A.C. Wise is not the first author to put her own spin on J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan stories, and she won’t be the last. But as she explains in the following email interview about Hooked (paperback, Kindle), the companion to her previous Peter Pan novel Wendy, Darling, this sequel / prequel / sidequel does have one thing the rest never will: A.C.’s unique perspective.
Photo Credit: Steve Schultz
To start, what is Hooked about, and how is it connected to the original Peter Pan stories by J.M. Barrie? Is it a reworking, an unofficial sequel, what?
I suppose it’s not terribly helpful to say “all of the above”? Hooked is sort of a sequel / prequel / sidequel / reworking of the original Peter Pan stories by J.M. Barrie, while also being a sequel / preque / sidequel / companion book to my first novel, Wendy, Darling. Confused yet? Good.
Essentially, Wendy, Darling reimagines the story of Peter Pan, and follows what happened to Wendy after her time in Neverland. Spoiler: things do not go well for her. Hooked does something similar for Captain Hook, looking at his time in Neverland and his life in London after he manages to escape Neverland. But much like Peter himself, Neverland tends to be grabby with the things and people it considers its belongings, and it doesn’t quite want to let Hook, or Wendy, go. When something dangerous from Neverland crosses over into London, Hook, Wendy, and Wendy’s daughter Jane, have work together to set things right.
Peter Pan has been the subject of a number of retellings and unofficial sequels. What makes yours different?
I won’t claim to be wholly unique of course, but I think there are fewer (not zero) re-imaginings that focus on Wendy than those focusing on Peter. While Hooked does focus more on Captain Hook, Wendy and her daughter Jane are still central character.
I suppose what also makes it different is that it was written by me. Every author who has taken on Peter Pan and his world has their own unique vision and puts a slightly different spin on it. If I recall correctly, even Barrie himself wrote slightly different versions of Peter between the short stories, the play, and the novels, so re-inventing the character and the world are embedded right in Peter Pan’s roots.
When in the process of writing Wendy, Darling did you come up with the idea for Hooked, and where did the idea come from?
If I have my own timeline correct, which is never a guarantee, I believe I had the idea for Hooked soon after I finished the draft of Wendy, Darling, but before anyone had agreed to publish it yet. I scribbled down a few ideas, decided it might be silly to write a sequel to a book that wasn’t even a book yet, and set it aside to work on other projects. Then, during the editing phase for Wendy, Darling, my editor at Titan started asking questions about Captain Hook, which turned into “you know…I could write you a whole other book answering those questions if you want,” Luckily, she was totally on board with that idea.
And how often did this same editor try to get you to call the book, Hook, Honey?
Funny you should say that, because during the drafting phase, I jokingly titled the book Captain, Dear, just to amuse myself. And it still amuses me, gosh darn it. I consider it the novel’s second secret title. I do quite like Hook, Honey, too though. Maybe the book needs a third secret title.
Hooked sounds like it’s a fantasy novel. Is that how you’d describe it?
I’d say fantasy or dark fantasy would be an apt description, with some leanings toward horror. I wouldn’t call it pure horror, though there are horror elements. I think there are some people who might think of me primarily as a horror author, so I usually try to add fantasy / dark fantasy as a description to set expectations accordingly. At the same time, I throw the horror descriptor in as well so no one ends up unpleasantly surprised if they were expecting pure fantasy.
As I mentioned, Hooked is your second book after Wendy, Darling. Are there any writers, or maybe specific stories, that had a particularly big influence on Hooked but not on Wendy? Or, for that matter, anything else you’ve written?
I’d say yes, but with the qualifier of it being somewhat aspirational on my part. C.L. Polk’s Witchmark does such a brilliant job of slowly building the relationship between its two main characters. I wanted to do something similar with the relationship between my two main characters in Hooked, but I don’t know if I got anywhere close to pulling it off as elegantly or effectively. So, like I said, aspirational inspiration.
How about non-literary influences; was Hooked influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
Another one that possibly needs the qualifier of being aspirational. I’m fascinated by “useful monsters,” by which I mean characters who tend to be violent or monstrous (whether they like that violence and monstrousness or not) in ways that can useful to the characters around them. Characters like Wolverine in the various iterations of X-Men and Kimiko in The Boys have both literally been referred to as weapons and “used” by other characters to remove obstacles in their way. Similarly, characters like Tony Soprano, Hannibal Lecter, and Dexter Morgan have people in their lives who occasionally find it useful to have a monstrous killer at least temporarily “on their side,” even if they feel conflicted about taking advantage of said monster’s particular skills, as it were. My version of Hook definitely has his “useful monster” moments, and many of the characters I mentioned were in the back of my mind as I played around with that idea. Once again though, I qualify it as aspirational inspiration, as those are all such iconic characters.
We’ve been talking about how Wendy, Darling and Hooked are companion novels. But are they the first two books in a series, do they form a duology…?
Hooked and Wendy, Darling from a duology, or a pair of companion books at least. I don’t have plans to write any other novels set in this world, though I will say there is a short story I’m working on for a Titan anthology in which Tinkerbell features as a character. The story itself is very disconnected from the two books, and is absolutely meant to stand alone, but in my mind, they exist in the same world and have roots in the same version of Neverland, if that makes sense.
With Wendy, Darling and Hooked being companions, some people may decide to read them back-to-back. Do you think this is the best way to experience this story?
Back-to-back would be a pretty good way to experience these two books to my mind. Both books are about characters trying to find a way to heal from trauma, specifically trauma caused by Neverland. In Hooked, I wanted to give Wendy’s daughter Jane her moment to reckon with and confront Neverland the same way Wendy had the opportunity to reckon with and confront it in Wendy, Darling. Reading the two books back-to-back is also an opportunity for readers to contrast the characters of Wendy and Jane, and the difference in their attitudes and approaches to Neverland. I’m not saying readers / potential readers have to approach the books that way, but I think it would add to the experience.
Earlier I asked if Hooked had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But I’d like to flip things around, if I may, and ask if you think Hooked could work as a movie, show, or game?
I think Hooked would be amazing as a movie or TV show, and I would love to see it adapted. Of course, if someone wanted to make it into a game, that would be incredible as well.
And then who would you want them to cast as Hook and Wendy and the other main characters if it was a movie, show, or game, and if it was the latter, what kind of game should it be?
While I would consider myself a casual gamer, I don’t feel as qualified to speak about the way my story might translate into satisfying gameplay,. But in terms of the movie or show, I could see someone like Emily Blunt or Kate Winslet as Wendy. As for James, I love the idea of Ian McShane playing the older version and James McAvoy playing the younger version. That said, with digital de-aging being all the rage in movies and TV shows now, I could absolutely see Ian McShane playing both versions and being brilliant. I’m not sure who I would cast in the other roles. Really, the clearest dream casting in my head is Ian McShane playing some version of James / Hook.
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Hooked?
It’s queer, it’s dark, it’s bloody, and it’s fun. At least, I had fun writing it, so I hope people have fun reading it. There are some good old fashioned scenery chewing moments, but also some quiet and tender moments, so my hope is that it will appeal to a variety of readers and reading moods.
Finally, if someone enjoys Hooked, what novel of someone else’s that’s a retelling or unofficial sequel to some famous story would you suggest they read next?
I adored The Chosen And The Beautiful by Nghi Vo, which came out last year. It’s a re-imagining of The Great Gatsby that is queer and magical and dark. It honors the spirit of the original, while adding depth to it, and it is absolutely gorgeously-written. It was one of my favorite reads last year, and I would recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone and everyone who likes re-told classics. Actually, I would recommend it to anyone and everyone, full stop. It’s just that good.