When Marissa Meyer decided to remake the popular fairy tale Cinderella, little did she know that she would soon be living out her own fairy tale. Cinder (Feiwel and Friends), a dystopian, sci-fi young adult novel about an outcast cyborg who unwisely falls for a handsome prince and winds up at the center of an interplanetary war, was released in early January and soon found a place on bestseller lists.

“I’ve always had this practical viewpoint,” Meyer says. “Very few authors can become bestsellers. This is a dream come true.”

Definitely the stuff of dreams for a girl who got her start writing fan fiction for a Japanese manga and anime series called Sailor Moon. “It was a series about five girls who were destined to be superheroes,” she explains. “When I was 14, it was the best thing ever.”

When she learned about a Web site where fans could write their own stories using the existing characters, Meyer dove in. It wasn’t long until she had a following—and a certainty that she wanted to be a writer.

Meyer continued to write fan fiction throughout high school and college, where she earned a degree in creative writing and children’s literature, and later a master’s in publishing. From there, she settled in Seattle to work as an editor, and later a freelance typesetter and proofreader. And she got to work creating the complex world that would serve as the background of the Lunar Chronicles, of which Cinder is the first book.

“I wrote the first draft of Cinder during NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month], in about two weeks,” Meyer says with a laugh. “But then it really took a little less than two years [of on-and-off revising] until I began querying.”

She definitely already had an agent in mind. One of her role models, Scott Westerfeld (Uglies), was repped by Jill Grinberg. When Grinberg offered representation, Meyer was quick to accept. “Jill and I worked on our submission package for two weeks, during which time I wrote 50 pages of book two and detailed synopses of books three and four. We sent everything out on a Friday and had our first offer on Monday.” Shortly after, the Lunar Chronicles sold to Macmillan’s Feiwel and Friends at auction.

Meyer describes her editor, Liz Szabla, as “smart and laid-back, the perfect balance of someone who gives advice but does not pressure me.” Fans of Cinder will be relieved to learn that Meyer is actually a bit ahead of her deadlines for the next three Lunar Chronicles books, and that she knows exactly where each sequel is going.

“Each of the remaining books is based on a different fairy tale—Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White—though Cinder will continue to be the main star of all the books,” Meyer says. “However, the story splits off and starts following new heroines as well, until all the paths intertwine, and they must join forces to fight their common enemy, the Lunar Queen.”

The second book, Scarlet, is set to release next February. Until then, Meyer is happy to squeeze in whatever writing time she can at her Tacoma, Wash., home, where she lives with her husband and three cats. And, of course, enjoy the fairy tale that is currently her real life.

“On the day my book launched,” Meyer recalls, “a girl I had never met—she was probably 11 or 12—was waiting in line to have her book signed. When she got to me, she was literally shaking with excitement and said, ‘This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.’ ” Meyer pauses as she remembers her response: “All I could say was, ‘Me, too.’ ”