What Does Skiing Have to Do With “There’s Something About Mary”?

Almost 30 years ago I was on a chairlift with Dylan Sellers, then an executive at Fox, ascending the slopes overlooking the Sundance Film Festival. I started telling Dylan about a screenplay written by my friends, John Strauss and Ed Decter. It was a comedy about a man who hires a private investigator to find his high school dream girl and it was absolutely hysterical. When we got off the lift Dylan said, “Let’s make this movie.” That movie was There’s Something About Mary

Rereading Christine Dietzel’s piece in Teton Gravity brought back all those wonderful memories of how my skiing career opened a door to the entertainment industry. My success in the skiing world led to work as a stunt skier in films such as “Hotdog! The Movie” and the black comedy “Better Off Dead” starring John Cusack. This led to acting roles and forming relationships with a variety of talented filmmakers. The origins of There’s Something About Mary took place on the slopes (and chairlifts) of Sundance. The thriller I produced, Wicked, garnered rave reviews after its Sundance screening and helped launch the career of our star Julia Stiles. 

Christine’s captivating writing made this an enjoyable rabbit hole to revisit. Read the full piece below or click here for the original version. 

The Women of Hatter Madigan

Put to rest any delusions or disinformation you may have of the tea-guzzling madman of Alice in Wonderland and prepare to expand your consciousness with the story of the real Mad Hatter and his relentless search for Alyss, the lost Princess of Wonderland. In The Looking Glass Wars, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan was ordered by Queen Genevieve to take Princess Alyss and leave Wonderland after a bloody palace coup staged by the murderous Redd. But while escaping through the Pool of Tears (the portal from Wonderland to our world), crushing centrifugal force pulled them apart. Hatter finds himself in Paris in 1859, shockingly separated from the child he had been sworn to protect. Crisscrossing the globe for 13 years in search of the princess, Hatter was aided by some of our world’s smartest and bravest women. These characters form the “syndicate” of women around the globe who have met this mysterious, gallant, stoic, otherworldly, and relentless bodyguard. Each vowed to assist him in finding Alyss and serving Light Imagination.


Hatter M – Book 1 – Far from Wonder

Illustration of Magda Pushikin in a black dress with jewelry by artist Ben Templesmith.

Magda Pushikin – An ambitious reporter covering Budapest.
Location: Moscow

A glamorous and pushy Russian newswoman determined to track Hatter Madigan and uncover his mission. During her sleuthing, she and Hatter end up joining forces to rescue a group of schoolgirls including Girl 42 – a seemingly deranged and uncontrollable child with an uncanny ability to channel other people’s thoughts, Wonderland, and blue butterflies. 

All are imprisoned in a sketchy orphanage run by proponents of Dark Imagination

Magda forms an unbreakable bond with Hatter and promises to help him with his search for Alyss in any way she can.

Hatter M – Book 2 – Mad with Wonder

Illustration of Sister Sally, wearing a dress and shaded in pink, from a panel from the graphic novel "Hatter M: Mad with Wonder" by artist Sami Makkonen.

Sister Sally – Bible Belt healer in America’s South
Location: New Orleans

Hatter learns of this glowing girl and her mission for mankind and believes she may be the lost Alyss. He tracks her down only to see her snatched by a local slave trader/soul stealer (Van de Skulle) with ties to Redd’s Wonderland. Hatter rescues Sister Sally and a strong alliance is formed. She owes Hatter her ‘soul’ and is determined to be a faithful friend for as long as he needs her. Sister Sally’s healing abilities are epic and she has a direct line to God. You know you’ve got a good friend when they’re a friend of Jesus!  Amen.

Hatter M – Book 3 – The Nature of Wonder

Triptych panel from the graphic novel "Hatter M: The Nature of Wonder" by artist Sami Makkonen, featuring Philomena Ark in a blue uniform wielding a pink rayrifle.

Philomena Ark – Civil War Intelligence Agent
Location: Washington D.C.

Philomena, the fierce, pigtailed, inventor of the ray rifle works in the X-Files-styled Illuminated Forces (I.F.), an investigative branch of intelligence dealing with paranormal events. When vials of Dark Imagination are inhaled by the Confederate army in the final days of the Civil War, the Illuminated Forces are ordered by President Lincoln to find the antidote – Light Imagination. At the same time, Hatter Madigan arrives in Washington D.C. in hopes of discovering the answers to secrets that will lead him to Alyss. Philomena is a hyper-intelligent blend of paranormal investigative genius, romantic teenager, and inventive lab rat. If you need it, Philo can build it. Hatter will rely on her futuristic skill set and loyalty as he navigates the globe.

Sketch of Realm, wearing white robes, from the graphic novel "Hatter M: The Nature of Wonder" by artist Sami Makkonen.

Realm – Shaman of the White Flower Tribe
Location: Secret caves within the Grand Canyon

Hatter discovers Realm and her people after the Illuminated Forces airship piloted by Philomena Ark is blown out of the sky by a hail of burning arrows launched by the White Flower tribe.

Near death, Hatter’s life is saved by Realm in a sweat lodge ceremony that reveals her distant ties to Wonderland’s Queens. Realm and Hatter are drawn together by their exceptional qualities of duty and service to others. Attacked by the United States army, Realm and her tribe are forced into hiding in the Grand Canyon. Hatter assists the tribe in escaping and Realm is forever grateful. Her mystic abilities to astral project, shapeshift and distill the rare substance known as Light Imagination from the scent of her tribe’s namesake White Flower render her a formidable ally.

Hatter M – Book 4 – Zen of Wonder

Panel from the graphic novel "Hatter M: Zen of Wonder" featuring Nekko, dressed in a yellow kimono lined with blue, sitting cross-legged on a tile roof. By artist Sami Makkonen.

Nekko –   Twelve-year-old Zen Master.
Location: Mountain Top Monastery in Japan.

Hatter meets Nekko on the rooftops of San Francisco after she steals his hat and leads him on a chase to her secret dojo. Nekko recognized Hatter as a searcher in need of guidance and, despite his objections, volunteered her services in his quest for enlightenment. When Hatter meets Nekko, she is in her ‘traveling clothes’ of gangly teenage J-pop Zen adventuress. It is written that when you are ready a teacher will appear, but if that teacher is a 12-year-old girl and you are a high-ranking Bladesman you may discover that all you can do is laugh. Hatter and Nekko’s adventure around the ring of fire begins when they track a stolen samurai sword with a Wonderland connection to San Francisco’s 19th-century hip-hop crime madam Missy Tong and her eager protégé, the outspoken Lil’ Dick. In return for her assistance, Hatter acts as Nekko’s bodyguard during her return to a mountain-top Zen monastery in Japan. After Hatter leaves, Nekko shifts back to her essential ‘in-house’ self, the Happy Cat Buddha. Nekko will be available with wisdom and wit, whenever Hatter’s plans become too serious and he needs enlightenment.

Hatter M – Book 5 – Love of Wonder

Collection of four illustrations of Jet Seer against a dark red background by artist Sami Makkonen.

Agent Jet Seer – DNA Runner for 21st Century Bio Corp
Location: Undisclosed

Jet Seer is an agent from a future that needed saving. As a badass time, traveler, she tracked the glow of Imagination throughout history in search of enlightened ones, men, and women whose incredible minds could inspire her timeline – a time where automation, algorithms, and virtual reality have reduced man to a listless and sedentary existence. From Aristotle to Zappa and everyone in between, nothing could stop the incomparable Jet on her quest.

A mix of Egyptian genetics and Lawrence of Arabia style, Jet is discovered by Hatter and Dalton (Hatter’s long-lost brother) in the desert outside Constantinople singlehandedly attacking a slave caravan in search of a mysterious girl. She is a time-traveling DNA runner hired by a mysterious Bio Corp. Hatter realizes they are both seeking Alyss of Wonderland but for very different reasons. The powers in the future have discovered the source of all Imagination, what amounts to the God molecule that once existed in Alyss Heart of Wonderland, known to be lost in our world for 13 years. Enabled by time travel tech, they have sent this time-traveling bounty hunter back to collect it. Agent Seer is committed to her mission until she meets Hatter and realizes there is a higher calling than DNA harvesting. In the service of Light Imagination, she assists Hatter in locating Alyss.  They plan to return to Wonderland together but Jet is arrested by time-traveling agents who arrive to escort her back to the 21st century in virtual handcuffs. But Jet Seer is not deterred. She promises Hatter she will be looking out for him from the 21st century and will do everything in her power to help him. Returned to the 21st century, Agent Seer escapes the agents and starts her own time-traveling agency to serve Light Imagination.


To read any of my graphic novels go to our store or Amazon.

Arizona State University – Privileged Imagination

One of my readers was very, very upset with me. I was on a tour of British schools promoting The Looking Glass Wars and, though it had been a great success overall, at that moment I was in the crosshairs of a very cross young man who believed I made a grave mistake. Why had I neglected to tell the story of Hatter Madigan’s 13 years searching for Princess Alyss? It was a damn good question, one I didn’t have a ready answer to. But on the plane back to the States, I thought, “Maybe I could do a comic book about those 13 years.” That’s how the Hatter M graphic novel series came into being. 

School visits are one of the more rewarding aspects of promoting and talking about my stories. You’re going right to the source. You have to go out to the audience to understand what your world is and how it’s affecting them. Having the feedback from kids in terms of what they like, what they feel is working, and what sparks their imagination is really important. 

I met Kira Assad (the writer of the article below) when I spoke at an event hosted by Professor James Blasingame at Arizona State University during the promotional tour for Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X. Kira told me an amazing story about how The Looking Glass Wars inspired her to study English in college and to write fiction herself. It’s so gratifying and humbling to know that my work has been a looking-glass through which young people fall in love with reading and storytelling. As evidenced by the stern English lad who inspired six graphic novels, sometimes your readers can provide the biggest sparks of imagination. 

Read the original text of Kira Assad’s article – “Privileged Imagination: What I Learned from Frank Beddor

All Things Alice: Interview With Adrienne Kress, Part 1

As an amateur scholar and die-hard enthusiast of everything to do with Alice in Wonderland, I have launched a podcast that takes on Alice’s everlasting influence on pop culture. As an author who draws on Lewis Carroll’s iconic masterpiece for my Looking Glass Wars universe, I’m well acquainted with the process of dipping into Wonderland for inspiration.

The journey has brought me into contact with a fantastic community of artists and creators from all walks of life—and this podcast will be the platform where we come together to answer the fascinating question: “What is it about Alice?”

For this episode, it was my great pleasure to have Adrienne Kress join me as my guest on this episode! Read on to explore our conversation and check out the whole series on your favorite podcasting platform to listen to the full interview.

"All Things Alice" podcast logo featuring Adrienne Kress with images of book covers for "Bendy: Fade to Black", "The Explorers", "Alex and the Ironic Gentleman", and "Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X."

Frank Beddor
I want to talk about your books and writing. But I didn’t realize that you started as a playwright. You started as an actress, as well, so I want to talk about that.

Adrienne Kress
I’m also a producer now. So we have that in common. My husband and I produced this very small indie horror movie over COVID.

FB
Congratulations on that. 

AK
Thanks. We wrote it. He directed. I starred in it. We were supposed to go on a honeymoon in 2020 and that didn’t happen so we used that money to make a little movie.

FB
What does that say about the launch of your marriage?

AK
That was how I knew I had met my soulmate. 

FB
I’m interested in the acting part of it because I started as an actor. I had been doing commercials for ski companies so I caught the bug. You started really young though, as a kid.

AK
I did theater school first so I wasn’t doing professional gigs until high school. I was studying at art school and doing plays. So it’s interesting because with theater acting, even if you’re 10-11 years old, there’s still all this technique just by virtue of being on stage.

There are definitely habits you learn and then when you get older, and you’re suddenly in theater school in England as an adult, they’re like, “You need to just relax. You overthinking it. It became less about technique and more about just being in the moment. 

FB
I found it hard not to try and do what I thought they wanted. The performance versus tapping into my own truth at the moment. Auditioning was very, very scary and daunting. But in terms of the couple of movies I did, I thought, “Oh, if you’re just really relaxed, and you start by being yourself and then think about what to bring to it, you find a voice at the moment.” Did you find the same thing? What was your approach?

AK
Absolutely. I came to film acting after theater acting. One of the things almost all theater actors will tell you is there’s a steep learning curve of doing less, do nothing at all. I found that very challenging, but at the same time, I agree, it’s very freeing, with film, to have multiple chances to do some things and multiple takes. You’re also having an intimate moment, just between you and the other person, but there happens to be a camera there. It’s very freeing. 

But I’m with you on auditions. I think I’ve gotten to a place now with auditions where I’m just like, “If they want me, they want me.” If they want what I can do and they want what I look like, they will want me. If they wanted someone else then they didn’t want me. I know I’m good enough that it’s not going to be, “Oh, no, this person is terrible. Why would we work with her?” It’s very much centered on what they’re looking for on there. I’m a lot more relaxed than I used to be. I used to be so wound up and tried to read their minds. What do they want? Now my attitude is I’m just gonna take advantage of this moment to act because it’s not like you get a ton of gigs. 

Author Adrienne Kress reclining on a table and reading a book.

FB
I was shocked at how little you have to do in film. It’s you. It’s just the thoughts that come into your mind, through your eyes, and in your expressions. If you try, you’re dead. You’re overacting. That was startling to me.

AK
It’s completely different and it’s very hard. It’s tough when people will fall down. Sometimes, actors aren’t to blame if there’s a bad performance in a movie or TV show but nine times out of 10 what that actor is doing is still very, very difficult. It’s all the stuff around it, whether it’s the lines or whether they were given time with the work before shooting because I don’t think people realize how hard it is to do nothing. It’s really, really hard.

FB
It’s really the thought process. You have to prepare and you have to get in that frame of mind so you’re thinking the thoughts that get communicated. Much like writing. You have this idea that you’re trying to communicate with a sentence or a paragraph or a Chapter, and you think, “I think I know what I’m feeling and it’s just gonna come off the page. Is there any chance this is gonna happen? Probably not.” At least that’s how I felt, there’s no way they’re gonna get this.

AK
It’s the best feeling when they do.

FB
Both in acting and in writing. When they come back and ask you, “Subtexturally, what was going on for you when you were creating or writing that scene?” And the same thing with acting. It’s so effortless, right?

AK
Probably in all areas of life, the more effortless the thing looks the more effortful we’re not to assume it is. The more impressed we shouldn’t be.

FB
That’s so true. When I was acting, one of my acting coaches said that if you really want to understand the playwright, you have to understand who they are as a person. Read their biographies or learn why they’re telling the stories and that will give you hints into the text. Then she had me write the scenes before the scene you’re acting as if you were the playwright. That’s what queued me into wanting to write books because I love playwrights and I think the work is remarkable, how so much of it comes through this dialogue. But that experience of writing out the scene before the scene I was acting was what motivated me to start writing. 

So I’m curious about you. First, you had English teachers as parents, that seems like a high bar to deal with. It’s in your DNA. Obviously, you started writing. Tell me about writing plays and ultimately how the process of writing a play might inform the actress you are. 

AK
I love that question. I was always writing things. My dad taught creative writing, so, when I was five, he’d have me do exercises he was doing with his high school students. I was always creating stories and playing make-believe. But when I came to playwriting properly, I had been a drama major for long enough that I’d seen enough scripts that writing plays came from understanding character as an actor. That has also translated into the book writing subsequently, but with writing plays, as you said, they’re generally very dialogue-heavy. That’s really what you have to go off of as an actor and as a director. I think that led to my very, very dialogue-heavy books. Writing dialogue is probably my favorite thing to do in general and specifically in books and then in one of the Bendy books, The Illusion of Living, I literally just put in a short play. So I guess the acting informed the playwriting, which in turn informed the book writing so it does come back to acting for me, being inside the head of the characters and going inside out. I think there are some authors, like your George R.R. Martins or Tolkiens, who might create mythos and world-building and then think about how to tell the story and which characters they need to tell the story. Whereas I generally come from the germ of the character.

Author Adrienne Kress signing a copy of "Bendy: Fade to Black" for a young fan.

FB
That makes sense to me as well. Do you say the dialogue? Do you read the dialogue out loud? Do you play the different parts when you’re writing a play or prose? Or do you read it to somebody and see how it works or do you just trust it?

AK
I can be just going for a walk or something and then start to create a little dialogue in my head. I do a weird sort of humming, which I only realized I did recently. I’m reading not even just dialogue but any words on the page, but I’m not saying the words out loud. So I’m constantly reading out loud, but it’s very small. With plays you often workshop and take them out to actor friends. With books, obviously, I have beta readers as you know. My parents, the English teachers.

FB
Really? I have two kids and my son is writing essays for college and I’m like, “Hey, do you want me to read your essay?” He goes, “Oh, no, I’m good dad.” Really? You don’t want me to take a look at it? I’m a writer.

AK
He can take advantage of it.

FB
He came around. But I have to be very careful in terms of walking him through any ideas or changes. If I’m too forceful he shuts down. My daughter doesn’t show me anything unless she’s under a deadline and she’s stuck. How were your parents? 

AK
They’re very good high school English teachers and I’m an only child so I was it. They would go, “Oh, this is an interesting idea. Hey, Adrienne, have you heard of it?” Not just when it comes to writing, there was always a lesson to something or an educational component growing up. Having them look over my schoolwork growing up, it’s just the next step.

FB
You felt they fostered your work and your homework and your creativity, and you didn’t really bump up against them because they were good teachers.

AK
They’re good at being harsh, which is the point. The good thing about my parents when it comes to this is they’re very honest. They’ve always been very good at being that teacherly, “Okay, so I’m not sure this bit works and I’ll tell you why.” But they were also so supportive of all my creative endeavors and very proud and impressed by me, which is nice. It also meant that I had confidence in what I was doing. Even though it always hurts, whether it’s editors or your parents, to hear this isn’t quite working or they didn’t like this bit. That will always be like a dagger. I also had the confidence that generally, my work was good so I kept moving forward. Also since my first book, Alex, I’ll say, “No, I disagree. I want to keep going with this.” I’ve also always had that relationship. It’s not, “We’re the parents, therefore we’re right and you’re wrong.” It’s always been a conversation.

Author Adrienne Kress at a book signing event with her parents.

FB
So you’re equals when it comes to the creative process.

AK
Maybe when I was a little younger, I probably couldn’t have fought but now yes and it’s great. So I have my parents and I also have my agent. She’s wonderful. Not all agents necessarily edit and they don’t necessarily want to, but she’s very good. We’ve been together for close to 15 years. She knows my work inside and out and I really respect her thoughts. Again, it’s the same vibe as with my parents.

FB
That’s what a good editor does. My editor made a point of saying, “This is your book. I love everything that you’re doing. Now, I’m going to send you a couple of suggestions.” So after softening me up, then the suggestions come and it’s page after page. 

AK
I think it’s called the sandwich method. Praise at the beginning, then you give your critique and then you end with praise. I’ve definitely had editors use that on me, as well.

FB
What was the first thing that you wrote that was really satisfying and gave you that start of confidence? Was there a moment when you said, “I think I want to do this and I can do this?”

AK
I have no clue when but my mom and my dad, specifically with his creative writing, started teaching me creative writing. But, from birth, it feels like I’ve had competence in my storytelling ability. Writing stories in English class in elementary school was always my thing and I always got really good grades. I had all the validation in the world. I did a book with a friend. She and I were both known for our creative writing and it was so popular that the principal got a copy of it. So I’ve always had that validation. Then throughout high school, I was doing creative writing classes. But in my last year of high school, I wrote a play for a playwriting class. It was probably one of the first one-act plays, a properly structured play that I wrote was chosen for a student-run one-act play festival. All the producers, directors, writers, actors, crew, everybody were students. One of my friends was chosen to be a director and he chose my play and I was cast in the first play of three. So I was there every night and I would sit at the back of the audience for the third play, which was mine, and listen to it being performed. 

It’s what we were talking about earlier when you write something and you hope to get an effect. When people laughed at the jokes right on cue as if they were being directed to, I thought, “Is this a better feeling than acting?” I still don’t have the answer, but it was really up there. So I became really interested in playwriting at that one, not so much novel writing. Then I went through drama school for university and in my last year of theater school at the University of Toronto I did another playwriting class and it was taught by this incredible Canadian playwright, Janet Sears, whom I’d studied already. It was this great intimate, seven-person class that you submitted writing samples for to get in. The way she structured it was amazing. The class all bonded and we got on great. The assignment was a one-act play and we had these tutorials halfway through the term, as we were in the middle of writing, and we were just chatting and I was saying, “I’m not sure this might be two acts. I don’t know.” And she said, “With you, Adrienne if you want to just make this one act for a two-act play, I’ll let you do this. Because I think you’re really good at this and I know how much you like acting but I hope you keep writing as well.”

I’m paraphrasing but I just remember the moment. Up until that tutorial session my attitude was, “Yeah, I love to write creatively and I guess I’m good at it. But don’t we all like to write creatively?” I guess it was the first time a true professional had called me out as having some sort of skill that was at a certain level that I wasn’t aware of myself. 

FB
Those are really clear moments because of the way that you were describing coming out of the womb almost with a notebook and your dad saying, “Let’s get to it,” it was just part of who you are. But we all need that validation or that really clear moment where you see the audience responding as if somebody said, “Hey, by the way, the writer is in the audience. So make sure you laugh at these five places.” Then of course you have a professional validate your work.

AK
It was everything. I turned my focus to playwriting after that. I went to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and did a yearlong classical acting-specific program. After that, I tried to write some plays to direct and produce but I kept having trouble. So I decided to write a kidlet novel because I really love reading kidlit novels and it was a way to refresh my brain and completely cleanse the palate. It took a year. I’d never actually written more of a novel than 18 pages. So I kept writing and writing and writing and that ended up being my first published novel, Alex and the Ironic Gentleman. So what was supposed to be an interlude sent my career and everything about my life in a completely unexpected direction, which was being a writer of novels. 

It sounds so much like actors who accidentally become actors and get the lead in something because they looked right. I never want to give that impression as an author that I just sort of tripped into it. I think telling the history of coming out of the womb and learning how to write, it’s been in there the whole time. But it really was a sudden change of trajectory because everything in my head at that point was theater – write a play, direct a play, act in a play. Then Alex came along.

Book cover of middle grade fantasy adventure novel "Alex and the Ironic Gentleman" by Adrienne Kress.

FB
Were you writing plays about young adults at the time?

AK
No, my plays were entirely about adults. They were sort of absurdist with some shocking moments of violence in them. But I was really into absurd things and I actually did the absurdity thing in Alex and the Ironic Gentleman. It was a very classic children’s adventure, episodic adventure, very inspired by Alice in Wonderland. She has her main throughline of trying to go home but then she meets all these weird individuals and has these mini-adventures with them. I really structured the second act of Alex on Alice in Wonderland. Act One was more Roald Dahl-y and then Act Three was very Pirate-y, Peter Pan or Treasure Island. But I had gone from writing total adult stuff to even completely skipping young adult and going straight to middle grade. 

FB
You said you read a lot of kids’ stories growing up or as an adult to relax. Can you share some of those stories with us and what is it about those stories for you?

AK
I can talk about kidlit forever. I’m what’s called a reluctant reader, which is a term that wasn’t around when I was a kid, which is unfortunate because it’s tricky to be the daughter of two English teachers and not really want to read. My parents had to do everything to convince me to pick up books but when I did pick one up, I was a voracious reader. I’d read it in a day and then I’d have to read everything by that author because I trusted that I would like that author. But even as an adult, I’m sort of that same way. If I read an adult book, I’m still like, “I don’t know, man, I don’t think I’m gonna like it.” 

But growing up some of the first books that my parents really pushed on me were the Beverly Cleary Ramona books. They’re very entertaining and they’re a really easy and fun read. My dad also really loved the adventure books by Enid Blyton. Some elements don’t fully stand the test of time but I really glommed onto the adventure part of it. Then as I got a little older I got into Judy Blume. At the same time, my dad would also read to me every night, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Hobbit, and all The Lord of the Rings, and he did all the voices.

My dad also introduced me to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when I was probably 12-13, which changed everything in my brain and really introduced the notion of absurdity and that kind of humor. That’s probably been one of my greater influences. But as I got older, young adult didn’t exist as an actual named category but some books featured older protagonists that weren’t adults. But you ended up jumping to adult and there were some adult books I enjoyed. I enjoyed Michael Crichton and Agatha Christie. I enjoyed books that had really forward-moving stories. But a lot of adult books I found were depressing and the arcs that the characters go on, by the end, you’re like, “Oh, that’s sad.” 

In my last year of high school, we had an English assignment where we could compare any two books, so I chose Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. I really dug into those and as I was writing it, I realized what I liked. The idea with these kids’ books is you’re still dealing with big issues and strong emotions. Anyone who thinks there aren’t big issues in kidlit hasn’t read any kidlit. They’re just being snobs. The emotions are the saturated colors. They’re not quite as messy. I like the saturated feelings and regardless of how dark it gets, and some of them get very dark, they always end on a hopeful note. As cynical as I can get with the world, I am, at the core, very optimistic. I believe in hope. So that’s why I love reading those books. I kept reading them after high school, like A Series of Unfortunate Events, which sounds like it shouldn’t have hope, but I was reading all of them. 

Book cover of children's novel "A Series of Unfortunate Events No. 1: The Bad Beginning" by Lemony Snicket.

FB
I was reading the first book, The Bad Beginning, at a fancy resort, and I was by the pool and this woman was sitting next to me and she goes, “What are you reading? Isn’t that for, like, elementary kids?” And I said, “No, it’s not actually. It’s amazing. You should check it out.” But she gave me so much judgment that I was self-conscious after that. I didn’t know people across the pool were going to be judging my book. But A Series of Unfortunate Events is a dark story and just brilliantly told. The whole thing that he uses with vocabulary and spelling and spelling out this is what that means, it’s so perfect for kids, but adults can also read it and go, “That’s so clever.”

AK
I think the best kids’ books and kids’ media are written and created on two levels. There’s the level of the audience it’s intended for, let’s say the eight to 12 audience. But also, especially with books versus a Pixar film, kids’ books are one of the last places where we still read out loud, where we still have an oral tradition. We don’t do it so much with adult books. I think the way audiobooks have taken off shows how much we love them. But that communal experience of somebody telling a story is rarer and rarer the older you get. When I write kidlit, I keep in mind that there’s going to be a teacher or a parent or somebody reading this to kids. I have some parent easter eggs in there, some jokes that probably the kids won’t get yet. But also when the kids come back to it when they’re 10-11 or even in their 20s, they’re like, “Oh, I didn’t get that joke at the time.” I think there’s always that nuance and depth. 

But even if there weren’t any adult jokes, there’s just some great stuff in it. If you like the book, the book is meant for you. That’s how I feel about this idea of gatekeeping ages. I actually have a more controversial opinion, which is with adult books and kids. There can be some stuff in an adult book that is intense and maybe certain kids shouldn’t read it, but there are other kids who are ready for it. As long as you’re having a conversation with them, and as long as you’re having a parent or teachers talking with the kids and working through possibly more complicated issues, I actually think that’s okay. 

FB
What Pixar does so brilliantly is that it works for kids and adults. They have that four quadrant thing they talk about in marketing, which is why Harry Potter, became the book that was in the young adult section but all adults started reading it. Then it’s okay to read this stuff. But nevertheless, you brought up Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, both of which, on the surface, are kids’ books, but adults started reading them before any kids probably did, certainly with Alice in Wonderland

AK
That’s the other thing. We, in retrospect, recategorize things. For people categorizing The Outsiders as Y.A., I guess it is. I don’t know. But the young adult genre didn’t exist (when it was published). I understand the need to find places to shelve things and I think that’s important. At the same time, new adult is becoming a marketing category and there’s been a lot of conversation about how we’ve lost the category between middle grade and young adult. By putting labels on things, we can exclude things. I think that’s just something we know, in general. There’s a benefit to knowing and understanding what a category means and using that in a positive way but at the same time there are people I know who are trying to be published who have books where the characters are 13-14, or even up to 15, and we have the eight to 12 category. Even though 12 and up is the category for young adults, they want characters that are 16 plus. Because of the need to categorize, there is a wealth of books and writers that are being ignored because we don’t know where to put them on the shelf.

FB
When The Looking Glass Wars was turned down by everybody in the States, my problem was that the lead character started as seven, the next time we see her she’s 12, and then she’s 18. It was after Harry Potter and everybody said, “Well, I don’t know where this fits, and who did you write it for?” I didn’t know that there were categories. The categories were just coming into shape. 

I think the middle-grade genre or categorizing middle grade is smart because after doing a lot of school visits, those six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds are looking for somebody to aspire to who’s not a teenager. So if you have a 13-year-old character, that’s pretty spot on. And they do the lion’s share of the reading. They have more time.

AK
Yes. So you have teachers and librarians who are reading to them and introducing them to these books. We don’t have that as much in high school and we certainly don’t get opportunities as adults. I’m not a parent myself, but when people become parents, they get that opportunity again, and they get excited. “We get to go to the library and have somebody read to us.” We should have adult reading time because it’s something that’s in our DNA. We want to sit around the fire and tell stories.

John Tenniel illustration of Alice with cards around her from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."
Francis D. Bedford illustration of a sword fight between Captain Hook and Peter Pan from "Peter Pan".

FB
So share with us your theory on Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, because both of these stories have been around a long time. I’m curious when you wrote your paper if you have a theory on why these stories in particular have lasted so long.

AK
I had this theory that we were dealing with two main characters, and I’m making Wendy the main character in Peter Pan, who have two completely opposite goals. Wendy’s scared of growing up, but in the end realizes she has to grow up. Whereas I think Alice is feeling frustrated by the grownups and she wants to find a place to belong as a kid. So one character is trying to figure out how to grow up in a way that pleases her and the other one is like, “No, no, I don’t want to grow up so fast. I want to stall growing up.” Even though weirdly, Wendy does want to start growing up at the beginning. 

But that question of growing up is one of the big reasons they both appeal. Because we’ve all had our own relationship with growing up. Some people are desperate to get older. I just wanted to be a kid. Teenagers scared me. They scared me when I was a teenager. They still scare me. I respect the heck out of them but they scare me. I liked being a kid and this goes back to the books I like to read. I didn’t want to read angsty teen stuff. I didn’t want to really read romances. I just wanted to read plot-driven adventures. That’s all I wanted. I definitely had desperate friends. “When can I wear makeup? When can I have a boyfriend? When can I be independent?” I think that’s very relatable in both Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan

Then on top of that, they’re so specific. I’ve been talking to a lot of kids lately about writing and I feel like the more specific you make a character, the more universal it becomes. You have these incredible specific characters like Captain Hook and the Queen of Hearts. These very meticulously wrought characters have very specific aesthetic features and personality traits that just spark so much imagination. On top of that, for Alice, people have always played make-believe with their cards and their chess boards, tapping into a very basic form of make-believe. Which you also get with pirates and mermaids. You get a lot of classic make-believe stuff that was also particularly popular, I assume, at the time of the original Peter Pan play. It was stuff that kids of that time enjoyed playing so that made it also relatable.

I think there are so many universal themes in both of them and then the specificity of the characters and how enjoyable they are contributes to both stories’ staying power. It’s so fun. 


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Take Your Writing to Wonderland: 7 Tips From Bestselling Authors

Writing is often a daunting proposition. Whether it’s a novel, screenplay, blog article, or even just an email, staring at that blank page can be paralyzing. Self-doubt can be demoralizing. Sometimes, it’s surprising that people can finish anything at all. How do published authors work through the pitfalls of writers to finish (and rewrite) their books?

That’s where we’re here to help. Through Frank’s years of doing comic cons, and introducing the world to The Looking Glass Wars, he’s been on numerous panels where writing is a main topic of discussion. The following article was constructed from his appearance on a panel at the 2015 Salt Lake Comic-Con (Link to Video when published), where he was part of an all-star lineup featuring some of the biggest names in Y.A. and Middle-Grade sci-fi/fantasy. These writers dished out indispensable writing advice that will help you fill up your blank page and take your writing to the next level.

Click here to watch the full video.


Jennifer Nielson

Picture of "The False Prince" author Jennifer Nielson.

“I want you to go out and I want you to find your favorite book, the book that made you want to become a writer. Get a fresh copy of that book because you’re going to destroy it. Go through the book the way a writer would read it. You’re going to highlight every single scene that you love. Then get your pen and start breaking that scene apart. Ask yourself, why does this work? What did my very favorite author do right? As soon as you can break that book apart and understand why it’s your favorite and understand what that author did right, you are going to know exactly what you want to put into your own writing to make yourself better.”

Jennifer Nielson is the prolific scribe of 17 novels, so it’s safe to say she knows what she’s talking about. Her debut, The New York Times Bestselling YA fantasy novel The False Prince, is the first book of the Ascendance Series, which follows an orphan who is trained to impersonate a missing prince. She has also written six YA historical fiction books, including A Night Divided, about a family that is separated by the Berlin Wall.

Platte F Clark

Picture of "Bad Unicorn" author Platte F Clark.

“I wrote my book, I picked up an agent very quickly, and we sold it very quickly. I think it was all because I was convinced this was a book that would never sell. I wrote it thinking, I’m just gonna write what I think would be funny for me to read to my kids, and my kids would like it and I would think it’s entertaining. I didn’t think about the industry. I didn’t think about what was popular. I wasn’t trying to emulate anything. I was actually just going to write a book and then get that out of my head. Then I knew I could write a book and then I was going to write a book that could actually get published. I think in the end, that served me the best because I wasn’t true to anything other than my own voice and what I wanted to do, and it seemed to work out well.”

Platte F Clark is the author of the middle-grade comedic fantasy Bad Unicorn trilogy. Called “deviously enjoyable” by Publisher’s Weekly, the series follows Max Spencer and his band of misfit friends as they’re hunted by a homicidal unicorn.

Frank Beddor

“My first novel, I had no experience with middle grade. I didn’t know anything about it, I was just writing. The protagonist starts off at seven, and then she’s 11, and then she’s 19. That was a big problem in selling the book but the book got published and people still read it and love it. Sometimes going in, ignorance is bliss. In my case, that happens a lot. But my advice is a little trick that I have when I’m writing and I’m into it and I have a really good scene. I don’t ever finish it. I put it down at the end of the day. So that the next morning when I start writing again, I know exactly what I’m going to start writing because I’m already in it. I know what I’m finishing and it just seems to set the whole day.”

It’s probably pretty safe to assume that, if you’re reading this, you know who Frank Beddor is. But let’s recap just to be safe. Frank is a former world champion skier who also produced the hit comedy There’s Something About Mary. His New York Times Bestselling trilogy, The Looking Glass Wars, exposes the true story of Wonderland and chronicles Alyss Heart, heir to the throne of Wonderland, as she fights to regain her crown from her evil aunt, Queen Redd. Beddor has added to the Wonderverse over the years with the Hatter M graphic novel series and the middle-grade novel, Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X.

Michael Jensen

“I spent a lot of time stressing and worrying about getting my best ideas on paper. It wasn’t until I finally said, “You know what? I’m spending too much time on finding my best ideas. What effect can make my worst ideas work?” So, I started going to my worst ideas, the ones that just seemed the dumbest and stupid, and I went with them and I grew and I pushed it and I thought, “How creative can I be?” Those best ideas that I had were not as good as those worst ideas because of all the care and all the energy that I put into them. It sometimes takes stepping away from waiting for that perfect idea to show up in that moment of brilliance, and kind of just forcing yourself to be brilliant with some of the bad ideas that you already have.”

Michael Jensen is the author of Woven, a fantasy novel about a young ghost who teams with a spoiled princess to unravel the mystery of his murder and find an ancient needle with the magical power to mend that which has been torn. Publisher’s Weekly called Woven a “charming quest tale” while Kirkus Reviews deemed it a “sure bet for high-fantasy fans”.

Shannon Messenger

“I always say whatever ideas scare you the most, whichever idea feels like it’s gonna be the hardest to write, that’s usually the one. In fact, both of my series were ones where I thought, ‘I don’t know if I’m good enough to write that book.’

The note that I seem to give most often when I’m critiquing new middle-grade work is that the writer tends to forget that the kids need to be the hero of the story. I don’t just mean having a kid as the main character. I mean that you’re reading the book and things are going along, and then you get to the climax and the kid’s solution is they go to an adult, and the adult fixes things for them, and that’s the end of the story. But it’s middle grade, the kid is supposed to be the hero. How different would it have been if Dumbledore was the one who always stepped in and saved things, instead of letting Harry be the hero? I’ve even seen that in Y.A. drafts but it’s especially common when I’m reading middle-grade drafts. I see that a lot with newer writers. It’s like that adult sense steps in, and it’s not that they’ve dumbed down the writing or anything like that, but when they’re trying to figure out how to solve the plot, they rely on adults more than their kid characters. Really, really remember that you’re writing for kids. Let the kids be the hero of the story.”

Shannon Messenger is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, which follows a twelve-year-old Telepath who is forced to leave her earthly home and move to the Lost Cities, where fantasy creatures of all races live. Messenger has also written the Sky Fall series, in which a seventeen-year-old wind spirit falls in love with his bodyguard and battles an evil rival.

James A. Owen

Picture of "Imaginarium Geographica" author James A. Owen.

“The best advice I could give to any writer, whether it’s middle grade, Y.A., whatever you’re writing, is to finish what you start. No one ever really writes a great book. You write a book that you then fix to make as good as you possibly can. I see so many people who are stuck in the middle of a draft, or redrafting or rewriting something and not actually finishing it. You need to finish so that you and your readers, or an editor or an agent have a sense of the entire story that you’re trying to tell. Then you have something that you can actually shape. Sometimes that shaping is small, sometimes it’s going to be huge.

I was six books into the Imaginarium Geographica series and one of my best editors at Simon & Schuster said, “There’s something that isn’t working for this, and here’s how I think we should fix it. What do you think?” And I said, “You are absolutely right.” The solution was, what was originally the prologue in that book became the epilogue and I removed a major character who was in every single chapter. I had to rewrite the entire book. It was excruciating, very excruciating. All along the way you’re giving up lines because now there are conversations that are gone and you can’t repurpose those, you can’t just replace it with another character, because he’s built into the story you’re telling. My editor was right. We could have pushed it out. I could have been a prima donna and said, “Well, this is the sixth book and you got what you’re getting and I’m going to Disneyland.” But she was right and the book was better because we made those changes. Because of those changes, the seventh book in the series, The First Dragon, was the one that was most technically flawless. I had seven lines in my editor’s letter for that book and a note that said, “Apparently, after seven books, you’ve got this down.” That’s all I got.”

James A. Owen is best known as the author of The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, which features fictionalized versions of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams who find themselves in possession of a book that holds maps to the worlds of our literary heritage. Owen is also the creator of the comic book series Starchild

James Dashner

Picture of "Maze Runner" author James Dashner.

“When I get an editorial letter, I read it and then I take 48 hours off because I’m so depressed. I just watch movies and sit around and mope. Then usually after that 48 hours, I start to realize it’s not as bad as I first felt. Every time you just start thinking, “This is going to be the one where you get, ‘Wow, this book’s actually perfect. I don’t have any changes for you.’

I am terrible at writing advice. It’s hard for me to articulate how I write books. But one thing that always stands out to me is, and it might be obvious but, it is all about the characters. Face up and make your characters the most important thing that you throw all your devotion into. Every book I’ve ever loved is because I fell in love with and made a connection with the characters. I felt anxious to just even hear them have regular conversations. I just felt like it was there. I grew to care for them and love them. If you just have these really shallow characters and they’re all exactly the same, when they have an action scene and they die, you’d be like, “I don’t care. I hope this guy dies. He’s boring as heck.” Just setting cannot overcome weak characters. Action and suspense cannot overcome weak characters. The most beautiful prose ever written by a human cannot overcome weak characters. So really, really focus on your characters as you write your books and make people care about them.”

With over 21 million books sold, James Dashner is the author of The Maze Runner novels, a Y.A. dystopian science fiction series set in a world devastated by a succession of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. The books spawned a popular film trilogy that grossed nearly $1 billion at the box office. Dashner’s other work includes Y.A. sci-fi series The 13th Reality and The Mortality Doctrine. The Godhead Complex, the seventh book in The Maze Runner series, was released in November 2023.


Meet The Author:

An itinerant storyteller, John Drain attended the University of Edinburgh before studying film at DePaul University in Chicago and later earned an MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute Conservatory. John focuses on writing mysteries and thrillers featuring characters who are thrown into the deep end of the pool and struggle to just keep their heads above water. His work has been recognized by the Academy Nicholls Fellowship, the Austin Film Festival, ScreenCraft, Cinestory, and the Montreal Independent Film Festival. In a previous life, John created and produced theme park attractions across the globe for a wide variety of audiences. John keeps busy in his spare time with three Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and a seemingly never-ending stack of medieval history books.

Alice in Wonderland: A Timeless Journey Through Generations & Pop Culture

Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” has, since its publication in 1865, remained an enduring touchstone in the cultural imagination. Far more than a children’s story, Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole has been reimagined, repurposed, and reinterpreted by countless artists, filmmakers, musicians, and even political thinkers.

The very fact that the tale of a young girl’s journey through a fantastical world filled with bizarre characters can morph into a reflection of various generational ethos and societal issues is a testament to its universality. This blog explores how “Alice in Wonderland” has represented different generations and flourished in the ever-changing realm of pop culture.

Characters from Alice in wonderland sitting at a table, having tea. Alice, the Hare and the Mad Hatter.

The Victorians and the Original Alice

For the Victorians, Alice’s journey resonated with the socio-political transformations of the era. The Industrial Revolution had altered the landscape, and Alice’s navigation of Wonderland could be seen as a reflection of the tumultuous changes and the loss of innocence of the time. This generation saw in Alice a challenge to established norms, where strict societal rules were juxtaposed against the absurdities of Wonderland.

Alice and the Nostalgic Innocence of the ’50s in a Swiftly Changing World

In the 1950s, an era often viewed with a sepia-toned sentimentality as a period of post-war optimism, prosperity, and quintessential values, Alice from Wonderland emerged as an emblem of the decade’s unblemished innocence. With her classic pinafore dress, wide-eyed wonderment, and the unjaded curiosity of youth, she encapsulated the idealized child of the ’50s—a symbol of purity and simplicity amidst the shadows of a world reshaped by war. Her adventures, and misadventures, in Wonderland echoed the harmless explorations of a generation who, despite the protective bubble of post-war euphoria, had to confront a rapidly evolving landscape.

An image from the 1951 Disney cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland. The Mad Hatter is holding a teapot, pouring tea into a glass for Alice, while the Hare looks onward.

The character of the White Rabbit, perpetually anxious and always seemingly a step behind time, becomes a particularly poignant allegory for this era. His frantic proclamation, “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!” could easily symbolize the generation’s attempt to keep pace with a swiftly changing post-World War II society. There was a palpable rush, a need to rebuild, and perhaps, in shielding Alice’s innocence, a desire to protect the youth from the brutalities and horrors of war that had just passed.

However, as Alice delves deeper into Wonderland, the question arises: Were they already “late” with the looming specter of the Cold War? Were they inadvertently plunging into another rabbit hole of geopolitical tensions and nuclear anxieties? Alice, in all her innocence, becomes a reflection not just of individual childhood, but of a generation teetering on the edge of newfound peace and emerging global threats.

The Counter-Culture Movement and the Psychedelic 60s & 70s

Alice’s trip to Wonderland began to symbolize a different kind of trip altogether. The 1960s saw the rise of the counterculture movement, with its advocacy for peace, love, and psychedelic exploration. Songs like Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” directly drew from Alice’s narrative, equating her explorations with the mind-expanding properties of psychedelic drugs. This generation viewed Alice’s journey as a metaphor for breaking free from societal constraints and seeking deeper truths, often aided by hallucinogenic experiences.

Album cover for Jefferson Airplane's 1967 single: White Rabbit. This features a frame of traditional 1960's psychedelic artwork and fonts, surrounding the band, who is posing for a picture, wearing traditional 60's garments.

The 80’s: Nostalgia Takes Hold

The 1980s, saw a resurgence of interest in classic tales, as the post-War generation sought solace in nostalgia. Disney’s animated adaptation from 1951 found renewed popularity, and various merchandise, from clothing to toys featuring Alice and her Wonderland friends, began to flood the market. For this generation, Alice represented a return to a simpler time, a reprieve from the fast-paced world of technological advancements.

The 90s and Alice’s Tech-Laden Wonderland

In the 1990s, as technology burgeoned with the advent of personal computers and the early Internet, “Alice in Wonderland” was interpreted anew.

Our evolving relationship with technology saw Alice not just as a nostalgic figure, but as a guide through the increasingly complex digital realm. The ‘rabbit hole’ came to represent the vast, intricate web of the internet, a world with its own set of rules, mirroring Wonderland’s surrealism. Films like “The Matrix” played with this concept — drawing parallels between Neo’s red pill and Alice’s descent, both awakening to a reality (or lack thereof) hidden behind the veneer of the everyday.

The underlying anxiety of the ’90s tech surge was palpable: as we plunged deeper into the digital age, would the flood of information strip away our comforting illusions, much like Alice’s realizations in Wonderland? The fear wasn’t just of technology itself but of the potential revelations it might bring.

Image of characters from The Matrix, standing in a hallway. The White Rabbit Tattoo is visible on the woman's shoulder

21st Century: Alice in the Digital Age

The digital era, characterized by the rapid evolution of technology and the Internet’s prevalence, has presented its unique take on Alice. Video games like “American McGee’s Alice” offer a darker, more twisted version of Wonderland, echoing the complexities of the modern world. Simultaneously, movies like Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” (2010) blend nostalgia with contemporary CGI wizardry, catering to both old fans and a new generation experiencing the tale for the first time.

Online platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram see creators taking inspiration from Alice to craft content that ranges from makeup tutorials to social commentaries, reinforcing Alice’s adaptability and relevance in the digital age.

Today’s Dystopian Wonderland Mirroring Our Reality

In recent years, as global challenges have intensified—from political upheavals to environmental crises—the line between the fantastical world of Wonderland and our reality has blurred. A dystopian vision of Wonderland has emerged, one that mirrors our societal anxieties.

Shows like “Alice in Borderland” highlight a distorted, perilous version of Wonderland, where the stakes are life and death, reflecting the existential threats many feel in today’s unpredictable world. This new portrayal taps into the collective consciousness that grapples with a future filled with uncertainties. The twisted landscapes and characters of Wonderland are no longer just the whimsical concoctions of Carroll’s mind; they have become eerily reflective of our present-day society. Alice’s navigation through this challenging realm serves as an allegory for our collective attempt to find clarity, hope, and resilience in an increasingly complex and oftentimes bewildering world.

A landscape of sand dunes making up the landscape surrounding Wonderland, taken from the imagination of Lewis Carroll. illustrated by matte painter and concept artist: Brian Flora.

The Looking Glass Wars: Dystopian Wonderland as a Reflection of Our Reality

In my own work, “The Looking Glass Wars“, Wonderland is not the idyllic escape presented in the Lewis Carroll original but a reflection of our tumultuous world. The White Rabbit, reimagined as Bibwit Harte, serves not merely as a herald of oddities but as a mentor and guide through the intricate mazes of warfare reminiscent of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, coups echoing the January 6th Capitol attack, and the perplexing realms of current politics.

The juxtaposition of light and dark imagination in this retelling mirrors the dualities we face in our world: hope versus despair, unity versus division, and truth versus delusion. It’s a powerful reminder that imagination isn’t a preserve of the innocent but a tool, accessible and moldable, by both the benevolent dreamer and the nefarious schemer. Thus, cultivating and understanding one’s imagination becomes not just a flight of fancy, but a requisite for personal and collective survival.

In my retelling, Wonderland and our world aren’t separate, but intertwined through a two-sided rabbit hole – a portal where realities bleed into one another. No longer do characters need to ‘fall’ into Wonderland; they can pull its eccentricities and wonders into our realm, creating a hybridized world. It plays with the premise that Wonderland isn’t mere fiction but a tangible, intertwined reality. The tale suggests that Carroll didn’t invent Wonderland; he merely misunderstood its essence.

Today, echoes of my Wonderland can be witnessed in our reality. Its inhabitants aren’t confined to pages but are vividly present on TikTok, tweeting their peculiarities on Twitter, or snarling at awestruck fans at Comic-Con. They wander among us, with a defiant proclamation: “Wonderland is real!” It’s not just a fantasy. It’s a eye-opener, the truth needs to come out.

What is it about Alice’s tale that makes it so adaptable and relevant across generations? Perhaps it’s the blend of whimsy and depth, the mix of absurd humor and poignant reflection. Maybe it’s the universally relatable theme of a young person trying to make sense of a nonsensical world.

No matter the reason, “Alice in Wonderland” has showcased a unique ability to represent different generations, evolving in tandem with societal shifts and cultural trends. As long as, society continues to change and grow, Alice’s journey, in its myriad forms, will remain an essential part of our cultural tapestry, echoing our collective experiences, dreams, fears, and hopes.

Frank Beddor Alice in Wonderland

Why Stories Last? The Cultural Impact of Storytelling

Recently I was a guest on the podcast Legendarium with Craig Hanks—and he prompted the question “Why do stories last?” We had a wonderful conversation, which inspired this blog. Check out my conversation with Craig!

A purple text on a black background - the logo for "The Legendarium Podcast" a series with Craig Hanks, a marketer, writer and multimedia specialist.

Stories endure because they are the timeless bridges connecting us across generations, cultures, and experiences. Great stories resonate because they echo the universal truths and emotions that bind humanity together. Through tales, we navigate shared dreams, fears, and aspirations, creating a collective tapestry of understanding and connection.

These recurring themes act as a shared touchstone, reinforcing values, beliefs, and societal norms that shape culture. By revisiting these motifs, communities strengthen their collective identity and perpetuate the core principles that unite us. Understood completely or not, becomes folklore…creating a suspended debrief; a new reality for a new generation…borrowing from the past and making them their own…a form of branded history. 

It’s based upon the uniquely human capacity to classify experiences, symbolically and then to share them…the process through which an older generation induces and compels a younger generation. Cultural myth holds a paramount place in storytelling because it embodies a society’s deepest values, hopes, and understanding of the world and its origins. 

These myths offer a lens through which communities interpret their past, navigate their present, and envision their future; they provide a shared framework that binds individuals together, allowing them to derive meaning, purpose, and a sense of belonging.  

By incorporating these myths into stories, authors tap into universal truths and emotions, creating narratives that resonate deeply with readers, even transcending the original cultural context to appeal to broader audiences. Furthermore, these myths often serve as archetypes, forming the backbone for countless narratives and ensuring the continuity of cultural wisdom and tradition across generations.

The importance of realism amid such heightened realities in worlds of fantasy, (J.R.R. Tolkien most famously) makes characters, specifically heroes and their powers, when stripped away, real to an audience that wants to believe that these people really do exist. This transformation is a blurring of ‘reality’ fantasy.

The book cover for J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" with gold text on a brown, leather-looking background.

“Lord of the Rings,” endures thanks to being a timeless exploration of universal themes: the battle between good and evil, the corrupting nature of power, the value of friendship and sacrifice. Hanging its hat on the enduring hope that even in the darkest times, light can prevail.

Tolkien’s richly constructed Middle-earth, lovingly crafted over a lifetime with its own histories, languages, and cultures, provides an immersive escape for readers, yet simultaneously holds a mirror to our own world. It is a reflection of both the beauty and its flaws of our true reality. The characters’ struggles with duty and destiny are deeply relatable, reminding readers of the strength and resilience of the human (and hobbit) spirit.

As modern society grapples with complex issues like environmental degradation and the erosion of community, Tolkien’s emphasis on the sanctity of nature and the importance of unity and fellowship becomes even more affecting. The saga, in essence, is a testament to the idea that even the smallest individual can make a profound difference– a message just as valuable today as the day it was penned. It shall remain relevant in any era to come.

“Alice in Wonderland,” still resonates because it delves into the fluidity of reality, identity, and logic, themes that are ever-relevant in our constantly evolving world. Carroll’s whimsical narrative allows readers to question and challenge the conventions and norms of society, echoing the universal journey of self-discovery and the quest for understanding in an often perplexing world.

Alice’s adventures, filled with bizarre characters and absurd scenarios, mirror the unpredictable and sometimes chaotic nature of life, emphasizing the importance of adaptability, curiosity, and resilience. The story’s trancelike quality and its celebration of imagination serve as a reminder that there is magic in the mundane and that questioning the “conventional” can lead to weighty insights.

In an era where individuality, self-expression, and challenging the status quo are more celebrated than ever, “Alice in Wonderland” stands as a poignant investigation of the boundaries of reality and the infinite realms of human imagination that has been playing out for generations.

Alice still matters today. Alice in Wonderland is primarily set in an upside-down world where chaos and randomness rule and nothing makes sense to the practical, stoic little girls who found herself marooned there. The world she encounters is threatening and unfamiliar, yet she navigates it, she challenges it, she triumphs and eventually, she returns home.

A black and white pencil drawing of a child-like Alice, from "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll.

Alice has been read by multiple generations, so it captures a large part of our shared imaginative history. People who are adept at plumbing the zeitgeist are using our shared imaginative history of the Alice story, iconography to simultaneously reflect the chaotic world we live in (fear) and marry it to the comfort and reassurance of a childhood fairytale (escape and hope).

What Alice means to me and maybe others…Alice’s journey down the rabbit hole represents escape; escape into fantasy because reality can sometimes be a prison. Alice has endured and thrived through the decades for one reason, yes, its classic literature, but it is powered by pure and fierce imagination that has bound Alice into the psyche of generations.

Imagination is the root of all creation, nothing that has ever been or will ever exist without first being imagined. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.” Also, Alice is a traveler, bombarded with oddities and weirdness at every turn, but she never loses her head. (Pardon the pun)

We relate to her journey; we can channel her when the world around us begins to collapse into chaos. For too many people, today’s world is upside down, chaotic, and random. We hope to be as stoic and courageous as she is exploring Wonderland.

A person holding a book in a library. The old cover for "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum, with pictures by W.W. Denslow. Featuring a Lion, wearing glasses.

“The Wizard of Oz” continues to resonate today because it encapsulates the timeless themes of self-discovery, the longing for home, and the realization that we often possess the strength and qualities we seek externally, within ourselves. Dorothy’s journey from the gray plains of Kansas to the technicolor world of Oz parallels the universal quest for adventure and understanding, only to recognize the inherent value and comfort of home and familiar surroundings.

The diverse cast of characters she encounters—each with their own insecurities and desires—mirror our own vulnerabilities and yearnings, emphasizing the human need for companionship, courage, love, and intellect. The story’s central message, that we often have the power within us to overcome our challenges and that the things we desire most are sometimes right where we started, remains a powerful reminder of self-worth and resilience.

In an age of endless quests for external validation and fulfillment, “The Wizard of Oz” serves as a poignant reminder that sometimes, the answers we seek are already within us.

A picture of the book cover for "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis. Featuring children riding a lion, encircled by Satyr or Faun holding palms.

“The Chronicles of Narnia” is relatable today as it melds profound spiritual allegories with universal themes of courage, friendship, sacrifice, and the eternal conflict between good and evil. C.S. Lewis created an immersive world where ordinary children are thrust into roles of significance, emphasizing the idea that anyone, regardless of age or background, can rise to greatness when faced with challenges.

Not only might you be “the one” – but you could be the one regardless of pre-destiny. The adventures in Narnia evoke a sense of awe, tapping into the age-old human desire to explore and belong to a world greater than our own, where the boundaries between reality and fantasy smudge. Furthermore, the struggles of the Pevensie siblings and their companions, set against the backdrop of Narnian prophecies and battles, mirror our own familiar internal and societal battles, underscoring the importance of faith, redemption, and the resilience of the human spirit. In a world where complexities continue to grow and moral compasses are continually tested, Narnia remains a beacon, reminding readers of all ages of the enduring power of hope, love, and the potential for magic in everyday life.

Original movie poster for 1977's "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" by George Lucas. Featuring Mark Hammil as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa and Harrison Ford as Han Solo.

“Star Wars,” also lasts because it masterfully interweaves timeless themes of good versus evil, the hero’s journey, and the internal struggles of identity and destiny, set against the vast backdrop of a galaxy brimming with lore and wonder.

George Lucas’s vision tapped into foundational human stories, borrowing elements from ancient myths, religious narratives, and classic tales of adventure, thus grounding the space opera in a tapestry of universally recognizable motifs. The saga’s exploration of the Force—a metaphysical energy binding all living things—echoes our age-old fascination with the balance of light and dark, choice and fate, and the larger questions of purpose and interconnectedness.

Moreover, the diverse cast of characters, from farm boy Luke Skywalker to Princess Leia, and rogue Han Solo to the conflicted Darth Vader, showcases a range of human experiences, dilemmas, and aspirations, allowing viewers from varied backgrounds to find personal resonance.

In a world that often feels fragmented, “Star Wars” celebrates unity, resistance against tyranny, the power of hope, and the belief that anyone, from any corner of the galaxy, can rise to make a monumental difference.

All Things Alice: Interview with Curtis Clark (Part Two)

As an amateur scholar and die-hard enthusiast of everything to do with Alice in Wonderland, I have launched a Podcast that takes on Alice’s everlasting influence on the pop culture zeitgeist. As an author that draws on Lewis Carroll’s iconic masterpiece for my Looking Glass Wars universe, I’m well acquainted with the process of dipping into Wonderland for inspiration. The journey has brought me into contact with a fantastic community of artists and creators from all walks of life—and this podcast will be the platform where we come together to answer the fascinating question: “What is it about Alice?”

It is my great pleasure to have Curtis Clark join me as my guest! Read on to explore part two of our conversation and check out the whole series on your favorite podcasting platform to listen to the full interview. For the full transcript with exclusive content, join our private Circle community!


FB

You’ve had to learn the art of pitching so instead of writing all these things on spec you can take that next idea now that you have some doors to knock on and some folks to talk to. 

CC

That’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. When I first became a writer, I didn’t even think about pitching. I’m not a performer. Then I go to San Diego Comic-Con with you and I’m watching you drop into this well-polished pitch with strangers who are just walking up to your booth and in 15 seconds they know what the world is. I was like, “Well, shit, now I gotta learn how to do that.” 

I was pitching Amazon the day the strike happened. We were doing it over Zoom. I would prefer to go in a room and shoot the shit like you and I are now, find something to riff back and forth on, get excited, get the notes, get out, and go to town. That’s not the way it is anymore. Now it’s over Zoom, they’re on mute and they’re gonna sit there for 30 minutes, nod their head and you’re gonna hope they’re not reading their email. It sucks. But you have to do it.

FB

It’s a lot harder to connect personally, because of the lack of proximity to each other and feeling that transference of energy that goes back and forth in a pitch, especially when it starts going well, and you’re building that momentum. 

CC

My reps will send me the mandates the studios send out, “We’re looking for this, this, and that. By the time you get to them, they don’t want that shit anymore. Honestly, where I’m at now with the way that I do development, I don’t even think about the market. You can’t time the market. You’re not going to be there when the market wants what it wants right now anyway, and so you’re almost better off trying to develop what’s not in the marketplace or what the markets aren’t buying. By the time you’re ready to go out with a project, it literally could be a year or two from when you conceived of it. Who knows what they’re gonna want? Everyone wanted Ted Lasso last buying season. Guess what? A bazillion Ted Lasso’s hit the market. So, if you’re going with Ted Lasso next year, you’re dead. It’s not gonna happen. 

Image of the coaching staff from the Apple TV+ series: Ted Lasso. With characters left to right: Coach Beard, (Brendan Hunt), Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) and Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein).

FB

But in five years, it might be perfect timing. Your script, Run, could fall right into place. It’s unknowable.

CC

I have a project right now that is a deep-cover espionage story set within the Alt-Right. It’s already a tough subject matter. It’s a limited series. The script is great. Probably the best writing I’ve ever done. It hasn’t left the shelf because the timing is not good. January 6 is still in everybody’s mind.

FB

It’s too close. 

CC

But by the time it got made it would be two or three years from now. So, who knows? It’s so tough that way. For me, the feeling of it being such a strong sample is that even if it doesn’t sell, it’s going to do good things for me. Well, I don’t want to hear that when we’re not able to send the script out. So, you’re telling me I have this possible golden ticket in this drawer, but “Hey, just keep it in your wallet for a little bit longer, pal.”

FB

Well, isn’t that why you’re writing a graphic novel? Tell me what your what you’re working on.

CC

There are two things I’m working on right now. One is this graphic novel called Ender’s that I co-created with this guy named Nathan Reed. It’s essentially about contract killers for the dead. It’s about this guy named Ender Endless and he’s given a second chance by Death, which is more of an entity and not a person. Death isn’t good or bad death, it’s a construct. So, they go around the world and they end Wayward Souls, people whose souls refuse to leave Earth because they were wronged or their lives were unjustly taken. The job of Ender is to either satisfy the Wayward Soul by being possessed by them and empowered, then go and take care of the guy who unjustly killed them. Or if that soul festers too long on Earth, they’ll manifest in flesh as monsters. They’re ticking time bombs and the whole point is they gotta keep Death’s books clean. Death doesn’t care if they go up or down river, just as long as there aren’t too many of these Wayward Souls on Earth because then a living death could happen where the dead rise. The story isn’t about a zombie apocalypse. That’s the White Walkers of the story. It follows Ender Endless and the discovery of who he was because he has no memories from his life.

I love the tone of comic books because you get action and you get quippiness, and you get funny stuff. But with the modern indie books and the movement that comics have been on in the last 30 years, the writing’s gotten so much better. It’s TV-quality writing. You get to do a lot of drama. We’re talking to an artist who was nominated for a Hugo and we like him because my biggest thing is how well the artist gets their characters to act. He has a traditional style, but his characters are very expressive. I love expression in comics because it’s fun. So hopefully we can get him. I’ve written the first two issues and I’m gonna write three more on the contract. Then, if it’s successful, I’ll probably write more of it.

FB

So, you’re doing individual issues, you’re going to release those first, in very traditional terms, 23-26 pages?

CC

We’re doing it the way Image does it because that’s the publisher we want to approach. You did the first Hatter comic through Image. It’s creator-owned so we’ll get to keep the immediate rights to it. The idea would be to single issue publish the first five issues and then Image would collect it as a trade paperback and sell it that way. That’s how they make their money. That’s the route we want to go. But we have to get an artist on board and we’ll do the first five pages with the couple of scripts, and then we’ll talk to publishers that way. We’re not going to spend all the money doing the art for all five books if we don’t have a publisher.

Part of the pivot is because I couldn’t sell that in Hollywood if there wasn’t a comic book first. The market is too risk-averse. If you have original ideas, you’ve gotta go to a different medium first. It’s the same reason I’m writing a novel now. If I were to write that as a spec script, there’s no way in hell it’d get made as a $100-120 million epic that’s not based on anything. So, I have to write it as a book.

FB

But at the same time, it’s deeply satisfying to write and create something and have it be a thing, whether it’s a book or a comic book. If it turns into a movie, that’s great. But, when I wrote The Looking Glass Wars, I was like, “Okay, if this could just be a book, and certainly the first comic, will people even look at this?” Once I got Ben Templesmith for the first comic, I thought, “Oh, people will see it and want to check it out because of Ben Templesmith.” It’s similar to Hollywood. But the thing I realized that was so satisfying is, no matter what happened, I haven’t made anything out of The Looking Glass Wars and it’s been 20 years, but I don’t care. I love the world and the sandbox I play in every day.

Book cover for Frank Beddor's "Hatter M: Far From Wonder, Volume One" with co-authors: Liz Cavalier, Ben Templesmith, and Sami Makkonen. The main character is standing in an archway, throwing his blade-rimmed hat into a brawl between police and workers.

CC

That’s the thing for me, especially for the first book, that it’s just gonna be me and the audience. I have to get a publisher in place. My reps and I are putting the submission together. I’ve written the first 20,000 words, the first five chapters, and there’s a prologue. I’ve had the prose evaluated – it walks and talks like a book and it’s done pretty well, in terms of the quality of the writing. But the thing I’m excited about is that it’s not going to take 150 people and $600 million. It’s not even going to require the input costs of a graphic novel.

FB

I just wrote a blog post today about the editor, Cally Poplak whom I met 20 years ago when Egmont in the UK published my book. I was really struck by her editorial letter, which was incredibly extensive. She said she had the pruning pencil, and she had something for all 358 pages of the book. It was completely daunting and whenever I go to schools, I show some of the pages. It’s the only time the English teachers get excited.

CC

For me, it goes back to that unicorn thing. When I first read Frank Herbert’s “Dune,” I assumed that the book went from his mouth to the page. You often don’t think about the role an editor has in getting the story to that place. So that gave me confidence, knowing that I don’t have to be perfect.

Book Cover for Frank Herbert's "Dune", featuring a cartoonish night sky, with 2 moons and multiple waves of sandy dunes in red, yellow and orange hues.

FB

But you mentioned Frank Herbert and basically, all people named Frank who write are pretty natural and don’t have to work that hard at it.

CC

And all people named Curtis are donkeys. But with editors, they’re not trying to do what writers do when they read, which is, “This is what I would have done.” They’re trying to make it work.

FB

My editor said, “This is your book, and if you don’t want to take this on, don’t take this on. These are really suggestions.” She was so smart in giving me ownership and having great editorial advice and ideas but never losing the thread that this was my book.

CC

It’s way different than Hollywood.

FB

That’s the whole point. It’s not just about writing a book so I can get a $150 million movie made. It’s writing a book because it’s an amazing experience and it’s mine. No matter what happens, it comes from my mind and my imagination. Then if what was in your head translates to the reader, and the reader tells you, that will blow your mind. Then they dressed up as characters and then they got tattoos and you’re like, “Okay, how did that happen?”

CC

I have one character in the book that if anybody gets a tattoo, I know exactly who it will be. But I can’t spoil that character because he’s fun. But I agree with everything you’re saying. It’s the most fun writing, in some ways, that I’ve ever had because I’m not thinking about anyone other than myself. Whereas when you’re writing a comic, you’re thinking of the artists. When you’re writing for television or film, you’re thinking about the executives and a million other things you don’t want to think about, but you have to.

I had this discussion with my friend Brian Hanson, who has an MFA and has directed movies. I was like, “I have an unpopular opinion, I actually think prose is easier than screenwriting.” He goes, “You’re out of your mind.” But I said, “No when you’re writing prose, you get to do all the jobs. You’re the sound designer, you’re the actor, you’re the director, you’re the writer. You get to write all the senses. The issue with screenwriting is people overwrite way too much because they’re not used to the economy of words. It puts you in a box. It was liberating to do prose. I’m not saying I’m great at it, but I had a great time doing it. Also, the way you can get yourself out of trouble and make a scene work is so much different because you have the character’s thoughts, whereas with a screenplay, absolutely not, unless you do a voiceover.

FB

As you said earlier, all three, prose, screenwriting, and comic books are very different. All three require a different skill set. I would imagine that when you finish this book and you’re on your fourth book, you’ll look back at that first book and go, “Wow, I could have done such a better job.” I certainly feel that way. But you’re in the moment and you have the skill set that you have and you have the imaginative power that you have. You create the thing, you put it out there, and you hope people receive it in the way that you intended.

CC

It’s called Paragons, but I don’t know when it’ll come out.

FB

And you’ve written 20,000 pages and tell us, is it Y.A., is it adult?

CC

It’s the older end of Y.A. Ages 14-17.

FB

How many pages? What are you thinking for word count?

CC

It’ll probably be close to 100,000 words. I know a lot of Y.A. is around 80,000 words but for a lot of Science Fiction Fantasy, you tack on some words because of the world-building. So, I’m shooting for somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 words.

FB

Yeah, I’d say 80,000 words is a very good mark.

CC

We had a conversation about this book and I still take some of the things you said to me and have built them into how I’m building the world in terms of the age of the protagonist and making sure that all of the “good stuff,” is in the first book, meaning you only have one chance to hook them. I’m trying to be as aware as I can be from a seasoned writer’s perspective and knowing what I know from being in Hollywood, but to your point, this is the first time I’ve written a novel.

FB

It really falls on the prose. With a screenplay, you can have somebody rewrite it. With comics, the art can be the thing that shines and people will buy it. But with prose, it’s absolutely the words on the page.

CC

I wrote a test chapter because I was worried about if I could even do it. I was having full-blown impostor syndrome because I’ve done screenwriting and that translates pretty easily to comic books, but prose is a different animal. So, I did the first chapter and the feedback was, “What’s gonna happen next?” I thought that was a sign I should write what happens next.

FB

That’s very funny because my editor said to me, “Frank, you’ve clearly done all of the research. You clearly have this whole world in your head. You clearly know what their backstory is. But the readers don’t really care. They only want to know about what happens next.” That one stung a little bit.

CC

It’s like the City of Gods pilot I wrote. There was so much, “Check out all this cool stuff in this world that I’m going to do.” Then the feedback was, “Hey, man, that’s exposition.”

FB

I thought that was a really cool world. You might want to revisit that.

CC

I’ve thought about it. But the thing I got was that Greek mythology is a little dusty. That’s the word they like to say. Then the next thing you know, Dan Harmon is doing a Greek gods adult comedy.

FB

It depends on who’s writing it. When Frank Scott did The Queen’s Gambit and started with the young girl version for the entire pilot and then cut ahead in the second episode, it was a revelation. “Oh, you can do that?! I’m gonna revisit The Looking Glass Wars.”

Book Cover for "Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. Image features the title and author on a black background with a golden sparrow holding a shield and arrow in an attack formation.

CC

Meanwhile, Alyss starts when she’s a kid and then becomes a teenager. The one thing I’ll say about the transition from screenwriting to prose that I do think is somewhat beneficial is the knowledge of structure. You were the one who sent me The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins is a screenwriter and every single one of those chapters is – cliffhangers like hell. So, of course, the reader is compelled to read the next chapter. Next thing you know, you’ve read the book in three days. Anytime someone tells you, I read this book in three days, you think, “Oh, that’s good.” Hopefully, I’ll be successful in baking that into my style, where, because of my screenwriting background, it’s well-paced with good cliffhangers.

FB

I think people describe my book, the people that liked it anyway, as being very cinematic as well as a page-turner, which was really important. It’s something I focused on because, with middle-grade kids or young adults it’s so important to engage them and to continue that engagement.

CC

My biggest concern with what I’m doing with this book is that I may have aged up too much. I’ll be curious to see what happens when we go to publishers. If they say, “Hey, this is written a little too old.” It’s written at about a seventh-grade reading level, which is the target reading level for casual prose, but the worry is that it’s coming from the mind of an adult too much. I’m a little worried about that part of it.

FB

It depends on the vocabulary you’re choosing, but it’s not knowable until you put it out there. I didn’t know that there were children’s publishers, Y.A. publishers, and middle-grade publishers when I wrote The Looking Glass Wars, which is why if I had known that I wouldn’t have had a seven-year-old, 13-year-old, and 18-year-old in the same damn book. But that was the way I saw the story so I just wrote it and then I got passed on all over the place until Cally came along.

CC

But then it became a New York Times bestseller, so I guess it proves you correct.

FB

Thanks to my editor.

I want to talk about influences and imagination. In your bio, it says that you “spent your youth spun up in a tornado of comics, novels, films, television, and games.” In terms of your style of writing, and in terms of your choices of stories to tell, what were your top influences?

CC

I read tons of sci-fi and fantasy: Ray Bradbury, Dune, Neuromancer, Dungeons and Dragons novels, Magic the Gathering novels, Asimov, and Philip K. Dick. I really liked this series called Coldfire Trilogy by Celia Friedman. That was a different take on fantasy because it was human beings landed on another planet and our technology didn’t work, so we’re forced to go back to a feudal situation. I like that kind of setup. Those books really inspired me, but I read them when I was a teenager. I was doing this stuff when I was five.

I have older cousins named Travis and Rob and they took me on a Dungeons and Dragons campaign at our cottage in Fife on Lake Michigan when I was like eight years old, I begged them to do it. It was amazing. I couldn’t believe I got to make a character and they were in the story. My cousin was the one telling me the story. John August, the writer, does a podcast with Craig Mazin, and someone asked him, “My kid is interested in writing. What should I do? What’s the best thing I could do?” His answer was, “Have him play Dungeons of Dragons.” You’re in charge of the story and it’s also social so your kids aren’t alone all the time. They have an audience in front of them to interact with. So, I played Dungeon and Dragons, Vampire the Masquerade, Werewolf the Apocalypse, and Shadowrun, the second version, which is one of my personal favorites. I played other fantasy games like Harp and then Magic the Gathering, which is a little bit like The Looking Glass Wars because it also has fantasy elements, science fiction elements, steampunk elements, and cyberpunk elements blended together. It’s big, broad worlds that go between different planes of existence. Those were the big influences.

In terms of comics, I grew up reading my older brother Peter’s comics, and God, I got lucky. That was the Chris Claremont X-Men run, which is the Dark Phoenix Saga and The Morlocks. I got to read a bunch of that stuff, which really affected me. Zany books like Groo the Wanderer and the Marvel What the–?! books. I read a bunch of really bad comics in the 90s. It wasn’t a great time for comics, to a degree. But that’s where it all came from.

Marvel Comics "X Men" by Stan Lee. This is the 30th anniversary of the Fantastic Four cover, featuring virtually every X-Men Character that existed at the time.

FB

So, a serious nerd-dom coming out of farm life in Michigan where you got inspired because you’re reading Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons novels alongside some of the great sci-fi writers in history.

CC

I’m not equating them as being as good.

FB

But you can go back and forth. That’s a love of it. That’s a love of the world creation aspect of it.

CC

There are some great stories out there. Final Fantasy VII has a storyline that follows a character named Cloud Strife and the bad guy’s name is Sephiroth. It’s this really crazy epic about cloning but when I was playing that game, when I was 10-11 years old, I’d never seen this type of story before. Even though maybe there was a better version of that story somewhere else, it got to me through games. You look at all the stuff that’s being made in television now and you can see all of these people were influenced by their childhoods in the 80s and 90s. Some of that is through gaming. Look at how successful gaming movies have become.

Video Game Cover Art for Final Fantasy VII. Originally released on Playstation 2. White background of a guy holding a large sword, looking towards a castle in the far distance.

FB

Finally, there are writers who understand how gamers see the worlds they interact with.

CC

It took a while for the industry to take those stories seriously but, moving forward, that’s going to be a huge part of movies because the gaming industry makes more money than movies do.

FB

Which is why I think Netflix is trying to get into the game business and probably Amazon as well, but it’s a different animal. I think they will have a hard time. Again, it comes down to creators who have unique visions. I gotta give it to Warner Brothers and Mattel for creating Barbie and letting Greta Gerwig run with that thing, make it her own, and transform the business. It’s pretty remarkable to have that movie alongside Oppenheimer.

CC

The thing about Oppenheimer is, you have to go see Christopher Nolan movies because he’s a writer/director and a lot of his films are original. I know, Oppenheimer is historical, but I’ll go see any Christopher Nolan movie because it’s creator-owned, based on his original idea. But with Barbie, what a bet. Now hopefully, they realize it’s not a bad way to do it. Look at Phil Lord and Chris Miller, though. They were probably the only ones who had that take on The Lego Movie, where at the end, you find out the kid was playing with the dad’s Legos. Holy shit, you’re telling me that’s what’s been going on the entire time!? That was all in a kid’s mind. I’ve watched my son, who’s five years old, do the same thing. He’s basically doing The Lego Movie. Lord and Miller had the smartest take you ever could have had on that movie.

Still image of hand-drawn characters from "Spiderman: Across the Spider-Verse" with Miles Morales as the main focal point of the image.

FB

That was genius. I love Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Those two movies, the way they were expanding the Spider-Verse was really inspiring. That’s something I wanted to just touch on a little bit because I’m looking to refresh and reset The Looking Glass Wars and we’ve had a lot of conversations about time travel and how time travel could play itself in this world. I had a template for the stories that I wanted to create first and then the last two were with you, Crossfire and Underfire. Now that there’s been a few years I’ve started thinking about time travel and multiple dimensions and the multiverse, and how I might be able to reintroduce Hatter through a portal that’s not just into the time in which he’s living but fractures off into different times and different storylines.

How do you see time travel in fiction, in graphic novels, or in movies? What is your take on the most effective way to use time travel in storytelling?

CC

The answer is very carefully because it’s an absolute can of worms. They can do something to the stakes, which you see in the Marvel movies, for example. Now, suddenly, “What really matters?” When you do time travel, you have to create a set of rules that don’t undermine your stakes, and you have to create a set of rules that, when you’re done with time travel, you’re done with time travel. Because if it’s always there, nothing matters. You have to create a moment in time in your world, it can be for 10-15 years, but you have to know before you start how you’re going to button it up correctly because nothing is worse than when time travel comes in and jumps the shark.

If done correctly, it’s great. My favorite time travel thing is in Looper when Bruce Willis says to Joseph Gordon Levitt “I don’t want to sit here and talk about fucking time travel! We’re gonna be here with abacuses and whiteboards.” That’s the whole point. The second you start to explain time travel, some nerd like me will go, “No, I don’t think so. This actually doesn’t work.” You need to use it in a fun way. Where it’s like, “Hey, we’re doing time travel. Okay? But we’re not doing this forever and the things that you’ve watched before still matter.”

Otherwise, it’s like the first season of Westworld in which they just kept killing these people and the people kept coming back. Why do we even care? It’s the same reason why they finally have stopped bringing Jean Grey back for a while in X-Men. She’s gonna die, but it doesn’t matter and she’s just gonna come back. It’s like a soap opera that way. You have to be really, really careful with the way you do it because your audience deserves that the things they read before still matter,

FB

That is why I like Quantum Leap, Doctor Who, or 12 Monkeys. All three of those did a really good job in terms of using the time travel device to keep the stakes fresh and allow an expansion of the story. Then it’s about how clever you are inside of the device of the time travel.

FB

You introduced all the Card Soldiers characters in Crossfire and Underfire, where did you get the inspiration for those? You have some really great characters in there.

CC

We talked a little bit about G.I. Joe, but honestly, I really viewed it like a game. So, to me, it’s a class system. In Dungeons and Dragons there’s knights, wizards and sorcerers, rogues, and that kind of thing. So, we have a pickpocket. We have an explosives expert. A lot of times, when you’re dealing with a Dirty Dozen-type scenario, these people are going to have, at least for the first story, a dominant personality tick, because you’re not going to get the underbelly of all of them. We don’t know why Gamble loves explosives. We don’t know why Engels was in jail. We didn’t why the character Rue, who didn’t make the team, was a pickpocket.

Character art by Curtis Clark, done for Frank Beddor's graphic novel and book series: "The Looking Glass Wars". This image features 7 of the characters, hand-drawn on white paper.

One of the things that we talked about before was my favorite character that I’ve made for your world, and Ovid is probably the one, but there’s this guy named Yonnish, who’s a linguistics expert in the House of Cards. I’m weirdly fascinated by that guy. No idea what he is. He’s just a throwaway gag in the book but I’m thinking, “What if that guy’s the hero of our story?” What if he goes to Morgavia and gets all the cultural norms and saves the day?

FB

That’s funny that you say that because there are two characters in The Looking Glass Wars, two Wonderlanders. They fall into the Pool of Tears, never to be heard from again. I was like, “Oh, I should write a story about those two.”

A lot of times I feel in the stories I’ve told there’s a big canvas and lots of rules and lots of logic that has to get dealt with to keep the story moving. I like those things, but those are there already, now I can drop into the personal, internal stakes and find ways to externalize those.

CC

Speaking of all these other characters, whatever happened with Hellia?

FB

That’s a very good question. It’s a book that was not released so I’m not opposed to talking about it. That has a big-time travel aspect of it, as well, because basically, it turns out that Redd had a child, Hellia, that she thought she had lost in childbirth. We meet Hellia at 18 and she does not know she’s the heir to Redd and that if Alyss had never come back, she would be ruling Wonderland. At the same time that’s happening, she’s starting to come into these powers. It’s her story of figuring out how she can send somebody back in time to kill or trap Hatter and Alyss in our world so the outcome of her life will be different.

CC

It’s The Terminator.

FB

It is. I finished the book and I’ve been trying to decide what to do with it. There’s a lot of rewriting that has to happen. But it’s a cool idea. You’re taking the antagonist and turning her into a protagonist by the end or at least you’re showing the evolution.

CC

It’s one of those great antagonistic motivations, where, in her mind, she believes she’s right.

FB

To a degree, she is right. Her mother was not a good person. But everybody is the hero of their own story, and she’s the hero of her own story. Curtis, thanks a lot for forcing me to divulge a storyline that I’ve been sitting on for a very long time.

Tell me what you hope to do next. I hear the CEOs are talking and Netflix is getting involved in trying to resolve this strike. So, fingers crossed that we’ll be out there pitching and complaining about executives but making stuff happen. In the meantime, I’m gonna be working on some graphic novels. I know you are. Are you writing any television specs or pilots to be ready for when the strike’s over?

CC

I’m focusing on the non-Hollywood stuff right now. I have four Hollywood projects that are all gonna go back live again after the strike. I have an adult animated comedy called “Down Here” that I have with this company called Mindshow. That was the one I was pitching to Amazon the day the strike happened. We’ll finish up all those pitches. I have the hour-long drama set within the Alt-Right. I have a Hallmark Christmas pitch, I never thought I’d say that, but it doesn’t have to be Hallmark. I won’t pitch it here but it’s a fun idea.

FB

But Hallmark is great because they produce a lot of movies. I have a lot of friends who go in for the quick paycheck. There’s a quick turnaround. They have a set template for what they want. They do a lot of holiday movies.

CC

Then I have the crime drama as well, which we were already talking to investors and distributors about, that we’re trying to shoot back in Michigan. So, I have all that stuff going on. But also, the industry is so upside down right now, that I don’t really want to invest my time on something like that until I know what I’m looking at. So, it’s Enders, it’s the graphic novel that hopefully we’ll have packaged up and ready to go to publishers with the artist in tow and I’ll finish the other three remaining scripts. That will be on the front burner and then also the novel Paragons as well. I also have a kids’ show because I have children. I think everybody tries their hand at a kid show once they have kids. But I want to try my hand at some of the non-Hollywood stuff just because Hollywood is frustrating.

FB

The stuff you can actually get produced and share is deeply satisfying.

I find it really interesting how you’ve turned your childhood and your experience in pop culture into a job. I think a lot of folks who are artistic, whether it’s drawing or writing, they’re like your dad, “You’ll be back in two weeks. How do I make a living?” There are so many ways, ultimately, to make a living and a lot of what this podcast has to say is about that.

When I say All Things, Alice, I think now it’s All Things Imagination, and Alice is a muse for all of us. Many of us, in some way or another, are all just following, running, hoping to, you know, create our own rabbit hole and our own Wonderland.

CC

The thing with Alice in Wonderland is Lewis Carroll kind of got there first. All the stuff that I was playing with and reading as a kid, it’s all influenced by Lewis Carroll. It’s all about the book from 1865. The entire fantasy genre and most of the children’s genre was changed forever by that book. I don’t know if he did it first, but he made it popular.

FB

Well, on that, thank you. And we’ll talk soon, my friend. Great chatting later.

CC

Sounds good. Thanks for having me, Frank.


Check out Part 1 of Frank’s interview with Curtis!

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20 Years Through the Looking Glass: A Tribute To a visionary Editor and Agent

Greetings, Wonderlandians and literary aficionados! As I stand at the precipice of time’s ever-turning pages, I mark a momentous occasion. Two decades have flown since a fateful encounter with a guiding star, my editor, Cally Poplak of Egmont Books – the true White Queen of editorial wisdom. It took a mere year under her meticulous gaze for my narrative to transform from a manuscript into a published book.

Author, Frank Beddor, signing copies of his first edition hardcover book: The Looking Glass Wars, sitting at a desk with a stack of books, a telephone and a fax machine.

In the sprawling labyrinth reminiscent of Wonderland’s enigmatic pathways, Cally emerged as my beacon. In an era dominated by traditional notions, her decision to champion the voice of an American storyteller seemed as audacious as challenging the Red Queen to a game of chess.

The rejections from American publishers stacked up, much like the mysterious riddles of Wonderland’s denizens. Yet, it was Cally’s unwavering faith that guided my story out of the shadows.  Her words have always held a touch of magic, a dash of praise that ignited confidence and propelled me to push boundaries. With a keen eye for perfection, she knew how to nudge me in the direction of my best work.

From Cally’s first editorial letter:

“Keep in hand my letter of Sept. 8th, 2003, to remind you of all that is brilliant about this exceptional script and keep in mind the fact that this is your book, Frank, so you should only accept suggestions that are in tune with your vision, your voice. I am just a perfectionist who wants to ensure the book we publish for you is the best it can possibly be, and I do think I can push you a little further. Also, you did mention wanting a hands-on editor…”

Frank Beddor and Cally Poplak, standing in an antique shop, looking at copies of Frank's book: The Looking Glass Wars, that is for sale in the shop. There are vintage Christmas decorations up around the mostly stained wood walled shop.

With that began our illustrious journey, draft after draft, passage by passage, line by line, under the meticulous scrutiny of Cally’s ever-pruning pencil. But one remark, sharp as the Jabberwocky’s tooth, still stands out even after two decades, a gentle jibe that stung, yet was irrefutably true:

“It is evident that you have done an enormous amount of research for the story and that you have an entire world in your head and the backstory for each character. But, be tough on yourself, Frank: are you including a piece of information because it moves the story on or because it’s an opportunity to demonstrate the depth of your research?” Then, with a blow softened only by its accuracy, she continued, “The research and back-stories are what give your fantasy its integrity and authority, forming its invisible foundations but, to be brutally honest, when immersed in a book, the reader DOESN’T CARE ABOUT THE HARD WORK YOU PUT INTO WRITING THE STORY. They just want to know what happens next.”

Her words, though a jolt to my pride, were a necessary awakening. It was through such honest feedback that Cally helped shape not just a manuscript but this wanna-be author’s understanding of his audience. “Show, don’t tell. Let your splendid characters and actions assert themselves. Trust them, Frank,” she would often emphasize.

Reflecting on this Looking Glass journey, I tip my top hat to mentorship, to champions who dare to dream beyond the ordinary, and to visionaries like Cally who see potential in the heart of creator’s imagination. More than an editor, she was the guiding North Star, leading a tale from the wilds of Wonderland to the hearts of readers.

Author, Frank Beddor, with a group of people, posing for a photo. He is joined by characters from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and some kids holding up copies of his book, The Looking Glass Wars.

Our journey was a collaborative dance, a beautiful synchronization of creativity and meticulous editing. Cally’s hands-on approach was exactly what I needed – a partner who shared my dedication to excellence and a mentor who was unafraid to push me further. Her faith in my potential, her unwavering encouragement, and her ability to see the story’s essence were the driving forces behind the book’s enduring impact.

Having pruned all 358 pages of The Looking Glass Wars, Cally’s editorial letter delivered the pitch perfect closing paragraph:

“Frank, this letter may seem overwhelming, but an awful lot of my comments are very minor line edits (and this is a long script) and NOTHING IS MANDATORY. Don’t feel you have to explain any suggestions you don’t want to take on board, but let’s talk once you have had time to digest everything. Also, I hope you notice all the ticks marking favourite passages. If I’d listed those, too, the letter would have been twice as long. So, congratulations once again. I am longing for all my colleagues to read the final script, because I know they’ll be as dazzled as I am, and then the really important people – your future fans.”

In the tapestry of my literary journey, Cally-the-pedant, and her pruning pencil

remain irreplaceable, and as I type these words, my heart swells with an immeasurable depth of gratitude for her involvement, forever altering the course of my narrative life.

But before Cally Poplak, there was Barbara Marshall, my agent — the indomitable force from the city that never sleeps, who took London by storm. Her energy was quintessentially New Yorker – bold, relentless, and always a step ahead. I sometimes wondered if she had an internal compass that unerringly pointed toward success, or perhaps just an innate knack for sensing where the next big opportunity lay.

Frank Beddor and his agent, Barbara Marshall, standing in front of a store named: Lewis Carroll's Alice's Shop - The Old Sheep Shop. They are standing next to a life-sized cutout of Alice from Alice in Wonderland and holding up a copy of Frank's book: The Looking Glass Wars.

Barbara was never one to back down. In the daunting maze of the publishing industry, she was my guide, my advocate, and my unwavering champion. Securing that pivotal meeting with Cally was no mere stroke of luck; it was Barbara’s foresight and tenacity.

Her expertise truly shone during the negotiation phase with Egmont, one of the U.K.’s publishing stalwarts. While they held firm on certain clauses, Barbara’s adept navigation ensured that our interests were never sidelined. Her comforting note to me during these intense discussions: “Not to worry. They have their standard clauses, and we have our particular requirements and we will find a way through it.” And find a way, she did.

Barbara not only secured for me one of the most significant advances Egmont had ever awarded at the time, but she had another ace up her sleeve. Unbeknownst to me, she had also kindled interest from two other publishing companies. Her ability to keep multiple irons in the fire while ensuring the best possible outcome for her client is a testament to her unparalleled proficiency.

And oh, the bidding war! With the success of our Egmont deal as her rallying banner, Barbara orchestrated a masterclass in negotiation, pitting giants Penguin and Random House against each other for US. Rights. To say Barbara is a mere agent is an understatement. She’s a friend, a visionary, a trailblazer, and above all, a fierce guardian of her authors’ dreams.

To these incredible women who championed my vision, my tales, and the world of Wonderland I wanted to share, I tip my hat. Our collective journey mirrors the adventures of Wonderland: unpredictable, thrilling, and utterly transformative.

Cally Poplar, Frank Beddor and Barbara Marshall, standing together on a dock, in front of a river, under some green trees.

An Alice in Wonderland Adaptation Could Include These Actors

As was established in my previous blog post, where I discussed hypothetical castings for Princess Alyss Heart/Alice Liddell, The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor is the book that needs a television adaptation. With its fantastically large, magical, world, action-packed and emotional storyline, and the inventive re-imagination of characters we all know and love. It’s the perfect book for a hit show. The character I will be hypothetically casting today is the hat-throwing, acrobatic, globe trotter, Hatter Madigan, Frank Beddor’s version of the Mad Hatter.

This isn’t the Hatter of old though, no. There are no tea parties or mercury poisoning involved with Madigan. Hatter Madigan is a high-ranking member of the Wonderland Military called the Millinery. Hatter is a masterful fighter, his acrobatic fighting style incorporates his blade-rimmed hat and a backpack filled with a seemingly endless amount of knives. Very few have taken him on and lived to tell the tale.

While he is a talented fighter, he also has a softer side, during the coup of Queen Redd, when Ayss’s parents are murdered, he is tasked with protecting Princess Alyss. Unfortunately, during their escape from Wonderland, he loses Princess Alyss in the Pool of Tears. After Losing Alyss, Hatter tirelessly walks the globe for thirteen years, exhausting even the most minuscule of leads in his obsessive search for Alyss.

Hatter takes on an almost father-type role for Princess Alyss. An orphan himself, he understands what it is like to grow up without your birth parents. If I may be so blunt, Hatter is a morally grey badass. In regards to his actions, at first glance, you may not think that the ends justify the means but he is only supposed to follow one rule, protect Princess Alyss, by any means necessary. And when I say any, I mean it.

Hatter Madigan is a complex and powerful role. The correct casting for him is crucial not only for his character but for the overarching story. While I’m no director myself, I mentioned in my last article that I had worked in casting, so if you’ll allow me, I’m going to dawn my “Scorsese hat” and dive into the list.

Tom Hardy 

Image of Tom Hardy, a British actor known for his roles in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Dunkirk, and Marvel Comics' Venom. Could he portray Hatter Madigan in a television adaptation of The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor?

Tom Hardy has a truly incredible catalog of films and TV under his belt, The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max Fury Road, Peaky Blinders, The Revenant, Inception, Dunkirk, Black Hawk Down, Locke, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, etc. He effectively portrays morally complex characters aided by his seemingly gruff exterior.

Behind the gruff exterior in his roles, he masterfully brings out a softer side to the characters he embodies. Along with this, he can perform many stunts as shown in Mad Max Fury Road so the acrobatic fighting style of the Hatter would be a cakewalk for him. Tom Hardy would be a fantastic actor to portray Hatter.

Jason Momoa 

Image of actor and heartthrob: Jason Momoa, known for his roles in Game of Thrones and aa Aquaman in the DC Comics movies. Could he be a good choice to cast as Hatter Madigan in a movie adaptation of Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars?

The Game Of Thrones star, Jason Momoa, would be an amazing Hatter. With his imposing figure and strong frame, it would not be a far stretch of the imagination for him to be a bodyguard. While he may seem intimidating, the reason I truly believe Jason Momoa would be a fantastic Hatter is due to the fact that he brings a certain sweetness to his roles that would fit Hatter perfectly.

Princess Alyss not only has to be physically protected by Hatter, she also has to be emotionally protected, which Jason has shown in his past performances he is more than capable of doing.

Idris Elba 

Image of actor, Idris Elba, from The Wire who could be a good candidate to be cast as Hatter Madiigan in a film or TV adaptation of The Looking Glass Wars, by author, Frank Beddor.

Idris Elba is a man so suave that he was being considered to be the next James Bond. Unfortunately for him, yet fortunate for us, that did not happen. Idris Elba is an insanely talented actor, established from his performance in the hit show, The Wire.

In Hijack, Idris plays Sam Nelson, a corporate negotiator who must use his skills to save everyone on board the hijacked Flight KA29. In this role, Idris brings an exciting resourcefulness as well as a calm demeanor during stressful situations that would translate perfectly to mysterious and competent Hatter. He’s definitely got the chops for the role and would bring so much mystery and intrigue to Hatter.

Henry Cavill 

Image of actor, Henry Cavill from Superman and The Witcher who could be a Contender for Hattter Madigan in 'The Looking Glass Wars' Movie or TV series Cast, which is Frank Beddor's expansion, or adaptation of the events from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Henry Cavill is no stranger to big flashy films and television. From Superman to The Witcher, Henry is a force to be reckoned with. His imposing frame alone would fit well for the powerful bodyguard that is Hatter. What’s more, though he is strong and handsome, he is a massive nerd. He openly talks about his hobbies such as World of Warcraft and Warhammer, which means he understands what it means to fans when something they love gets an adaptation and would give his performance his all to get it right.

In The Witcher, he played Geralt. Geralt is a man who doesn’t really belong in the world he lives in, just like Hatter as he travels the globe searching for Princess Alyss. Cavill will bring power as well as sorrow to the role that makes him a strong contender to be the Hatter. 

Ewan McGregor 

Image of Ewan McGregor, who is known for his role as Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. Could he be an Ideal Candidate for Hatter Madigan, in a movie or TV show adaptation of 'The Looking Glass Wars, which is Frank Beddor's Adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?

Obi Wa- Sorry, Ewan McGregor, is a powerhouse. He is instantly recognizable and would bring so much fun and mystery to the calculated and deadly Hatter Madigan. Let’s start with the obvious, to me and anyone in my generation, he is Obi-Wan Kenobi. In Star Wars, Episode One: The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan is a powerful Jedi tasked with protecting young Anakin Skywalker. This would translate over perfectly to the Looking Glass Wars. It’s no stretch of the imagination to say he would convincingly portray a powerful soldier turned bodyguard who is tasked with protecting, then finding, Princess Alyss.

Playing a Jedi also means that he is no stranger to wild stunts and fighting with a “blade” just like he would need to do as Hatter. He fits every necessary part of the Hatter perfectly, I’ve established that he can convey convincing staged fights but he also showed us that he can be a tender and loving caretaker as he did with young Princess Leia in the new Obi-Wan Kenobi show. I can say with no hesitation that Ewan McGregor would make a great Hatter Madigan.

Javier Bardem 

Image of Javier Bardem, known for No Country For Old Men - who could be an Ideal Candidate for Hatter Madigan, in a movie or series adaptation of 'The Looking Glass Wars, which is Frank Beddor's Adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

Javier Bardem might feel a bit like an odd man out on this list at first glance, but give me a couple hundred words and I know I can change your mind. All we have to do is look at his performance in No Country for Old Men. Okay, wait, don’t leave, hear me out. Javier’s character, Chigurh in No Country for Old Men is a psychopathic assassin who leaves a wake of dead bodies behind him in his hunt for Josh Brolin.

This on the surface may not seem like the right thing for Hatter Madigan but allow me to remind you of when Princess Alyss is separated from Hatter during their escape from Wonderland and ends up in our world, what does Hatter do? He walks the globe, using every bit of his training from the Millinery to find clues to lead him to the one he was supposed to protect. Remove Chigurh’s psychopathy, the make wake of dead bodies justified killings, and change the end goal from killing Josh Brolin to protecting Alyss, and boom, Hatter.

The laser-like focus, the strong silent type energy, the detective work, to put a perfect cherry on top, Hatter Madigan is a morally grey hero, he is not moralistic when protecting exploited children, he is a trained killer after all… Told you I would convince you. Javier Bardem can and will provide.

Michael Fassbender 

Image of Michael Fassbender - who could be an Ideal Candidate for 'The Looking Glass Wars' Movie Cast, which is Frank Beddor's Adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

It seems as though Michael Fassbender is no stranger to big set pieces, from the recreation of ancient Greece in 300 to the distant planet that is the setting of Prometheus. Big works for Fassbender. But, then I remembered Steve Jobs. A movie that takes place in one location over the span of many years. It is essentially a play. Yet it still feels massive. And that’s when it clicked for me, Fassbender brings the “big.” His performances have that weight. The perfect weight needed for the role of Hatter.

Hatters presence is always felt, even when he is being quiet. Fassbender has the chops to bring awareness of Hatter, without drawing attention. Striking the perfect balance of an assassin. Which Fassbender is already familiar with due to his staring in Assassin’s Creed.

James McAvoy 

Image of actor James McAvoy - who. could be a top Pick for 'The Looking Glass Wars' movie or streaming series cast. Which is Frank Beddor's Alice in Wonderland adaptation.

James McAvoy has the ability to disappear into his roles unlike any other. This skill is highlighted no better than in Split, where James portrayed a man with dissociative identity disorder. Every time his character changed personalities, you fully believed he became a new person. Even though it was the same face.

James is also no stranger to the fantasy world, portraying Mr. Tumnus in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. With his rugged looks and previously mentioned top tier acting chops, he truly has all the raw ingredients to become a perfect Hatter. The only missing ingredient here is him. James, are you reading this? Call Frank Beddor, his cellphone number is [REDACTED].

Alexander Skarsgård 

Actor Alexander Skarsgard - Potential Casting choice for 'The Looking Glass Wars' Movie or TV show Adaptation by Frank Beddor, and based on Alice in Wonderland.

A couple of months ago, my girlfriend was rewatching True Blood. Now, I had never watched this show before, as I’m not it’s target demographic. But, let me tell you, while she was watching the show and I was doing other things, any time Alexander Skarsgård came on camera, I was glued to the screen. I was surprised that a romantic drama about vampires in Louisiana had a performance so nuanced and genuinely unsettling. He (along with my girlfriend) made me watch the whole show.

As shown in The Northman, Skarsgård is no stranger to sword play, masterfully executing the choreographed fights like a true master of the blade. Without a doubt, Skarsgård would bring an incredibly interesting performance to Hatter. Plus he’s got a brother, which would be amazing if he cameo’d as Hatter’s brother, Dalton. Just throwing it out there.

Jamie Dornan 

Image of actor Jamie Dornan, a potential candidate for Hatter M. in The Looking Glass Wars television series adaptation.

Okay, let me address the elephant in the room before I fully get into why Jamie Dornan is a great contender to be hypothetically cast as Hatter Madigan. Fifty Shades of Grey. For those of you who don’t know, Fifty Shades of Grey… How do I describe this without getting in trouble? Oh, I got it! Go ask your mother. Roasted.

Okay, but seriously, those of you who have watched the movie or at least heard of it might be wondering why he is on this list, that movie (and book) is a lot different from The Looking Glass Wars. And you’re right to think this, but all I need to say is one word to get you on my side, smolder. Those who have seen the movie get what I’m saying. There is a lot of smoldering in Fifty Shades of Grey. Especially from Christian Grey. If we were to remove the BDSM undertones (and overtones) of the smolder and replace it with anger and determination. He’d be a damn good Hatter.

I believe any one of these actors would be a terrific Hatter Madigan. What do you all think? Is there anyone you would prefer to see play Hatter Madigan? Anyone you think I’m incorrect about? I would love to hear your takes on the perfect actor to play Hatter Madigan.


Meet The Author

Jared Hoffman Headshot

Jared Hoffman graduated from the American Film Institute with a degree in screenwriting. A Los Angeles native, his brand of comedy is satire stemming from the many different personalities and ego’s he has encountered throughout his life. As a lover of all things comedy, Jared is always working out new material and trying to make those around him laugh. His therapist claims this is a coping mechanism, but what does she know?