It’s been almost a year since eighteen-year-old Ella Rodriguez was in a car accident that left her crippled, scarred, and without a mother. After a very difficult recovery, she’s been uprooted across the country and forced into the custody of a father that abandoned her when she was a young child. If Ella wants to escape her father’s home and her awful new stepfamily, she must convince her doctors that she’s capable, both physically and emotionally, of living on her own. The problem is, she’s not ready yet. The only way she can think of to start healing is by reconnecting with the one person left in the world who’s ever meant anything to her—her anonymous Internet best friend, Cinder.
Hollywood sensation Brian Oliver has a reputation for being trouble. There’s major buzz around his performance in his upcoming film The Druid Prince, but his management team says he won’t make the transition from teen heartthrob to serious A-list actor unless he can prove he’s left his wild days behind and become a mature adult. In order to douse the flames on Brian’s bad-boy reputation, his management stages a fake engagement for him to his co-star Kaylee. Brian isn’t thrilled with the arrangement—or his fake fiancée—but decides he’ll suffer through it if it means he’ll get an Oscar nomination. Then a surprise email from an old Internet friend changes everything.
I’m color coding! My questions are in normal black and Kelly’s responses are in pink.
1. Was there any music that inspired Cinder & Ella or helped you in the writing process?
I can’t write with music on. It’s too distracting for me. But I usually have some sort of playlist for each book I write. It’s just a list of songs that remind me of the book or certain characters. I have quite a long playlist for Cinder & Ella. I won’t list all the songs here, but I’ll tell you the one song that I’ve adopted as Brian & Ella’s song. It’s Parachute by Train. If you get a chance, listen to it. Both the lyrics and the tone of the song sort of sum up Brian and Ella’s relationship for me.
What was your favorite scene to write in Cinder & Ella?
There were several scenes that I had a lot of fun with, but my favorite is definitely the scene where Brian and Ella meet for the first time. I don’t want to give anything away, but it was a lot of fun. It doesn’t happen right away because their relationship is an anonymous online relationship, so was really excited to finally get to that point in the book. I think the readers will enjoy it too because of all the anticipation building up to it.
What was the hardest scene to write in Cinder & Ella?
This is a tough question because scenes can be hard to write for a lot of different reasons. I’m not sure I can narrow it down to one. I had trouble with the stepmom’s character at first. I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to portray her for a while so all of the scenes with her in them were difficult and came out very flat. I had to go back and rewrite her plotline several times.
Cinder is a young actor. Was there any particular Hollywood inspiration for his character?
No. Not specifically. I just sort of pulled from all the young celebrities you hear about in the media—Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Zac Effron… I can imagine it’s difficult for them, and I remember what it was like to be that age. I don’t think I could have survived fame.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Two things: read and write. First, read a lot. Anything and everything you can get your hands on. You’d be surprised how much you will absorb subconsciously. Second, write, write, and write some more. Like any skill, hobby or talent, practice makes perfect.
What do you enjoy writing more: series or stand-alone?
I definitely prefer stand-alones. It takes a long time to write a book. Months and months of your life. Start piling sequels on top of that and before you know it years have gone by with the same story. It’s easy to get tired of a set of characters. I always have a stand-alone in the works at the same time as the series I work on because I need to be able to change it up. I need new and fresh. There’s also a certain amount of pressure in writing sequels—preset expectations. People will hold you to a higher standard and have an idea of how they think a story should play out. It’s a bit daunting when you sit there staring at the blank screen knowing you have to write the end to a series that people already love and have been waiting years for. It’s not my favorite thing in the world.
What is the hardest part of the writing process?
Being patient, and not giving up when something isn’t working. Your first instinct is to write the first thing that pops into your head, but that’s usually the most cliché way of doing something. And then when you have a first draft done, you want to feel like you’re finished, but you’re actually far far far from the finish line. You want to share it with people, so waiting to make sure you’ve done it right is hard. But it’s necessary!
What is the best part of the writing process?
Being able to create. I am a very imaginative person. There are always a ton of ideas, scenes, and characters fighting for attention in my brain. I love being able to put those thoughts down on paper and watch something solid take shape. I love ending up with a story that I can read and love, and having characters that I can cherish.
What is your favorite Cinderella retelling?
Well I have a favorite book and a favorite movie. For the book, it’s Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer. This is a very cute YA contemporary retelling. I loved the characters and just had fun while reading it. Movie wise I have to go with the Hillary Duff movie, A Cinderella Story. This is again, just too much fun. Hillary is always cute, Jennifer Coolidge is hilarious and hello…Chad Michael Murray? Yes please!
What’s your favorite writing snack?
This is a truly important question. Writers actually get very set in their snacking ways. For me it’s popcorn (original butter and salt flavor), Diet Coke, and Sour Patch Kids. Healthy, I know, but it’s like religion for me. I need my brain food to write!
What made you want to write a Cinderella retelling out of all the other fairy tales?
Easy. Cinderella has always been my favorite fairy tale. I’ve always known I would write one, it was just a matter of figuring out the way I wanted to do it.
Are you planning on writing any other fairy tale retelling?
It’s a possibility. I have one story that I’m already plotting. There are clues to which fairy tale it is in Cinder & Ella. If you’re paying attention when you read it, you figure it out! But I also have a lot on my plate right now and might not be able to get to it. I’ve got SIX works in progress right now, and my top priority is finishing up both my Jamie Baker series and my Supernaturals series. If I can get those done I might take a look at some more fairy tales. (Assuming no other new story else has consumed my brain by then…)
Ella’s life was going relatively well. She had a loving mother, a successful book and movie review blog, and Cinder, her internet bestie. A terrible car accident changed all that. Now she is forced to live with the father who abandoned her and his new wife and her children. Even though she is legally old enough to decide for herself, she has no say in the matter. Her injuries from the crash were severe and before she can be allowed to live on her own, she has to prove she is ready for it. Her first step? Reconnect with Cinder. Cinder, AKA hot Hollywood actor Brian Oliver, has a reputation for trouble. His PR team thinks the only way he can be taken seriously as an actor is if the world believes he has settled down a bit. From that, a scheme is born. Fake an engagement with his current co-star is the perfect solution. He’s not happy, but willing to go along, at least until he receives an email from a long lost friend that changes everything.
Ella has the worst luck in the beginning of this novel, or for the most part really. The loss of her mother is bad enough, especially considering how close they were. Add to that, her crippling injuries and the sting of having to live with the woman her dad abandoned her for, and I’m almost surprised she was never truly suicidal. Her relationship with her dad is awkward and rocky to start with, her step-mom seems kinda clueless, and her step-sisters are downright cruel. She has lost everything important to her in one fell swoop and it’s difficult to be optimistic after that. When she emails Cinder, she isn’t expecting much and she is blown away by his response. As their relationship rekindles, she comes a bit more out of her shell. I really loved her and felt bad for her. The scene where she learns her dad donated all her books hit me almost as hard as it hit her. You did what? How could you? How does anyone look at books and think “mmhmm…these can’t be that important to anyone”?
Maybe I’m not normal, but when I see someone’s book collection, that would be the last thought that would enter my mind. Books are precious and especially ones with memories attached to them. I just wanted to hug her and help her and make things better.
Cinder/Brian was a character I didn’t initially love. I realize I have no idea how Hollywood works, but I hated the idea that he would be okay with fake-marrying someone as a publicity stunt. I realize that shit probably does happen, but I can’t get behind it. After we get over that hiccup, though, I loved him. I loved his devotion to Ella and his love for The Cinder Chronicles. Honestly, I’d love any guy passionate enough about a book series to argue with a blogger over it and then fight to play the role in the film adaptation.
Speaking of The Cinder Chronicles, is it real? It’s not, because I did an pretty hardcore search online trying to find it, but can it be? Kelly?
Can you make that happen? Can we have an epic spin-off of this? I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. I think it would be a roaring success. That’s just something for you to think about because I’d seriously love to get my hands on it. It sounds awesome.
I loved the dynamic between
Cinder Brian and Ella. I loved their banter and their ability to be there when the other needs it most. I’ve always been sketchy about internet relationships, but this is far from the typical scenario. They didn’t meet in a chatroom or through a weird find-an-internet-buddy site. She wrote a review online and Cinder Brian was riled up enough by it to comment and the resulting argument spurred on the continual contact.****MINOR SPOILER****I was a little surprised that Ella never recognizes his voice once they progress to phone conversations. She has seen his films and knows of him as an actor, so I was expecting at least a minor, he sounds vaguely familiar moment. I recognize voices a lot more than faces, especially in films. I’ll hear someone and recognize the voice, even if the face is unfamiliar. I think Ella should have at least questioned it, because I doubt the distortion of a phone would mask it completely****END SPOILER****
What I (surprisingly) loved was the family relationship. Things are far from perfect, but the further into the story you get, the more you realize that there is no easy answer. Daddy dearest did abandon Ella. Step-Mom is clueless, but she is genuinely trying to help. The step-sisters are both anger at her for different reasons. Anastasia and Juliette (the step-sisters) are mean, but they both have their reasons. It’s clear that as much as I want this to wrap up in a fairy tale way, with the step-family just being the bad guys, that’s not how it’s going to happen. Oram does one step better and humanizes everyone. Even when you hate her family, you can’t help but feel the stress she is putting on their lives.
This is the first of Oram’s novels I’ve read and I can truly say I’m desperate for me. When I started this, I was expecting a cute, fluffy Cinderella retelling and we definitely get that, but we also get so much more. This novel was unputdownable (I know, that’s not a word, but it should be). I was hooked from page one and it physically pained me when I had to put it down for real-life things (you know, work, food, bathroom breaks). It has the perfect balance of heartbreaking and heartwarming. It manages to make you laugh and cry in equal amounts. This is now officially my favorite Cinderella retelling and I hope you all love it as much as I did!
****Thank you to Kelly Oram for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review****
Kelly Oram wrote her first novel at age fifteen—a fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which her family and friends still tease her. She’s obsessed with reading, talks way too much, and likes to eat frosting by the spoonful. She lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, four children, and her cat named Mr. Darcy.