it. I mean, there’s always things in writing that come up and change.
Brittany: I really love a well-rounded villain, and I love how often we get to see the inner-workings behind the villains in your books! We got to see Levana’s sort of origin story in FAIREST, the Queen of Hearts and her beginning in HEARTLESS, and now we have so much insight to the Anarchists with Nova being a main character in the Renegades trilogy! Are these types of characters more difficult to write because of their many layers? Or does that actually help you with so much to build off of?
Marissa: It depends! I mean, some of my hero characters are more difficult to write than others, and some of the villain characters difficult are more difficult to write than others, so it doesn’t seem to necessarily be one or the other. But certainly in writing the villains, I’m always trying to make sure that I really understand where they’re coming from. Whether it’s something in their past that has driven them to be a certain way, or something that they’re trying to accomplish that’s motivating them, I want readers to may say, “You know, well, I don’t agree with what they’re doing — they’re really making bad choices — but I can kind of understand why, or I can empathize with them on some level.” So as the writer, of course, I’m always trying to find ways to empathize with them and connect with them in the hopes that we’ll come across to the the readers.
Brittany: I think that’s really interesting with all of the Anarchists who kind of have different levels — there are some people who are so far gone and then Nova, especially being a main character — you get to see how she interacts with the heroes. And I just think that’s really neat how you get to see all of that, all in one book.
Marissa: Well, thank you! I love writing the villains.
Brittany: Were there any specific sources of inspiration for some of these unique superpowers? Like Ruby’s? Or Honey & Danna with their insect connection?
Marissa: For the most part, [I go with it] if i get an idea that I think seems really cool. Most of the superpowers, I got the idea for them and thought they would just be cool ideas to write about, or were a very visual superpower. I like to write my books to have a very kind of cinematographic quality to them and so something that[, the visual superpowers,] I just thought it would be really neat to play with in different battle sequences and whatnot, so I’m always drawn to powers like that. Alternatively, if there’s something that I think I would really like to have, like that’s a superpower that I would love, then those tend to take top billing too.
Brittany: Were there any of the book that you were ones that you really wanted to have?
Marissa: Nova’s… I would love to never have to sleep! I do also like Adrian’s, too. I do not have any really artistic skill and I’ve always envied people who could drive and paint. You know, it’s sort of symbolic that there are people who could draw something, and it feels like it comes to life on the page. Adrian can actually make things come to life and I just think that’s so cool!
Brittany: The Renegades trilogy is your first release that didn’t have fairy tale inspiration. Was the writing process a lot different without having to go back to a specific source like that? Or did it have any different inspirations?
Marissa: So different, it was so different! I mean, when you’re doing a fairy tale retelling or origin story, like with HEARTLESS, you have a built-in framework already. You know, if I’m doing Cinderella — we know there’s going to be a stepmother. We know there’s going to be a ball. We know there’s to be some sort of shoe that gets lost — like there are things that you know are going to happen, and then you can kind of build the story off of that. But with Renegades being completely original, I had influences — plenty of influences — but nevertheless, I had complete freedom to do anything that I wanted with the story. At first I thought that was going to be great and so easy and fun! And it turned out to be the opposite… I had so many ideas and so many different directions that I thought about taking the story. I tried so many things and really got very lost many, many times and saying, “What could I do with this story? There’s so many options!” and lost focus with it again and again until I finally was able to figure out okay, what is this story that i’m trying to tell?
Brittany: Do you think there would be any like spin-offs or little novellas for the things that did have to get pushed aside?
Marissa: I don’t know! There are a couple of characters that ended up getting cut that I thought had potential for their own works… probably not in the Renegades world — probably a completely different universe’s story world — but I just like some of the ideas that came along with them and I think I could definitely recycle them into something new at some point. As far as, spin-off stories… I have felt like there’s definitely potential to do something from the Age of Anarchy. There’s certainly lots of cool stories that could be pulled from that time period! I don’t know that I will, but it’s something that I have thought about, so we’ll see.
Brittany: There are so many excellent character connections in this series, from family to friendship to romance to teammate. Do you have a favorite character relationship in the Renegades trilogy?
Marissa: Well, I always love the romance story lives obviously! Adrian and Nova, but I also Adrian’s dads, Simon and Hugh — I love every scene where we see them! I think they’re so charming. So in all of my books, everything I’ve ever written before, none of my characters ever have good families! Like, they’re always neglected, and abused — these poor characters of mine! And Adrian was really the first protagonist that I have where he comes from a healthy, loving family, and that is so refreshing to be able to write! I always enjoy those scenes.
Brittany: If you could get yourself a tattoo like Adrian does, which power would you give to yourself first?
Marissa: That’s really good question! I haven’t been asked that before… I’m trying to think if there’s a tattoo that would let me fly…
Brittany: Wings on your feet?
Marissa: I’m going to have to think about that one!
Brittany: It’s a tough question! I couldn’t think of one for myself…
Marissa: Yeah, because all of his are very centric on like fighting! Even like the jumping thing — having tattoos on the soles of your feet sounds painful… so I’m not sure!
Brittany: If characters from your other books had superhero names and powers, what do you think they would be?
Marissa: So, the first that comes to mind for Cinder would be The Mechanic! She somehow be able to magically fix things… which she sort of already has that superpower! I could totally see Scarlet having fire power and being… the Scarlet Witch, but that that already exists — there’s Scarlet Witch in Marvel! Hmm, like the Scarlet Flame or something! Wolf would probably [something like a shapeshifter]… There’s another word I was going for, but that works, so he can turn into a wolf!
Brittany: If we were to sort the Renegades characters into Hogwarts Houses, would all of the Anarchist be Slytherins, or will there be a good mix or balance in there?
Marissa: Good question! I almost feel like Nova might be more Ravenclaw than Slytherin… She might even pass for Gryffindor. Honey would definitely be Slytherin. The Puppeteer, he would be Slytherin. Leroy… He could be Ravenclaw too. But maybe Slytherin. Who am I forgetting ? Phobia! We forgot Phobia!
Brittany: That’s a good question! Are we going to get to know more about Phobia? I’m very excited for that! I just feel like we’re being led up to that.
Marissa: He’s an example of someone who I thought was going to play a much bigger role in the first two books and then ended up not really coming to fruition, but he just become more central in book three.
Brittany: I’m loving the lead up, though. Like, you know that you’re going to get more information and that’s really exciting!
Brittany: I know you love writing romances and I love how naturally they develop. It’s not quick into romance, like you can feel that tension and everything leading up with Nova and Adrian. Is it hard not to just jump right into the kissing scenes?
Marissa: So hard!! All I ever want is for my characters to start kissing! In my very first draft that I ever wrote of CINDER, her and Kai were kissing on like, page 30. Like, let’s do this!! But yeah, I mean, i’m always looking forward to that part. But also as a reader, if the romance develops too fast and they’re kissing too soon, then I lose interest. Like no, no, no, I want the struggle and the tension and suspense, and I really like it to last as long as possible!