Today, the Teen Press Corps has an exclusive interview with Colleen Oakes- the author of one of our favorite books titled Queen Of Hearts! We got to sit down and chat with the author and dive into the world of Wonderland and everything bookish!
~Interviewed by Evelyn & Ta’Necia
Colleen: “Well, I was driving my car to the mall, actually and I saw a poster of Alice & Wonderland Ballet and I started thinking of Alice & Wonderland and I just kind of thought why is that queen so angry?You know, why is she so pissed all the time? And I started thinking, well, love–because that would be the only thing that will do that. So I just started thinking about it and I was like that would be a great story! So, I started thinking how to translate the original version of wonderland from the original text into my new wonderland. And I knew right away that I wanted it to be a really good villain story about a girl who does bad things. I feel like that is kind of lacking in literature and pop culture in general- girls just don’t get to be villains very often so I would like to change that.
Was it hard mixing your own character traits with the original characters from Alice in Wonderland?
“Well, I decided I didn’t want talking animals- that was just too far into fantasy for me- so I took their traits and put them into human characters. I just kind of translated them and kind of adjusted their characters to fit into my wonderland.”
What would you say influenced you most from the original Wonderland stories and why?
“When I went and read the original books, I was surprised to read them as an adult that their all about politics, their so much darker and complex than you remember them being when you were a child. My memories of reading it as a child are mixed with the (Disney) movie, and so it was interesting to just read the book and have that reference to start with and their so political that I really wanted that to be apart of the book.”
“I would say the hardest part about writing it would be the logistics I had to figure out in the final book-which I won’t talk about- and just laying out the characters and knowing what happens to Dinah. I also thought it was hard to figure out how to create a villain who grows to be a villain but also how do you make them likable? To make you want to root for them even though you know they are becoming this villain- a person who does very bad things and kills a lot of people. How do you find empathy for a person like that? I felt like the answer to that was that I needed to see her story from the beginning. The question of how do we become & progress as a villain was an interesting question.”
There have been a lot of books based off of Alice in Wonderland. What makes Queen Of Hearts so different than the others?
“I would say that it’s about the villain, and a side character who doesn’t really get her own story. I would say that it’s much more an epic-serious read than fun and whimsical. This one is about a villain; it’s dark; and it’s not going to be afraid to make her a villain with a capital V- I’m not gonna soften her up!”
“I trace out my character arcs, so at the beginning they will be this way and at the end I want them to be this way. In this book I wanted her (Dinah) to start off as the spoiled brat and sort of end up on her own, wondering about everything that made up her whole life and realizing that she sat on a pillow and had tarts fed to her on this ugly back of wonderland, to her now learning to survive on her own-which you will see more of in the second book. How does a princess survive in the wild? It’s not something that comes naturally- it’s something you have to grow into. I liked seeing her growth throughout the story.”
Once this series is finished, are you going to be doing more books based off other Disney or Fairy tales?
“I have another series about Wendy Darling from Peter Pan. I’m really interested in side characters because I feel like side characters have their own back-story, like we all do- no one is a side character in their own life. I’m finishing up Wendy Darling and after that I know which character I want to do next but I’m kind-of holding my cards about that. I’m also writing a young adult contemporary novel right now that actually might take place in Texas. I drove around today through haunted Austin to kind of get some inspiration, but it was actually supposed to be set in Dallas, but I thinking I might change the setting to Austin. I can’t spill too much, but it’s about vigilante justice and teenage girls.”
If you could take a never-ending journey through any book- what book would it be, and why?
*Sigh*. . . we all want to go to Hogwarts-like all the time, but I love Narnia too. I love the Narnia world because theirs something wonderful and inspiring and good about Narnia that I love. I could ride my horse with Lucian and Peter forever *giggles*.
About the Author
Colleen Oakes is the author of the Elly in Bloom Series, the Wendy Darling Series and the upcoming YA fantasy Queen of Hearts Saga (Harper Collins Summer 2016.) She lives in North Denver with her husband and son. When not writing, Colleen enjoys swimming, traveling, and immersing herself in nerdy pop culture. She has two tiny dogs and an Underwood typewriter. Colleen is currently at work on the final Elly novel and her third YA fantasy series.
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