Gilded by Marissa Meyer
“Serilda’s stories take our dull existence and transform it into something special. It’s like … like spinning straw into gold.” (Gilded)
Gilded by Marissa Meyer (Text Publishing) is a fantasy retelling of a fairy tale. It is a YA novel that will be relished by adults as well. It is utterly immersive and captivating. The world-building is atmospheric, the characters compelling and the storytelling unpredictable. Emulating many of protagonist Serilda’s own stories – which she doesn’t complete in one telling – Gilded is the first book in a duologue and I cannot bear the wait for the next instalment.
Thank you for speaking to PaperbarkWords, Marissa.
Your title Gilded captures the tale you are telling and is, at the same time, perfectly enigmatic and intriguing. Did you play with any other titles and, if so, what were they?
I did consider a few other titles before deciding on Gilded. I think my first working title was “A Name Forgotten.” After that for a long time I was calling it “A Gilded Curse,” before it eventually got shortened to Gilded. There were others that were briefly considered, but those were the only ones that had any staying power.
What genre is this novel?
Young adult fantasy, subcategory of fairy tale retellings. 😊
“Sometimes Serilda would spend hours thinking about evidence. Those little clues left behind in a story that bridged the gap between fantasy and reality.” (Gilded) Marissa, you express this idea well. Could you give an example of a clue that bridges the gap between fantasy and reality in Gilded?
These are really scattered throughout the book, and lead to a lot of big revelations from Serilda as she comes to see that all of her stories and “lies” carry more truth than she thought. There are the more obvious ones near the beginning of the story – such as the necklace and ring she is given from the Moss Maidens, proving their conversation really did happen – and then there are smaller hints that tie back to the story of the prince and Perchta, the great huntress. The scar, the lost memories… the fact that the dark ones have taken over Adalheid Castle and no longer live in Gravenstone. I’m tyring to be vague because I don’t want to spoil anything for readers who haven’t read the book yet! But there are lots of clues, and they are probably more obvious on a second reading, once you know to look for them.
Your stories are distinguished by, among other elements, your fascinating protagonists, particularly females. What is the genesis of Serilda in Gilded’s name andwhich of your previous characters is she most like, and why?
I’m so happy you asked about her name! She is actually named after my great-great-grandmother, who was German. I came across an old black-and-white photo of her when I was looking through albums with my grandmother last year, and as soon as I saw her name I knew I wanted to use it for my protagonist.
I’d say Serilda is probably the most like Cress from The Lunar Chronicles. I definitely see them each as their own unique characters, they do have some similarities, such as their active imaginations, eternal optimism, and willingness to see the best in people. Serilda isn’t nearly as shy as Cress, though.
You are known for crafting a romance into your stories. What is distinctive or unexpected about the romance in Gilded?
Oh yes, I can’t write a story without some romance! The romance between Serilda and Gild is probably one of my faster “burning” romances (a necessity for some of the plot elements…), but I’ve still worked hard to build in lots of tension, which will continue to ramp up in Book Two. I think one thing that will surprise fans of the original fairy tale is that I chose to swap the roles of the king and Rumpelstiltskin, making the king the villain and Rumpelstiltskin the love interest.
Your setting is spellbinding. What was a challenge in writing it?
Trying to capture authentic cultural details is always a challenge. I did tons of research into 16th-century Germany and Norse and Germanic mythology to try to evoke a certain historical vibe in the setting, but it can be hard to research things that you have little firsthand knowledge of, because you don’t always know the right questions to be asking. Luckily I had a couple of German contacts who gave me feedback on setting details that was really helpful, and I really feel that those details were the finishing touches that brought the worldbuilding together.
How have you shown the movement of time?
The passage of time in this book is measured by the moon phases—in which every full moon is given a name. I knew that the duology as a whole would take place over a full year (from New Year’s to the Winter Solstice), so this was a technique that I employed to show how much time was passing between major plot moments.
Could you give an example of “magic” in your story?
There are ghosts and curses and straw being spun into gold and god-given blessings and mythical beasts… There isn’t really a “magic system” in the typical sense of the word (spellcasting and magic wands and that sort of thing), but rather there are hints of magic kind of woven throughout the world and its history.
“But there are two sides to every story. The hero and the villain. The dark and the light. The blessing and the curse. And what the miller had not understood is that the god of stories is also the god of lies.” (Gilded)
There is much darkness in this story. Where have you shown light?
For me, Serilda herself generates a lot of the light in this book. She is an optimist. She believes that things can be made better no matter how bad they get. I also got a lot of joy from watching the romance develop between Serilda and Gild, as well as the friendships between Serilda and Leyna and some of the townspeople she meets.
This book is part 1 of a duologue. Apart from your protagonists Serilda and Gild, which character are you planning to develop further? Could you give us a clue about something they are involved in or how they are challenged or change?
Almost all of the characters from Book One will be present in the sequel, and you’ll see them continue to evolve. One thing I’m excited for in Book Two is that the seven old gods all play a role in the story, and some of the ways that they are a part of the tale surprised me, and I hope will surprise readers as well.
When is book 2 likely to be published?
November 2022! (I can’t wait!)
Gilded is another indelible masterwork from you, Marissa. As Serilda’s stories transform a tale into something special, you also spin straw into gold.
Thank you also for your generous responses.
Marissa Meyer’s podcast – author interviews