Like the characters in her five-book Wicked Lovely series, Melissa Marr has endured (and overcome) hardships. She was raped twice—at 14 and again 18—and turned to drugs and boys. Today, the 38-year-old mother of two is married to a former Marine Corps officer; is awaiting the publication of her final Wicked Lovely title, Darkest Mercy, in February 2011, as well as an adult novel, Graveminder, next July; is currently meeting with Universal Pictures producers who are turning the first Wicked Lovely book into a movie; and is starting a brand-new YA trilogy, the first volume of which is due out in 2013. You could say she's come through.
About the new series, Marr's editor at HarperCollins, Anne Hoppe, will reveal only that it's the story of a girl assassin, "a demon who has no soul and a world where myth and science meet." That's all. "As much as I'd love to spill it all," Marr said, "that's not how my process works. Right now, these characters are talking to me. Until I'm sure I get their story right, I'm not sharing their secrets."
Marr is at peace with saying goodbye to the Wicked Lovely series. "It's tempting to write more in these characters' lives, and my publisher is certainly supportive of that, but at the end of the day, the integrity of the story outranks my emotions," she said. Besides, she said, "I'm not sure it's truly goodbye," since the film, the last book, and a few Wicked Lovely short stories are pending. And she's holding out the possibility of writing other characters' stories in this world. "If one of them starts plaguing my dreams, maybe I will," she said. "For now, I have other characters in a new world who are obsessing me."
Soon Marr will be taking a mini-break from writing to embark on an 11-city "Smart Chicks Kick It" tour, from September 13–25. "She feels a marked responsibility to her readers," said Hoppe. At any given stop, five or so of the 18 writers—including Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Vincent, Cassandra Clare, Alyson Noël, Rachel Caine, Kimberly Derting, and Holly Black—will appear together. "One of the things that I've been asked at almost every single event is, ‘Who else do you recommend?' " Marr said. "I thought it would be more fun to say, ‘These chicks sitting next to me.' "
For this "grassroots production," Marr and Armstrong created the lineup of authors, reached out to stores, and hired a publicist. "It's girl power, and it's great," said Antonia Squire, general manager and children's buyer for Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, Calif., one of the tour destinations. Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston expects more than 150 fans to show up. The positive-message, exotic-looking Marr (she's got long, curly hair and tattoos) is a hit with teens, said Cathy Berner, a YA bookseller at Blue Willow. "You could see her fitting into the world she created." To help offset the cost for some of the writers, Marr and Armstrong sold HarperCollins an anthology, due out in September 2011.
Marr is also squeezing in Hollywood meetings. Last September Universal Pictures bought the film rights to Wicked Lovely, which will be produced by actor Vince Vaughn's production company. (Marr calls Vaughn "smart, charming and passionate.") And Marr is embracing the digital world. Earlier this year, she used the Web to introduce "Stopping Time," a free, two-part tale that continues the story of the mortal girl, Leslie, in Ink Exchange. More than 45,000 fans downloaded it.
Marr makes it all work by writing from 9:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. and sleeping while her kids are in school. "Nobody knocks on the door. No editors call," she said. Her editor doesn't mind. "I work with people in Australia, too," said Hoppe. "They're on the same kind of schedule. In the day and age of email, it doesn't really matter." Despite being so prolific, Marr manages to read about a book a day. Her tastes are diverse—from critical journals (such as The Lion and the Unicorn) to books on demonology, cremation, and cemetery traditions.
That interest in the dark also comes from her first rape, which traumatized her. "I was voted most likely to end up in jail," she said. "They say, ‘Write what you know.' What I know isn't cheerleader; it has a little bit of teeth to it."
Today, Marr says she would not change "a single minute" of her life. "What if the thing you change would be the thing that would change your future in a bad way? I have amazing kids, an amazing husband, a fabulous career, wonderful parents. If I had to go through some rough spots to get to this amazing place, so be it."