Summer Palace in Beijing Inspired ‘Cinder’ Author Marissa Meyer

 In Asia, Books and Movies

With the New Year fast approaching you may think there is nothing left to look forward to. Normally I would agree with you. Unless we are off on another adventure, the winter months tend to be pretty depressing around here. I can’t even snowboard this year because I am pregnant! That is usually one of the few joys getting me through the gray, cold and gloom.

Not this year! I can’t wait for January. This is when Marissa Meyer’s debut novel, Cinder will transport me to New Beijing for a fantastical retelling of the fairy tale classic Cinderella.

The first of four novels in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder takes on Cinderella in a new way with a decidedly sci-fi, futuristic twist. As the publisher summary puts it…

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

The remaining three books in the series will introduce Scarlet (based on Little Red Riding Hood and due out in 2013), Cress (Rapunzel, 2014), and Winter (Snow White, 2015) into the drama that begins to unfold in book one. Fans of romance have no fear, like all fairy tales we have to have our princes and a few nice kisses snuck in too. This will not be an overly mellow-dramatic mush fest though. Marissa is a big fan of great Young Adult novels. I get many of my book recommendations from her and she has yet to steer me wrong. Years of thought, research, and a lot of love have been poured into these books.

So we have a great new writer to check out in the New Year. Generally that is enough for me. But I have known Marissa for almost 5 years, so a friend getting her big break is even more reason to celebrate. What has me really excited though is that this book takes place in a futuristic Beijing. After our travels in China, nothing gets me more excited than a writer that can transport me back to even a tiny piece of that amazing trip.

Summer Palace, Beijing (December 2010)

I remember when we got back from Beijing I posted a bunch of pictures up on Facebook. Marissa messaged me right away. The Summer Palace had been one of her inspirations. I had to know more!  A little three-part Q&A opened up a little window into the world of the Lunar Chronicles.

Walkingon Travels: Why Beijing? What drew you to that particular city?

Marissa Meyer: First, I should explain that CINDER takes place in a futuristic world in which all of the countries on Earth have been conglomerated into only six countries. The Eastern Commonwealth, where CINDER is set, is composed of everything from modern-day Japan to India, including a large part of Russia.  The capital city is New Beijing (Beijing as we know it was largely destroyed during the Fourth World War, as were many major cities all over the world).

Whew! So with that explained, I chose Beijing for a couple of reasons. One is simply its recognition—you say Beijing and it immediately brings to mind thoughts of an enormous, thriving metropolis that manages to walk this fine line between old traditions and new architecture, old cultural ties and state-of-the-art technology. I wanted that same cross in the novel, and (New) Beijing seemed like the perfect place for it.

Additionally, I wanted a semi-centrally located city to act as the capital of the Eastern Commonwealth, and Beijing fit that bill as well.

W.T.: What started the inspiration to set the scene there? Photos, a movie, documentary? 

MM: The reason I wanted to set my futuristic Cinderella tale in Asia is two-fold. The non-professional reason is because my first inspiration for Cinder’s character was the Japanese actress Mew Azama. Although Cinder has changed physically during the writing of it and no longer resembles Azama that much , she was the initial inspiration that led me to set the book in Asia.

But the serious, scholarly reason I wanted to set the book there is that some fairy tale scholars trace the earliest Cinderella tales to 9th-century China, so I thought this setting had a nice cyclical quality to it.

Once I had chosen futuristic China as my setting, I watched a few movies set in China, read some travel books, and scoured the internet for articles on cuisine and traditions. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go to Beijing yet – but I hope to change that as soon as possible!

W.T.:  If you could visit, where would you want to go first? Any favorite sights?

M.M: I would have to go see the Summer Palace, as it first inspired the royal palace in the book (and was my desktop image for a long time while I was writing it). It’s so beautiful and breathtaking and I hope to see it in person someday.

Bonus Question:

W.T: What are 3-5 books based in a different country that you love/ would recommend? 

  • Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath by Scott Westerfeld make up an alternative history/steampunk trilogy that takes the reader on a tour around the world, including Constantinople, Syberia, and New York City (among others), all against the backdrop of a world in which two very different belief systems are at war.
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, both by Lisa See, combine gorgeous writing and heart-wrenching stories set in 19th-century China. See has a new book out now called Shanghai Girls that I haven’t read yet, but I don’t think Lisa See can write anything that’s NOT brilliant, so it’s bound to be just as good.
  • East by Edith Pattou is based on a Scandinavian fairy tale and appropriately set in Norway. It’s a gorgeous story of a girl fighting against the odds in order to rescue her true love – Pattou really does the original tale justice.
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is one of my must-read books. The numerous settings give a breathtakingly creepy account of Europe – Amsterdam,  Istanbul, Budapest, Bulgaria, and more – all while on the hunt for the truth of Vlad the Impaler.
  • On a much less serious note, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is a super cute tale of teenage love set in Paris, the city of romance and (who knew?) movies!

Are you excited yet? Come on, you know you secretly read “Twilight.” The end of Harry Potter has left a huge hole in all our lives. Grab your eReader, head over to Amazon or jump in the car to preorder your copy. I’m so excited I’m just going to say it right now- You should not try to get a hold of me when Cinder releases on January 3rd.

  • Still can’t get enough information on this exciting new series? Well have no fear, Marissa seems to be popping up everywhere. Just yesterday she was giving her list of 2011’s Top 5 Young Adult Novels.
  • You can also catch a glimpse of the book on USAToday.com, which has the first chapter of Cinder up and ready to get your reading taste buds tingling. Better yet, grab your eReader and download the first 5 chapters! My Kindle has been humming ever since I downloaded it just waiting for the rest of the chapters to be filled in.
  • For a short story prequel to the book check out Glitches by Marissa Meyer on Tor.com. Then check out artist Goñi Montes as he worked up the illustration for the story.
  • Need a few more Prince Charmings in your life, or a reason to look for more? Wander on over to Heroes and Heartbreakers.com for Marissa’s take on the new prince charming and why the old ones might not have been up to scratch after all.

More Need to Know Info

  • Stay up to date on the latest Lunar Chronicles information on the Facebook page. The official website should be up and running any day now.
  • If you are in the Seattle area on Sunday, January 8th head up to Lynnwood to meet the author at a 2pm reading at Barnes and Nobles. There are several other cities on her book tour. Check out events in your area here.
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Showing 2 comments
  • cravesadventure

    I will be checking out this book series for sure! I am hooked on the Grimm TV show right now. Thanks for sharing!

  • Anji

    Hmm, I’ll also be checking this book out! Interesting!

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