Just as there’s been many retellings of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, there have also been many stories about what happened to Peter after that classic fairy tale. But writer Gama Ray Martinez is taking a different approach with his by making his fairy tale fantasy novel God Of Neverland (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook) be not about Peter, but instead about Michael Darling. In the following email interview, Martinez explains why he wanted to tell Michael’s tale, and what influenced this story.
For people unfamiliar with Peter Pan — because they’ve been living on the Moon…in a cave…with their fingers in their ears — what is it about?
Peter Pan is about three children who get taken to a magical land by a boy who never grows up. While there, they have many adventures, including fighting pirates and seeing mermaids.
And then what is God Of Neverland about, when and where does it take place, and how does it put a different spin on Peter Pan?
God Of Neverland is set 20 years after Peter Pan. Michael Darling, the youngest of the children who went to Neverland, is all grown up, and he has to go back to Neverland to save Peter, who has gone missing. And in doing so, Michael rediscover his own childhood.
God Of Neverland is not the first time someone’s put their own spin on Peter Pan. What makes yours different?
Peter is not a main character. Saving him is the goal, but this isn’t about him. It’s about what happened to those who went with him, and how their adventure as children changed them.
So, did you set out to write a sequel to Peter Pan or did you start writing God Of Neverland and realize you were either inadvertently writing a Peter Pan sequel or that it could be turned into that very easily?
I set out with this in mind. I was listening to the audio book, and when I got to the epilogue, it talked about what happened to all of the lost boys. It said that Michael grew up to be a train engineer, and that he was the last one, aside from Wendy, to stop believing. It just struck me that there had to be a lot more to his story.
Peter Pan is a fairy tale-esque fantasy story. Is God Of Neverland one as well?
Yes and no. It definitely has elements that are very deliberately placed, but it’s also an adult having an almost outside view of a fairy tale, and what he thinks about it.
Now, unless I’ve miscounted, God Of Neverland is your twenty-first novel. Are there any writers, or specific stories — aside from Peter Pan, of course — that had a particularly big influence on God Of Neverland but not on anything else you’ve written?
I drew a lot from Arthurian legend. The organization that Michael belongs to is said to be the successors of The Knights Of The Round Table, and Peter’s true identity has its basis in that legend as well. There is a fair amount of naval stuff in this book, and for that, I tried to capture some of magic that I first encountered in Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books.
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games; did any of them have a particularly big influence on God Of Neverland? Because there’s been a lot of different versions of Peter Pan.
I actually tried to avoid being influenced by the different version of Peter Pan so that I wouldn’t inadvertently copy something that was not a part of the original and that wasn’t under the public domain. Pirates Of The Caribbean was a movie that I watched a couple of times, particularly to help get the right feel for some of the pirate scenes.
Now, the cover of God Of Neverland says it’s, “A Defenders Of The Lore Novel.” Is the Defenders Of The Lore series going to be sequels to Neverland or will it be similar takes on other classic fairy tales?
It’s a little of both, actually. The next book, Queens Of Wonderland is told from the point of view of Vanessa, one of Michael’s companions, as they go into Wonderland. But in the future, I would like to explore Oz, and then maybe some African or Australian stories.
As I mentioned earlier, Peter Pan has inspired a lot of movies, TV shows, and games. Do you think God Of Neverland could also work as a movie, show, or game?
I’m on the fence about whether it would work best as a TV show or a movie. Naturally, there’s a part of me that would like to see it as a show with a one season per book treatment, but a movie may actually be better.
And if either happened, who would you want them to cast as Michael and the other main characters?
For Michael, Paul Rudd [Ant-Man]. For Peter, Maponos Maxwell Jenkins [Lost In Space]. And Vanessa would be Hailey Atwell; Peggy Carter was actually a big inspiration for her. For Will, I would cast Jude Law [Sherlock Holmes].
Finally, if someone enjoys God Of Neverland, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next?
Nova Dragon. Similar to God Of Neverland, that one draws from old stories tells them in new ways. In that case, the old stories are the classic tales of elves and dwarves, only these stories are in space.