Looking Glass Wars fantasy author comes to O.C.

Writer Frank Beddor will be at the O.C. Children's Book Festival on Sunday.

By PETER LARSEN

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

In Frank Beddor's reimagining of "Alice in Wonderland," the Cat is loosely based on the original Chesire Cat, but here is more or less a hitman -- hit-cat? -- who hunts down the heroine of the tale.

The story of how Frank Beddor came to write the Looking Glass Wars trilogy begins like a movie – only appropriate, given that before the books Beddor had mostly worked in Hollywood.

He'd produced the hit comedy, "There's Something About Mary," and was in London for the British premiere, when one day he found himself wandering through an exhibit of ancient playing cards at the British Museum, or so the story goes.

"At the end of the exhibit was an incomplete deck of cards," Beddor says of that moment. "And it had this art that reminded me of the work of Lewis Carroll and 'Alice In Wonderland.'"

A tip led him to an antiquities dealer, a fellow named Buffington, who pulled out an old box that contained more of that dark and enticing deck, and told him, as he turned the cards, the story of the real Wonderland depicted on each one.

"The story this guy told me was the jumping off spot for my story," says Beddor, who used that inspiration as to create not just the Looking Glass Trilogy – the last of which is published this month – but an ongoing graphic novel series called Hatter M, too.

Beddor will talk about the books and all their offshoot projects – including two movies he's now developing – when he appears at the Orange County Children's Book Festival at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa at 11:15 a.m. Sunday.

The story that unfolds in "The Looking Glass Wars," "Seeing Redd" and "Arch Enemy," the final book in the series which arrives Oct. 15, is that the Alice In Wonderland stories we all grew up reading are fiction, but the characters and events beneath the fiction were real.

Taking the characters created by Lewis Carroll, Beddor invents an entirely new world and story: Alyss – as her name is spelled in the "real" story, and her bodyguard Hatter Madigan flee Wonderland after a coup. They become separated, though, and dual quests unfold: Alyss' to stay alive from forces hunting for her, Hatter's to find Alyss and protect her again.

"At the time, I'd just come out of a hit movie, and I thought maybe this would make a great movie," Beddor says of how the books began. "But as I became really attached to it, I just kept thinking a movie would not do it justice." 

He spent several years thinking of the alternative world of Wonderland: how it was structured, how it was governed, and especially, what it and its residents would look like.

To help him visualize it, he took another page from his Hollywood background and hired visual effects artist Doug Chiang, an Oscar winner for "Death Becomes Her," to more or less storyboard the tale as he wrote it.

"There were these card soldiers that transformed into these sort of metallic soldiers," Beddor says. "And I was thinking, 'What would these soldiers look like?'"

Chiang sent him sketches, which Beddor loved.

"I said, 'Wow, this is great,'" he said. "'What would the Valley of Mushrooms look like?' It just started in this organic way and it was a really fun way to collaborate. "I loved showing up Monday in my office and having a piece of art," Beddor says. "It would just kick start me."

Getting the books published, though, was a different story. He tried pitching it like a movie – finding the highest-ranking executives he could at publishing houses – and while those pitches often got good responses, finding an editor to take it on proved fruitless.

"There were a lot of no, no, no's," he says. "With, 'No one will read this book because it's a retelling of a classic,' or, 'You'll only get the 'Alice in Wonderland' fans.'

Finally, a British editor heard his pitch and liked how he told the story.

'"She said, 'If the writing is as good as the story telling, I'm going to buy this book," Beddor says.

In 2004, the first volume appeared in the United Kingdom, where its success finally got him an American publisher – a branch of Penguin, which had earlier repeatedly rejected the manuscript.

In 2005, the parallel story lines of the Hatter M series – the bodyguard's quest to find Alyss – appeared as a graphic novel also titled "The Looking Glass Wars." The second volume of that series, "Mad With Wonder," also arrives on Oct. 15.

Beddor says he is developing scripts for movies based on both series. Producer Chuck Roven, whose movies include "The Dark Knight" and "Get Smart," and agent Ari Emmanuel are both attached to the projects, which are now going out to prospective directors.

The world-creating side of the books also is popping up in other projects now, too, he says. "I hadn't been working on other (movie) projects because of the Looking Glass War and the remaining stories of Alyss," Beddor says. "But then I was approached to do the same thing for Monopoly. Hasbro was looking for a story to turn their board game into a movie."

He came up with a story set in a Monopoly-themed world – a lovable loser lives mostly to play epic games of Monopoly, wakes up one day clutching a Chance card and walks out to discover that he's living in Monopoly City, where Monopoly money is the currency of the land and he is needed to defeat the schemes of the evil Parker Brothers.

"I pitched that to Ridley Scott and he stops me and says, 'What do I have to do to be on this movie?'" Beddor says. "I almost started laughing: 'You want to do this movie?' And then he launches into all these stories about how he and his brothers grew up playing Monopoly all the time."

Scott, in fact, did sign on to direct the project, and Pamela Pettler, the screenwriter who wrote "Corpse Bride" and "Monster House," is working on a formal script for the Monopoly movie now. "It's kind of a puzzle," Beddor says of creating new worlds. "What are the rules? What's the logic? But you have to get to the characters. 

"You've got to create a world in space," he says of the Looking Glass Wars, the Monopoly story and another movie project he's trying to sell at present. "But it's all about the characters."

"Seeing Redd" is the second in the Looking Glass Wars trilogy. Redd is the evil aunt
of Alyss, who seizes the throne and seeks to eliminate her niece from any rivalry.
The Everlasting Forest from the Looking Glass Wars series.
The Millinery from Frank Beddor's Looking Glass Wars series.
Frank Beddor worked in the movie business for years, and found big success as producer of the comedy "There's Something About Mary." But in recent years, he's focused on his reimaging of the Alice in Wonderland tales in a series he calls the Looking Glass Wars.
"Arch Enemy" is the final book in the Looking Glass Wars trilogy by Frank Beddor.
"Mad With Wonder" is the second graphic novel in Frank Beddor's Hatter M series
Alyss' destiny in the Looking Glass Wars series is to eventually become Queen
Alyss of Wonderland.
The House of Hearts is the royal family of Wonderland.

Variety exclusive on Frank’s four upcoming projects

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The Mad Hatter prevails! Author Frank Beddor sizes up an icon

Bestselling author Frank Beddor knows the landscape of Wonderland as

the creator of the "Looking Glass Wars" series of novels and the "Hatter

M" graphic novels. Today, as Disney basks in the glow of a $210-million

opening weekend of Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," Beddor

considers the pop-culture persistence of the Mad Hatter.

Riddle: When is a Hatter NOT Mad?

Shatterpated! Barmy! Raving! Amok! Berserk!

I love the smell of madness in the morning. The popularity of "Alice in Wonderland" has endured for nearly 150 years and been read by generations, so it understandably captures a large part of our shared imaginative history. And it’s not just books, film and television that riff on Alice and Wonderland, but music, clothing lines, nightclubs, games, toys etc. etc. etc.

Across the pop culture spectrum, from artists and musicians to ad agencies

and Internet moguls, tastemakers are tapping into our shared imaginative

history of the Alice iconography to capture their audience. Although Alice

certainly gets top billing, there would be a strong argument for an even

deeper psychic attachment to … the Mad Hatter.

It seems Alice gets the girls, the dreamers and the fairy-tale fanatics, but the Mad Hatter attracts a more raffish contingency of nose-thumbing social heretics who see the character as an icon of anti-authoritarianism and sartorial splendor.

Despite his moonstruck popularity, history is somewhat bent on the origin

of the Hatter and his infamous mental state. The Hatter was a fictional character introduced at a tea party in Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." And although he was almost immediately referred to as the "Mad Hatter," he was never called by this name in Carroll's book.

The Hatter is introduced in Chapter VII, "A Mad Tea-Party," in which he asks Alice the famous riddle: "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" When Alice gives up, the Hatter admits he does not have an answer himself. How mad!

Minstrel outlaw Tom Petty donned the Wonderland madman’s costume for his 1985 music video "Don’t Come Around Here No More" and Tom Waits sings ”mad as a hatter/thin as a dime.” Bars and pubs and watering holes around the globe proclaim themselves to be an outpost of madness by adopting the name of (arguably) history’s most mad character. Racehorses and restaurants … a certain inmate of Arkham Asylum … all mad as hatters.

It seems from all this that the general populace is actually quite dazzled by all things MAD.


Is it the social freedom that the Mad appear to enjoy? Freedom from petty constraints, the herd state and dress codes can be a lure to many individuals. But not to the timid. The timid seem to me to be anything but mad, which is why I so vehemently disagree with the consensus by some that the Mad Hatter’s mental state was induced by inhaling the mercury fumes that were part of the trade of 19th century hat makers.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning include excessive timidity, diffidence, increasing shyness, loss of self-confidence, anxiety, and a desire to remain unobserved and unobtrusive. WHAT? Nothing MAD about all that. So then… when is a Hatter NOT Mad?

When he is FURIOUS.

With full disclosure I must admit to a strong alliance with a Hatter whose "madness" manifests as an obsessive, single-minded, all-consuming mania to traverse our world in search of Wonderland’s lost princess. Many of those he meets along the way certainly consider him to be mad. What is this man in the Hat babbling about? A lost princess named Alyss? His loyalty to White Imagination? A puddle where no puddle should be! Lock him up!

But in between the timid, the toe-the-liners and the practical observers of life, he meets those who dare to believe him, who sense the truth of his mission and the beauty of his cause. And to all of those … I must tip my hat. One last riddle: Why must individuality be labeled a disease? Answer: Because it is dangerous.

Madly yours,

Frank Beddor

Author Frank Beddor joins FOX 13 Salt Lake City to preview his upcoming novel

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