Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Many readers would say it’s Marissa Meyer—New York Times bestselling author of The Lunar Chronicles. Meyer has amassed a kingdom of fans who clamor for more from her futuristic fairy tale series and this winter she answered their prayers by releasing Fairest. Based on Snow White’s Evil Queen, Fairest explores the origin of the most evil woman in the galaxy: Queen Levana. A prequel to the rest of the series, Fairest gives fans a unique glimpse into the making of a terrifying villain. Here, Meyer shares with us the most important aspect of any villain, her own personal form of glamour, and the challenges that go into exploring a villain.
Bookish: How did you come up with the concept of glamour, the ability to change one’s looks at will?
Marissa Meyer: The concept of “glamour” is one that’s used in a lot of fairy folklore and countless works of fiction. I have no idea where I first heard about it, but I’ve always loved the idea. Who doesn’t sometimes fantasize about being able to change how they look with the blink of an eye? The inspiration for using it in the Lunar Chronicles, though, really began with Levana’s character. I knew early on that my major villain was going to be the evil queen from “Snow White,” who is most famous for being “the fairest of them all.” So I wanted a queen who was impossibly beautiful—so beautiful she’s almost painful to look at. That idea eventually morphed into this concept of her beauty being an illusion created by mental manipulation.
I did a lot of research on some theories behind potential brainwashing and heard about this study involving electric impulse to human brains, and how, if triggered the right way, we could potentially make a subject see things and feel emotions that they wouldn’t otherwise experience. That all came together to create the Lunar glamours and gift.
Bookish: While Levana uses her glamour as a way to hide, it can also be used to enhance what is already there—like makeup. Do you have any favorite makeup or accessories that give you that extra touch of confidence?
MM: My day-to-day makeup routine is pretty minimal. Unless I’m doing a book signing or speaking engagement, I’m a moisturizer-and-chapstick sort of girl! I do love to dress up when the occasion calls for it, though, and I have a particular weakness for stockings in fun colors or patterns. They can add a bit of playfulness to an otherwise professional look.
MM: I think it’s human nature to want to find an explanation for evil and wickedness. If someone is cruel, we want to know why. What made them that way? You can really delve into all sorts of questions when looking at a villain’s past: nature vs. nurture, sanity vs. insanity, the role of morals and conscience, etc. I also think, as a writer, it’s important to keep in mind that your villain probably doesn’t see himself or herself as the villain. The scariest villains are those that believe passionately in their own righteousness, and it can be a fun creative exercise to try to tell your story from the other perspective.
Bookish: Do you think there is one personality trait or quality that villains require? Who is your favorite literary villain?
MM: I think the only quality a villain must have is that they have to be stronger than the hero—at least initially. Otherwise, where’s the story?
As for my favorite literary villain, the first that comes to mind is Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, even though he’s obviously not the story’s main villain. But I think it was masterful how he was made to be both vindictive and pathetic, cruel and pitiful. The reader comes to revile him as much as sympathize with him, and that’s no easy feat to accomplish!
Bookish: You thank National Novel Writing Month (November) in your acknowledgements because you wrote the first draft of this book during that time. How long have you been participating in NaNoWriMo? What was the first project you worked on?
MM: I did my first NaNoWriMo in 2006 and I believe I’ve successfully finished it five times (last year I participated but didn’t hit the 50,000 word goal for the first time). My first NaNo novel was a Sailor Moon fanfiction called “To the Gentleman in the Back;” my second was a YA novel that I never finished called “Ari Incognita;” then I drafted Cinder in 2008. I love the community that’s sprung up around the program and how everyone comes together to root each other on and enjoy the act of writing and creating for 30 days. I always find it to be a very inspirational time of the year!
Bookish: Levana has a very misguided view of love, which Evret points out to her. Most people, I think, have a skewed view of what romantic love is supposed to be and feel like until they experience it. Were there any books you read in your youth that changed or shaped the way you thought about love?
MM: My idea of romantic love has changed so much from the time I was a daydreaming teenager to the time I met my husband! I agree that that’s natural though, and something every person is going to experience differently. I definitely went through a period when I was 12 or 13 where I was obsessed with Romeo and Juliet. Like so many before me, I was swept away by the passion between the two characters and the idea that they would rather die than be without each other. Sadly, I now see the story as more ridiculous than romantic. But who knows? There are probably readers who feel that way about the romances in my books! And while I’m no longer a big Romeo and Juliet fan, I still love getting swept up in a new fictional romance.
Marissa Meyer’s first and second books in the Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Scarlet, both debuted on the New York Times bestseller list. She lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and their three cats.