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

Remembering John Watkiss – A Creative Force in Wonderland and Beyond

January 21, 7 years ago the world lost an artistic genius, John Watkiss. John was not only a remarkable artist but also a cherished collaborator who helped bring the world of “The Looking Glass Wars” to life. As I reflect on the journey, we embarked upon together over two decades ago, I am reminded of his immense talent, his boundless creativity, and the lasting impact he had on the entertainment industry.

Hatter Madigan from "The Looking Glass Wars" throws a blade in a piece by artist John Watkiss.
Two Wonderland soldiers from "The Looking Glass Wars" march away from each other in a piece by artist John Watkiss.
Queen Redd from "The Looking Glass Wars" glowers from her throne in in a piece by artist John Watkiss.

John’s prowess extended into the realm of comics, where he left an indelible mark on iconic characters and series. His collaboration with me on “The Looking Glass Wars” was just one facet of his creative output. His work graced the covers and interiors of comics published by both DC and Marvel. His visual storytelling brought to life the adventures of Batman, Conan, Deadman, and Sandman, among others. His panels were a masterclass in composition, perspective, and emotion, immersing readers in rich and dynamic visual narratives.

One of my personal favorite paintings of John’s can be seen in Volume 11 of the book “Sparrow,” a testament to his ability to evoke emotion and depth through his art. His mastery of anatomy and his ability to capture the essence of characters in their most defining moments made his comic work truly stand out. He understood the nuances of facial expressions and body language, making each character’s journey even more engaging and relatable.

A woman in a black top, black gloves, and white skirt with black dots next to a woman sitting on a sofa in an evening gown in drawings by artist John Watkiss.

Our collaboration on “The Looking Glass Wars” was a testament to John’s unique talents. His visualizations of Wonderland, its inhabitants, and its machinery were nothing short of magical. With every stroke of his pen, he transported readers to a realm where imagination knew no bounds. His attention to detail and his knack for infusing each image with emotion and depth were unparalleled. Together, we crafted a world that was both captivating and visually stunning, including some concept art for the musical.

Deep columns of card soldiers from "The Looking Glass Wars" march with spears in a piece by artist John Watkiss.
The King and Queen of Hearts from "The Looking Glass Wars", wearing playing card ruffs, in a piece by artist John Watkiss.

John’s influence extended far beyond our collaboration and the world of comics. He left an indelible mark on the world of cinema, working with luminaries such as Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott. His contributions to projects like “Treasure Planet,” “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” and “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” showcased his versatility and his ability to seamlessly blend realism with the fantastical. His work enhanced the storytelling of these films, making them all the more immersive and memorable.

Tarzan creeps through the jungle, faces a jaguar, and confronts hunters in three panels by artist John Watkiss from concept art for the 1999 Disney animated film "Tarzan".

DreamWorks, Disney, and countless other studios were fortunate to have John’s artistic prowess grace their projects. His involvement in films like “Tarzan”, Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Homes”, “The Prince of Egypt”, and “Mulan” demonstrated his knack for infusing animated worlds with depth and authenticity. John’s mastery of anatomy, lighting, and composition made every frame he touched a work of art, leaving an everlasting impact on the animation industry.

Conan holds a sword and axe while looking at dead bodies below him while a woman kneels by his side in a piece by artist John Watkiss.
Two young people confront a reanimated skeleton with a giant skeleton head looming over them in a piece by artist John Watkiss from the cover art for the comic "Deadman 5".

John’s artistic contributions were not limited to the silver screen or the pages of comics. He was a renowned educator, sharing his knowledge and passion for anatomy with countless aspiring artists. His influence continues to ripple through the generations of creators he inspired and guided.

Sherlock Holmes holds a smoking pistol with the letters "V" and "R" in bullet holes on the wall behind him in a piece by the artist John Watkiss from the storyboards for the 2009 Guy Ritchie film "Sherlock Holmes".

As we remember John Watkiss, let us cherish the legacy he leaves behind. His imagination knew no bounds, and his dedication to his craft was unwavering. He brought wonder and awe to everything he touched, leaving an undeniable mark on the worlds of literature, film, comics, and art.

Rest in peace, dear John. Your spirit will forever live on in the beauty you created and the lives you touched.

With profound sadness and gratitude,

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.

Congratulations on that. 

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.

What does that say about the launch of your marriage?

That was how I knew I had met my soulmate. 

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.

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. 

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

It’s the best feeling when they do.

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?

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.

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. 

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.

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?

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.

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.

He can take advantage of it.

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? 

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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. 

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.

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?”

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. 

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.

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.

Were you writing plays about young adults at the time?

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. 

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?

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.

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.”

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. 

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

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.

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.

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".

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.

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. 

For the latest updates & news about All Things Alice,  please read our blog and subscribe to our podcast!

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.

All Things Alice: Interview With Teresa Lin, 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 Teresa Lin 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 incorporating images of Teresa Lin and "The Looking Glass Wars" musical logo.

Frank Beddor
Hey, everybody, welcome to the show. This week, I am sitting right across from my new guest and I’m a little bit nervous, I have to do a really good job today. I have to be very cautious about the questions I ask and I have to leave a lot of space for her to answer. Not only is she a brilliant writer and a creative force to be reckoned with, she’s somebody I married five months ago. I’d like to welcome my wife and my collaborator, Teresa Lin, to the show. 

We’re gonna be talking about The Looking Glass Wars and some of the work that we’ve collaborated on such as the TV show and the movie. We’ll also talk about the musical because that’s how we started our creative collaboration, with her helping solve a problem that I could not solve. So it’s always nice to have somebody much smarter and better looking. And probably a lot more articulate. So welcome to the show, Teresa Lin

Teresa Lin
Thank you. It’s nice to be here. It’s kind of interesting to be sitting across from you and having this spatial and auditory distance. It feels like our collaboration has always come from this inside space where we’re really deeply connected. 

I’ll reach out and hold your hand if you get nervous. I can be intimidating to guests at times with very probing questions.

But it’s important that we start with your creative background. I mean, you can go back as far as you’d like. But I’m interested in the evolution from your time in Taiwan to the States to Duke to USC film school, to starting in the film and TV business to getting one of your first jobs as a professional writer on the TV show Bones.

Temperance "Bones" Brennan and Seeley Booth investigate a crime scene in the Fox TV series "Bones".

One of the ways that I like to contextualize how I came to storytelling has always been this imaginative space, this expanse, that I filled because I had no access to television growing up in Taiwan and I was kind of a solo kid with both parents working. I was brought up really by the school teachers the school principal and myself. I was given a set of art supplies and some books and I was left to myself. So that expansive creativity, imagination, and filling in started there. I remember the very first film I saw, my grandmother took me to Snow White. What I remembered was the magic of cinema and also the model of what girls should grow up to be. Being in Taiwan it was the Chinese culture where girls were taught to be quiet and subservient. The quiet and small spaces that I had to fill I did with my imagination and stories. 

So when I came to Florida, my family bought into a motel where we worked and lived. That was my bird’s eye view into American culture. I was quite enamored with what America stood for and then quite startled by the reality of what it looked and felt like living in a motel next door to Baxter’s Lounge, which was a transvestite bar in a not-so-great part of Tampa. Again the discrepancy between what was imagined and what was sold to me, and what the reality gave me more fodder for creating stories. 

Then all the life experiences I had growing up with my parents giving me this cultural background of what it means to be Chinese and Taiwanese and keeping those ethics and then the idea of higher education being the number one driving force in my life and understanding that if I were educated, then that would be my ticket up in society. That gave me a tremendous work ethic and it landed me at Duke, and then at USC film school, but people are always surprised when I tell them that I didn’t really find cinema or was able to watch movies until I was in college. 

I remember the book that did it for me was The Godfather by Mario Puzo, and how much it drew me in and how this Italian culture of family was so similar it was to my culture. Then watching the movie, I had this totally internal and external experience of someone else’s interpretation of that book. I thought, “Oh, my God, this is a thing.” Ever since then, I was just driven by the idea of film and story. People say that films are immediate empathy machines. So when someone is watching it they’re breadcrumbed into the feeling and experience of these characters. For me, someone who’s come from the outside and really wants to be on the inside, language and storytelling were a way to draw people in.

I’m curious about the differences you remember between the book and the experience with the movie and if you had any critique at the time. Or did they each stand on their own two feet and you just marveled that the story worked as a novel and worked as a film?

Amerigo Bonasera whispers in Vito Corleone's ear in a scene from the 1972 film "The Godfather".

It was the sensation at times of deja vu because it was so similar to what I had imagined. Then, at times, it was really different because of casting, or I didn’t see or experience the character in such a tone. Nevertheless, it was a depiction of family and the tension between the characters, the family, and the conflict that was so prescriptive of what family hierarchy looked like. Because as a child, you felt the reverberation of the adults making the very important decisions. My family had gone through a lot of drama because of the motel and because of us being immigrants. There was a lot of misunderstanding between what we were feeling and the conflict that’s out there, and the fear of the unknown, and not knowing how to control it. 

Also, I was the first person in my family to really study English. My mom took some English classes where she worked, but I was the oldest of three daughters and I was the first one in my family to really get a grasp of English so I became sort of the translator. I was translating a lot of legal documents or I was running the front desk of this motel and talking to adults and negotiating prices. So it was me engaging with this adult world and trying to translate that to my parents.

Were you a teenager or younger when you were doing this?

I started around nine or 10. The importance of understanding and having a grasp of the language was paramount to the role that I played for my family. What I took away from that was if I could be understood, then people could be on my side, because understanding is a precursor to love and acceptance. So, for me, language was the key. Knowing how to tell a story well and contextualize it for the other person is the key to being understood.

So story has been a big part of your life, but you were also thinking about becoming a lawyer. In law, there’s performance, there’s story, but there’s also interpretation and the ability to absorb a lot of information and then retell the story the way you want to present it.

As with a lot of immigrant families, you understand that the sacrifices they made mean that you are either going to become a doctor or a lawyer, or something of the like. Translating legal documents was already part of my repertoire, I was on the debate team, and I was a member of the Association for Young Lawyers Club. 

But to your point, playing with words and digesting words, understanding how they will fit and how to contextualize someone’s subjective narrative, and understanding what the greater purpose is for writing something or for telling a story has always been a muscle that’s been well-honed in my life.

Alice sings with the flowers in a scene from the 1951 film "Alice in Wonderland".

So we’ve been married for five months, but a couple for a decade, which has a nice ring to it. Why don’t you tell the audience about your first encounter with Alice in Wonderland?

I would say that Alice in Wonderland came to me through Disney. I watched the Disney film when I was probably 11 or 12. It’s a little blonde girl who falls down a rabbit hole and has a lot of nonsensical events happen to her. It tickles everybody to think of, “What if I’m in this dream place where nothing seems to make sense?” 

It frees you from logic and it allows you to be playful. Though I remember it getting pretty dark with the Queen of Hearts. Then it just was resolved by it all being a dream. I don’t think I connected to Alice as much as I did to some other Disney characters because I think this idea of staying a child and not wanting to grow up was exactly the opposite of what I was conditioned to do.

You finished high school early. You finished Duke early. You wanted to get into your adulthood, into your career, and what ultimately became writing for television.

The path of writing for television showed itself down the road. But I was always fascinated by storytelling. I used to live in the library as a kid and I used to go into the research section and look up all the ways that fairy tales evolved from Europe and all the different origin stories coming from all different cultures and how they evolved and how they came into our consciousness. 

I was just fascinated with it. I’m not quite sure why but I was very interested because, as a child, a lot of the Chinese lore and mythology tales were told to us as cautionary tales. They were ways that our lessons came to us. If we, as kids, didn’t do the right thing, then these are the consequences. I needed to understand that. I was raised partly Buddhist, but also, these stories conveyed to us, “If you tell lies, something bad is going to happen to you. I think as a kid, or as a person, you want to examine what is the worst thing that can happen to you.

For me, it’s the devil and hell.

That’s right, being burned forever. But now looking at the larger lens of stories and Alice, I wanted to revisit that because I remember when I first met you, I was learning and reading about The Looking Glass Wars, and how you reimagined Alice. It was really inspiring because you were empowering a girl to become a warrior queen and, more importantly for me, it was somebody who had to look back and reconcile the history of her past, and not just her own past but her family’s past as well. That’s something I really recognized within my own history.

Princess Alyss stands in a stately ballroom in an illustration based on the novel, "The Looking Glass Wars".

This is a motif that you’re deeply invested in, your past, and using it in storytelling.

A lot of the impetus for my writing has to do with how we tell our stories and how it forms our identity. In order to move on we need to reconcile and contextualize our past, not just for ourselves, but for our ancestors. There are generational traumas that need to be reconciled for us to understand how to move on and pass that on to our daughters and sons. We as a species need stories to help us understand and give value and meaning to everything we’ve gone through outside of just our immediate emotional responses.

We had been a couple for two or three years, and you had your focus on the things that you were doing and I had the things that I was working on, and, of course, we talked about The Looking Glass Wars, but we weren’t collaborating yet.

I remember you diving back into developing the musical. 

We went for a walk in Minnesota around Christmas Lake, where I grew up, and I was lamenting this problem with adapting The Looking Glass Wars into a musical and I was stuck. I was trying to shoehorn this novel that I’ve lived with for all these years into a musical. I had been inspired by Wicked and I really thought it could work. 

You were having a hard time reconciling Alyss with two love interests.

A masked Princess Alyss meets Prince Leopold at a ball in a scene from the novel, "The Looking Glass Wars".

They were separated and half of the show was with Prince Leopold and then half of it was back with Dodge and I said, “That’s never going to work and I don’t know how to fix it.” So we kept walking and you didn’t say anything for a little bit but then you just turned and went “I think if they’re the same character that would work.” If Prince Leopold is, in fact, also Dodge and Dodge is Prince Leopold so they’ll go back and forth between our world and Wonderland. I was in love with you before that, but that moment was, “Wow!” I think I grabbed your hand, “I’m not ever letting go.”

I thought that moment happened when I hit that ball…

That’s true. We went on a little vacation and I was teaching you how to putt on a golf course. It was about a 60-foot downhill-breaking putt and you sank it.

I think that was the first moment. 

That was the athletic moment because I live in two spaces. I live in the athletic space and I live in the creative space. So that was more of my past coming through. 

That was really fun. I do remember the moment you’re talking about around Christmas Lake, when you looked at me with new eyes, “You and I can collaborate.”

We talked about a lot of different musicals and you started writing the outline for what they call the book, which is the outline for the composer and the lyricist. Those are really tricky. 

It was really fun because there’s another aspect of my childhood that Frank didn’t know about and working on this project with him allowed me to plumb into this past where I had music in my life. Growing up, we didn’t have a television but we had a piano and we always played and sang. So musicality was always a part of our family life so when I was invited in to work on this musical, I really had fun.

Glinda and Elphaba look off into the distance in a scene from the musical, "Wicked".

You love to dance as well. You’re quite the dancer. But the tricky thing was sorting out the tone. We were looking at Les Miserables as an example, for a bit, and we were obviously also looking at Wicked. Moulin Rouge as well. 

We were looking at these great, sweeping love stories because ultimately, it’s a big love story that drives it. But we also wanted to make it fresh. We wanted to look at examples of taking something that we all know, in popular culture, and taking a left turn with that project. It’s reimagining and reinventing something that feels familiar and giving it a twist. 

Musically, you had a lot of various songs. You usually put a reference song or two for each scene. That was the roadmap of what we were thinking for future composers and lyricists. 

Given the time and the space to do a deep dive, it flows. There’s so much material there to draw from.

I think the aspect of being able to establish the reimagining of what happened with Lewis Carroll, but ultimately, having it be driven by this love story, and her coming back home and to her destined love.

And her finding her sense of identity.

That’s been really enjoyable. One of the challenges that we both have in terms of finding the entry point for The Looking Glass Wars, beyond the books and graphic novels, is what’s the right medium. What’s the timing and what’s the best story? Just in the same way that a movie has really limited parameters and time, for a musical you have 20 songs and you have to compress and condense. I’ve found that to be very difficult because maybe I’m too close to this source material but when we started talking about it as a TV show it started to show itself as a really exciting avenue.

An illustration of the evil Queen Redd from "The Looking Glass Wars" novels.

I really enjoy watching stories now where the characters are tied together not through chronology or space and time but thematically. So the characters don’t necessarily have to be in the same space to share something really meaningful. I love the way that sometimes storylines cut across each other. Maybe there’s a pivotal scene or an emotional scene where the emotions connect the characters. So we’re really able to explore that in the TV show model because of the magic system and the emotionality that ties Hatter and Alice together, and also explores Queen Redd, and some of the reasons why she became Redd in her timeline as a teenager with her sister. I really want to ground it in the family story. 

I know the scope of the show is huge. There’s a whole Wonderverse out there that you’ve created over 20 years with so many nations, characters, and really cool concepts. But underneath it all, it’s a family story. For me, it’s the Hart family and what happened back in the day with Genevieve and Redd when things got out of balance and how their ability to wield imagination ripples out to the rest of the world. For Alice, it’s a redemption story for her family and it’s a redemption story for herself and in the decision of who she wants to be going forward.

I’m really glad I married you. Bringing it full circle to your family, The Godfather, and The Looking Glass Wars, finding that strong theme of family and anchoring it in that is something that I would like to continue to explore with you in these podcasts. 

I would love to come back and share our process. 

It’s really nice to chat with you across the table and to expand our collaboration in this way.

All right till next time. 

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Battle of the IPs: Alice In Wonderland VS. The Lord of the Rings

Hey everyone, I’m back again with another Alice Versus blog. Tonight’s title card fight is a real heavyweight match. In the red corner, we have our reigning champion, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the blue corner, weighing in at a respectable whatever three books weigh, we have The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien vs. Carroll, high fantasy vs. absurdist satire, the Balrog vs. the Jabberwock. Two may enter but only one can be victorious. Let’s get right into it with our first section.

Sir John Tenniel illustration from Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
Illustration of the Doors of Durin from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings"

Global Cultural Impact:

In this first round of our showdown, we’re going to find out who’s had the most impact around the globe.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll): When Lewis Carroll’s whimsical and surreal world of Wonderland was first introduced to the world, it was unlike anything people had ever read before. Its influence spans literature, film, art, and fashion. Wonderland’s timeless appeal transcends cultural boundaries, making it a cherished part of literary and artistic culture worldwide.

The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien): J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic high-fantasy masterpiece has garnered a global following that spans generations. Its influence extends to literature, film, and even the formation of entire subcultures. Tolkien’s world-building and rich mythology have left an indelible mark on the fantasy genre.

Winner: Both? – Here’s the thing, these books are both massive in terms of cultural impact. Both books are leaders in their respective genres, Alice in absurdism and LOTR in high fantasy. Trying to measure their impact is like trying to count sand, and I don’t want to count sand. So… It’s a tie.

The Balrog and Gandalf fight in a scene from "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings"

Critical Acclaim – The Literary Realm:

In this category, we’ll explore the critical reception of the original works, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. After last round’s stalemate, I’m sure one of the two will take the lead here.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll): Lewis Carroll’s surreal and satirical masterpiece has earned immense critical acclaim. Literary critics and scholars have celebrated it as a timeless work of imaginative storytelling and a profound exploration of Victorian society. It is widely recognized as a classic of children’s literature and has left an enduring mark on the literary world.

The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien): The trilogy has received unparalleled acclaim in the fantasy genre and beyond. Critics and scholars have hailed it for its intricate world-building, rich character development, and thematic depth. The work is often cited as a seminal piece of literature with enduring significance.

Winner: Both – Really? Another tie? I guess so, I mean, both books were critical successes in their own right so it’s hard to compare. I know it’s my job to compare them and I even tried to sway it in Alice’s favor but seriously this feels like another tie.

Orlando Bloom as Legolas in "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy

Linguistic Influence:

Now, let’s delve into the linguistic impact of these fantastical worlds, including phrases and expressions they’ve introduced. I really need a winner here, ties don’t look good, that’s why soccer isn’t big in America.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll): Lewis Carroll’s work introduced phrases like “down the rabbit hole” and “mad as a hatter” into common usage, adding whimsy and eccentricity to everyday language. Carroll’s linguistic creativity has even inspired new words, such as “chortle.”

The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien): J.R.R. Tolkien’s extensive language creation, including Elvish languages like Quenya and Sindarin, has captivated linguists and language enthusiasts worldwide. Phrases like “One Ring to rule them all” and “My precious” have become iconic.

Winner: Both – NO! Another tie? Aw man if this was a pay-per-view fight people would be pissed. Carroll’s work is still undefeated in the sense that it has become such a part of our everyday language that people don’t even think of the source material. Tolkien created TWO languages and even invented a few words outside of those languages, such as “Ent.” As much as I don’t want it to be, in my mind and my heart, I know this is a tie.

Alice looks down the rabbit hole in "Alice in Wonderland"

Books Sold:

Next, let’s examine the number of books sold for each work. I swear if this is a tie, I’m going to stop writing this.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll): Lewis Carroll’s literary masterpiece has sold over 100 million copies worldwide, has been translated into more than 100 languages, and is available in over 300 editions.

The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien): J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy has sold over 150 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling book series in history. It has been translated into numerous languages, captivating readers around the world.

Winner: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Thank God. Okay, we finally have a winner here. In the category of books sold, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland secures its victory. 100 million for one book beats 50 million per book.

Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"

Box Office Success:

Okay, now that we have a leader in this bout, I feel better about writing this. In this round, we compare the box office success of film adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Lord of the Rings.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Film Adaptations): Many film adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland have been successful at the box office, especially Tim Burton’s $1 billion behemoth, captivating audiences with their imaginative interpretations.

The Lord of the Rings (Film Adaptations): Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings trilogy have grossed over $2.9 billion at the global box office, receiving critical acclaim and 17 Academy Awards, and becoming one of the most beloved and successful film series in cinematic history.

Winner: The Lord of the Rings – Aaaaaand we’re tied back up again… Damn. The Lord of the Rings film adaptations secure their victory, both in terms of earnings and critical acclaim. Back to square one…

Single cover for Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit"

Influence on Music:

Okay, it’s all tied up. This one is for all the marble. If it’s another tie I will never write again. No, no, don’t cry. It will be okay. I’m sure Frank’s other blog writers, if they work hard enough, one day, will display a similar (but slightly less than) amount of charm, wit, and attractiveness. I know you will all miss me but I just can’t have another tie here. Okay, with my preemptive goodbye, let’s explore how Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Lord of the Rings have influenced the world of music.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll): Lewis Carroll’s whimsical and surreal world has inspired numerous songs, ranging from psychedelic rock to alternative music. Bands and artists have drawn inspiration from Wonderland’s fantastical elements and nonsensical whimsy, incorporating them into their lyrics and compositions.

The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien): J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic saga has had a profound impact on the realm of music. From progressive rock to folk metal, musicians have crafted songs and entire albums inspired by Middle-earth. Tolkien’s rich mythology and themes of heroism and adventure resonate deeply with musicians and their audiences.

Winner: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – I actually have my eyes closed in anticipation. I can’t look. Who’s the winner here? NO WAY! WE HAVE A WINNER. In the category of influence in music, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland emerges as the winner. While both works have inspired classic musical creations, the whimsical and surreal nature of Wonderland has been a particularly fertile ground for artistic expression in music.

Alice, the March Hare, and the Mad Hatter at the Mad Hatter's tea party in "Alice in Wonderland"


In this captivating duel between Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Lord of the Rings, both works have demonstrated their profound impact on literature and popular culture. But as we all know there can be only one winner, unless it’s soccer, but thankfully this isn’t. The winner here, in a narrow victory, is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland!

Wow, okay, normally, at the end of these Alice Versus blogs, I usually throw the losers a bone by giving their fans cool mashup images for them to take home with as a consolation prize. But, in this instance, since they were so evenly matched, I’ve decided that the mashups will be given out not as a consolation prize but as a symbol of joint friendship between two literary juggernauts.

First off, Gandalf went a tad mad and became a hatter…

An old wizard sitting at a table enjoying a beverage.

Next, Frodo and friends visit Wonderland and enjoy the Valley of Mushrooms. I wonder if they brought any Longbottom Leaf?

Hobbits sitting in a field of mushrooms.

Last, we have Hatter Madigan if he came to aid of Gondor for the Battle of Pelennor Fields. I wonder how he would’ve done against the Nazgul?

A dashing soldier in plate armor.

Alright, that was fun, let me know if you have any other mashups you want to see here. Hopefully, you enjoyed this blog. Let me know what you think below.

Meet the Author:

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 egos 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?

Secrets of Wonderland Revealed: The Epic Battle That Made Queen Redd a Monster!

Before the revelations of The Looking Glass Wars, there was a much more personal war fought in Wonderland between two sisters. The elder, Rose Heart was born to be the next Queen of Wonderland, endowed with brilliance, confidence and power, she was a natural for the throne. But Rose was the wild one, the rebellious sister, whispered to be the Heart Dynasty’s ‘Dark Seed’. 

By age 19 her wanton youthful exploits had alarmed and outraged a good deal of the population and made her vulnerable to the plottings of those who wished to wrest the throne away from the Hearts. A plot was put into motion to remove the mercurial Rose from succession and instead, make her younger sister, 17-year-old Genevieve, Wonderland’s next Queen.

A group of people sitting in chairs, a painting of characters from The House of Hearts in Frank Beddor's "The Looking Glass Wars". This features Queen Redd, or Genevieve, a King and two princesses.
The House of Hearts is the royal family of Wonderland.

Did those involved with the plot realize the far-reaching effects that their Machiavellian maneuvers would create for future worlds? Doubtful. They were concerned only with their immediate interests for they were the Lady of Clubs, Lady of Spades, and the Lady of Diamonds, each born to be a Queen, but subservient to the rule of the Hearts. 

Their hope was to divide the sisters, create chaos, remove the Hearts from power, and crown Lady Diamond – Wonderland’s next Queen. Ultimately their plan would fail, for both Rose and Genevieve would prove to be far stronger than they had anticipated, but what they did accomplish was to create a royal blood feud that would tear Wonderland apart for generations to come.

Princesses Rose and Genevieve were the William and Harry of Wonderland as they grew up the heir and second to the throne. With Rose leading the way, she and Genevieve lived the posh, aristocratic lives of royal youth. Endowed with queen-sized imaginations, startling beauty, and unbridled vivacity, they were the darlings of Wonderland’s powerbrokers as well as big hits with the adoring masses. Known for practical jokes and adorable rebellions the two were an unstoppable team until Rose began to show her darker side.

As the princesses matured the subject of their eventual marriages was never far from anyone’s thoughts. Prospective matches would be made from the eligible young royals known collectively as The Jacks. Strutting and buff, this pool of peacock males constantly competed for the attention of both Rose and Genevieve, though the more ambitious quite obviously aimed to wed the future Queen. But since childhood, both Rose and Genevieve favored one Jack above the rest, preferring his company to all the others.

The handsome, laughing, athletic Jack Nolan was widely envied for his intimate friendship with the princesses. A tight threesome, the young royals shared adventures, loyalty, and a delicately balanced romantic longing. Even though Genevieve, like everyone else, assumed that Nolan and Rose would marry, she could not help nor hide her own feelings for Nolan. Rose would often tease her about the obvious crush, but it never hurt the relationship among the ‘Royal Triangle,’ for each knew that Rose was secure.  Nolan was hers if and when she wanted to marry him, for Queens choose first.

While Genevieve’s natural exuberance was as clear as a crystal bell, Rose exhibits a disturbing selfishness. As Rose’s dark streak widened, her popularity with both the royal court and the citizens began to nosedive. Both Genevieve and Nolan plead with Rose to stop alienating others, to obey her parents Queen Theodora and King Tyman, to be careful. But Rose blew them off to run with a wild crowd of hedonists using artificial crystals and imagination stimulants.

Rose spent most of her time partying in the Valley of Mushrooms with her bad-boy lover, Prince Arch (the future King of Boarderland), and their tribe of anarchists. 

A painting of Prince Arch, the future king of Borderland, sitting on a throne inside Heart Palace, with many women sitting around him.

Queen Theodora stood outside Heart Palace listening to the drums while Genevieve attempted to cover for her older sister and defuse the Queen’s growing temper. Assisting Genevieve was Royal Tutor Bibwit Harte, a 6-foot-tall albino wearing immaculate white gloves and a brilliantly patterned floor-length coat. Pale green veins pulsed beneath his alabaster skin. Both argued Rose’s case, defending her music and youthful experimentation as pure Imagination. Queen Theodora was not convinced.

Drum circles and dancing, sex, and music, it was this nonstop bacchanalia that eventually brought Queen Theodora to the valley to deliver an ultimatum. Orchestrated by the Three Ladies of Wonderland, the showdown pitted Rose’s rebellion against Queen Theodora’s authority. As emotions escalated, Queen Theodora threatened Rose with the loss of the throne if she did not immediately submit to the rules of the court. When Rose laughed at the threat, her mother was forced to follow through.  

Redd Was Unfit To Rule

In a flash of queenly power, Theodora removed her eldest daughter from succession and placed the younger sister, Genevieve, as next in line. It was a shocking, brutal act, but entirely legal according to Wonderland bylaws. Rose was out and Genevieve was in. The Three Ladies of Wonderland smiled smugly. Their plan was going well.

Rose’s reaction to her banishment was to dye her hair blood red and drop the name ‘Rose,’ from that moment on she was to be addressed only as Redd—a symbol of all the blood she would spill. She was enraged, alienated, and deeply, everlastingly wounded.

Redd revealed the depth of her pain at being rejected by her mother when she shouted/sang “Where Do Monsters Come From”? In the song, Redd asked, “You made me, so why can’t you love me?” It would be the last time that Redd revealed her pain and vulnerability. If they called her a monster then she would be a monster.

It seemed everything had been taken from Redd and given to Genevieve. But not yet. The worst was still to come. Unknown to Queen Theodora, Redd was pregnant by one of her lovers at the time she was removed from the line of succession. She was growing dramatically weaker with each day of the pregnancy. Pale, alone, and frightened, Redd visited the Caterpillars, Wonderland’s high holy seers, to ask for help. 

The Caterpillars inhabited the Valley of Mushrooms. Redd found the giant creatures seated beneath a rusted statue of an Iron Butterfly. Each Caterpillar was a different color. Orange, Yellow, Purple, Red, Green, and Blue sitting in a semi-circle smoking from an ancient hookah. Multicolored smoke rings drifted into the air.

The Caterpillars told Redd that with the loss of the right of succession to the throne, she had lost the power to reproduce the next Queen. The energy and imagination necessary to create a future Queen is monumental and demanded a direct link with the Heart Crystal. In a sense, she would be giving birth to a new Star, not a mortal infant.

The Blue Caterpillar urged Redd to return to the palace and beg her mother to take her back or her baby would die. Redd’s last remnant of humanity, the last bit of light within her, was called upon to go to Queen Theodora and ask forgiveness in order to save her baby. But Redd, stubbornly, chose not to divulge her pregnancy.

She wanted Queen Theodora to forgive her and love her on her terms, not just because she was pregnant with Queen Theodora’s grandchild. Redd’s fatal flaw was selfishness, it had always been all about Redd. When Queen Theodora refused her daughter’s plea for forgiveness, Redd gave birth to a stillborn baby girl. At this point the darkness filled Redd, forever extinguishing the light.  With the death of Redd’s baby, a true monster was born.

Only the baby was not dead. Theodora had told Redd that her baby was stillborn and instead took her baby to a trusted family friend to raise Redd’s daughter in secrecy.  Rumors swirled for years that Prince Arch or Redd’s dashing bodyguard Dalton Madigan, (Hatter’s older brother) had fathered the lost child.

Redd’s imagination would no longer inspire music, it was now to be used only for revenge. She would soon become known throughout Wonderland as the Dark Muse. Genevieve and Nolan grieved for the loss of Rose/Redd, but found consolation in each other as they began to fall truly in love.

Genevieve idolized her older sister and suffered more than anyone over Redd’s banishment. She knew that Redd would make an amazing, brilliant queen, but Genevieve was caught in a horrible position, defending and loving the sister who now considered her a traitor. Genevieve, though an equal in imagination, did not possess Redd’s confidence and inner power. Genevieve begged her mother not to remove Redd from succession thereby forcing her onto the throne.

A painting of Queen Redd, from The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor. She is wearing a dress with flowing and sharp looking red ribbons.

Queen Theodora told Genevieve that she feared Redd was a carrier of Dark Imagination

Throughout the history of Wonderland, certain Queens were born and ruled who practiced Dark, not Light Imagination. The effects of these dark reigns were apocalyptic, both for Wonderland and the worlds that surround them. Every Queen was cautioned about the possibility of giving birth to a Dark Seed. 

Theodora ignored the warnings of others for years, refusing to believe that her beautiful Rose/Redd could be one of them. But finally, she had to admit she had been wrong. Redd could never be Queen. Genevieve argued that Theodora was mistaken, that she had been influenced by the Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades, all of whom had selfish interests in seeing Redd removed from succession. Redd was not dark, she was unique and unorthodox and yes, even wild, but it was Light Imagination that she loved.

Queen Theodora told Genevieve that she was too good to see the dark in others. “Once you are Queen, you must see both in order to rule. This is the most difficult decision of my life.”

Genevieve’s support for Redd was kept hidden from her sister by the Three Ladies who wished only to fan the flames of hatred between the sisters. There could be no accord, only division, if their agenda was to be met. For once Redd had been removed, their way was clear to force Parliament into a vote of “no confidence.” 

Everyone would have to agree that the House of Hearts was far from steady. Once Genevieve was officially next in line for the throne, they would throw down the ultimate Wonderland challenge to the Hearts rule, the Duel of Imagination. Genevieve would have to face Lady Diamond in what was essentially an Imagination Slam. Should she be defeated, control of the Heart Crystal and rule of Wonderland would pass to the House of Diamonds. 

Throughout the history of Wonderland, the Hearts have always won these rare challenges to their rule, but the Three Ladies were betting that this time it would be different. 

This time, the Hearts would fall

A painting of Genevieve, from Frank Beddor's "The Looking Glass Wars, wearing a green wedding dress, standing in a pink and reddish hallway.

Redd’s hatred and sense of injustice exploded when Genevieve and Jack Nolan’s wedding was announced. It seemed everything had been taken from Redd and given to Genevieve. Redd’s pain mutated into rage, the darkness grew and she vowed to seek revenge for her mother’s betrayal.

It was Genevieve’s Wedding Day and the Heart Palace was thrown open for the traditional Masquerade Wedding Ball. Invitations for the ball were sent out across Wonderland to not only the Royal Suits and other high-ranking persons, but to all manner of inventors and muses. A centuries-old tradition, the masquerade ball was a rare event celebrated only upon the wedding of a future Queen. The guests competed to have the most outrageous, imaginative costume which— this being Wonderland— was quite a competition.

During the ball, Genevieve discovered Redd in the palace. Rather than sounding an alarm, Genevieve embraced her sister, “I knew you would come for our wedding.” 

Redd pushed Genevieve away. She told her she had been “in mourning for all that has been stolen from me”. Genevieve, still loving and wanting to believe in her sister, did not alert the guards that Redd was inside the palace. How do you stop loving your sister? Genevieve’s loyalty would cost the Heart’s dearly.

Image of Queen Redd in a red bustier that is ready for battle in "The Looking Glass Wars" by author: Frank Beddor.

Later that night, to avenge her losses, Redd killed her mother. “Even you cannot take away what is mine by birthright,” Redd placed a deadly pink mushroom (street name ‘pinkiepink’) on her mother’s tongue. Fed by the Queen’s saliva, the roots of the fungus worked their way down the sleeping sovereign’s throat and strangled her heart until the pink mushroom cap poked out of her mouth to signify that the heart had stopped beating.

Shocked by his daughter’s violent act and the gruesome death of his wife, King Tyman went mad and died not long after. Without a Queen, chaos threatens to engulf Wonderland. Redd had raised an army of mercenaries and was hiding out in the Crystal Caves above Wonderland imagining a future with herself as Queen. Genevieve had to be coronated immediately to avert civil war.

With Redd’s mercenaries circling Wondertropolis the Three Ladies plan had gone wildly better than they had hoped, believing it would be years before they could go to the Parliament and ask for the vote of ‘no confidence’. But with Theodora’s murder, things had moved much faster. With Parliament backing them, Genevieve was challenged to the Duel of Imagination.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Genevieve easily defeated Lady Diamond. The effect of her victory was an immediate surge of support from across Wonderland, backing the House of Hearts and their new Queen in her effort to stop a civil war. The Three Ladies had failed in their plan, but the consequences of the act were about to explode.

Genevieve, only 17, was now both wife and Queen

The world had been thrust upon her shoulders and she had no idea how to handle anything. As she wandered in the palace garden she saw a series of blue smoke rings and found the Blue Caterpillar waiting for her. It was rare indeed for any of the Caterpillars to leave the Valley of Mushrooms but Blue had traveled to give Queen Genevieve an important message, the location of her Looking Glass Maze. 

Genevieve was stunned. Like most, she had thought the Queen’s Looking Glass Maze to be only an urban legend. And now she was being given the location of hers. The Blue Caterpillar told her that if she was able to successfully navigate the maze she would be empowered far beyond her sister. Redd may think of Genevieve as a weak young girl, but in truth, she would be an empowered Warrior Queen able to fight on the battlefield. 

Once inside the maze, Genevieve was confronted by Hatter Madigan, top assassin and blade warrior. By accessing her imagination, Genevieve was able to mirror Hatter Madigan’s martial moves and so absorb his skills during her successful trip through the maze. When she emerged, Genevieve was no longer the girl who first entered but a seasoned warrior and wise Queen.

As a gift from Wonderland for her successful navigation of the maze, Genevieve was awarded the lifetime services of Hatter Madigan as Royal Bodyguard. Hatter Madigan’s martial skills and heroic devotion would prove instrumental in every battle waged between Redd and Genevieve. 

Queen Genevieve became known as the Warrior Queen and accompanied her army across the map of Wonderland as they battled Redd and her army. Wonderland suffered through five years of bloody civil war as the sisters battled again and again until Genevieve ultimately cornered Redd and defeated her.

Queen Genevieve was urged by her royal advisors to have Redd executed, but she could not kill her sister. Instead, Queen Genevieve banished Redd to Mount Isolation to live out her days alone. It was there that Redd found a stray kitten and kept it with her at all times. Was it a replacement for the child she lost? 

Or was it the beginnings of creating her own “Hatter Madigan”? A creature that she would imagine into both Cat and Man? A monster like herself.  

Once the war had ended and peace was restored, Queen Genevieve gave birth to her daughter, Princess Alyss. The final scene closing this chapter of Wonderland’s endless story was the celebration of Alyss’s birth in Wonderland while far away, atop Mt. Isolation, the lone figure of Redd had already begun imagining the apocalypse to come.

Image of Queen Redd, wearing a red dress, with a giant red hair piece, extending her arm into a thicket of roses. She is standing in a window with the suits of playing cards shapes.

The End

Epilogue – Who is Redd’s long-lost daughter? What happened to her? Where is she now?

The Next Alice In Wonderland Adaptation Should Consider These Actresses

Frank Beddor’s “The Looking Glass Warsis THE book trilogy that needs to be a show. As I’m sure some of you know, his books are a dark retelling of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” His books are not only a modernized adaptation of a franchise that has sold over 150 million books and has been translated into twice as many languages as Harry Potter, but it’s also got something for every one of us who’s looking for a good story: action, adventure, gut-wrenching drama, archetypes of romance and tragedy that renders nostalgia at once fresh and familiar. The ride that every one of us want to be on? These books embody.

As with any book I read, when I envision the show, I first imagine the potential cast. That’s the fun part, right? Finding the right actors for the characters is paramount…and to quote Martin Scorsese, “90% of directing is casting.”  I’m no director IRL, but after working at a casting agency, producing a few short films, and casting in my head as a writer, I’m no stranger to this process. I put on my “director’s hat” (my beret and do that hand frame thing) – I become “Marty.”  I peer through my looking glass and look for who I’d want to be my ALICE/ALYSS.

But wait, before I go there, let me give you some context for what I’m looking for.  The character of “Alice/Alyss” is complex; there are two sides to her and timelines to follow in which both converge and undergo a massive metamorphosis.  (Do I have your attention yet?)

When Alyss was seven, she was exiled from her home and shot out of a puddle in Victorian London. Once adopted by the Liddell family, her name was forcibly changed to “Alice Liddell” and she was made to believe that Wonderland was only a figment of her girlish imagination. While the truth was never lost to her, Alyss survived by pretending to repress those awesome and awful memories to become what was expected of her: a perfect Victorian lady.

Next, we time-jump to Alice Liddell as this groomed “Victorian lady” entering into high society during the “Season” where eligible young women are matched and married off. Internally, we know (and she knows) she doesn’t belong. But she makes it work – wicked smart, sassy, she plays along — persevering through tough situations, wearing her repressed memories like the fashionable breath-squeezing corsets of the time, wound up like a ticking clock, ready to spring awake if, and when, triggered.

I love this set up for Alice/Alyss.  To me, this juicy backstory and atmosphere is an inexhaustible wellspring for an actress. One from which she would be able to draw vulnerability and hope. There are clear goals and high stakes as her past PURSUES her, ignorance and comforts swept aside as Alyss is forced to confront the hardest truths in order to discover WHO she really is.  These stories give Alyss the role of the “chosen one” – one with a destiny to rectify a great wrong – for humanity and Wonderland. How she does this and at what cost will be the reason we lean in. 

(Uff! Gives me the shivers.)

So now we understand the SCOPE of Alyss/Alice, I, in the role of “Marty,” turn my gaze towards actors who would be able to take on this dynamic duality: repressed Victorian lady destined to be warrior queen of Wonderland.  A character arc that demands a robust core throughout while managing nuanced layers of conceit.

We need a real powerhouse… The actors chosen for this list not only have the raw talent to portray such a complex role but can bring it to the next level.  Without further ado, here are what we consider the best choices for casting Alice:

Anya Taylor-Joy

Anya Taylor-Joy
Anya Taylor-Joy

I think I can safely say with no pushback that Anya Taylor-Joy is having a well-deserved moment after The Queen’s Gambit. See her in The Menu, Last Night in Soho, and Split, and you’d agree that she has the power to draw eyes to the screen and deliver a killer performance. She is adept in period-pieces as seen in The Witch and Peaky Blinders. But really, what gets me are her eyes – their incredible ability to convey depth of emotion, defiance and vulnerability – an absolute must for an Alice Liddell who would be navigating Victorian society while guarding the secret of who she really is deep down. Anya is not only right for the role, but she’d hit it out of the park. I can picture her as a rebellious young woman out of time, couldn’t you?

Daisy Edgar-Jones

Left: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Right: Alice Liddell
Left: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Right: Alice Liddell

Another great contender for Alyss/Alice is Daisy Edgar-Jones.  The fact that she and the real Alice Liddell look like doppelgängers is a little uncanny.  If you’ve seen Daisy’s performance in Normal People (one of my favorites)or Under the Banner of Heaven as Brenda Lafferty, you’d understand her aptitude for range, depth and complex emotions. Daisy made Brenda instantly likeable as a maverick in the ultra-conservative-Mormon Lafferty family she married into, which only amplified the tragedy of her death. She brings a tenacious fire to her acting, one that quietly provokes and or evokes, challenging the audience to meet her where she is.  I imagine Alyss/Alice to be such a character, and it would be fantastic to see Daisy bring her to life.

Emilia Jones

Emilia Jones
Emilia Jones

After a such a distinct and memorable performance in CODA, Emilia Jones exploded onto the scene. The wholesome and yearning character she portrays felt grounded and wise beyond her years; and yet, she could flip back to girlish innocence and first love at the drop of a hat.  For many, she left a powerful impression – made us feel the truth she was carrying for all of us.  I can see her bringing this to the White Imagination wielding Princess Alyss: her face pure and reflective. In interviews, Emilia’s bright personality and infectious laugh makes her a magnet.  With so much life and verve, (and as one of the youngest actors on this list), if given a chance to play Alyss/Alice, Emilia would surely embody her spirit and win our hearts.

Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan
Saoirse Ronan

Little Women, Lady Bird, The Lovely Bones, Hannah, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The French Dispatch. With a filmography like this, there is no doubt that Saoirse’s got range.  She’s made us laugh, cry, forget ourselves and then remember again, touch those lost limbs, feel phantom pangs. Saoirse’s body of work speaks for itself, and would check every box in anyone’s imaginary list of attributes needed to portray Princess Alyss. Period piece skills? Little Women. Coming of age? Lady Bird. Fantasy/Adventure? City of Ember.

Her ferocity and gymnastic ability to completely transform herself into her characters to enter the landscape of the show is special and rare.  World creation for big fantasy is only as good as the people occupying its space – and if that were our only criteria, Saoirse would own it.  It would be a dream for her to play Alyss/Alice, in all her manifestations.  Whether in our world or Wonderland, if Saoirse jumped into the Pool of Tears, it would be straight into the deep end.

Jenna Ortega

Jenna Ortega
Jenna Ortega

Next, I’d like to introduce a dark horse contender for the role of Alyss/Alice.  Hear me out. I’d like for us to consider Jenna Ortega.  It appears that after Wednesday debuted, no one could stop talking about her – and for good reason. I remember first seeing her acting in the horror movie X, and while she wasn’t yet the star then, her quiet and innocent performance was the standout.

The character Jenna plays in Wednesday, (Wednesday Addams) couldn’t be more different than the Alice I imagined on the surface, but it doesn’t mean she isn’t right for the role. After seeing the way Jenna portrayed Wednesday, as a calm almost monotone character with layers of intrigue and feeling bubbling underneath the surface, so cool and detached, I found her uber interesting.  It certainly showcased her talents as an actor and made me think of her taking on the role of Alyss/Alice in a surprising way.

I don’t know about you, but I like it when actors challenge our assumptions about a piece, and find it exciting to see how someone, a little unexpected, could bring the role to a wholly different dimension.

Florence Pugh

Florence Pugh
Florence Pugh

When I was researching actresses for this list, a friend convinced me that I had to include Florence Pugh. Starring in such films as Midsommar, Little Women, Lady MacBeth, and the recent, Don’t Worry Darling,it seems Florence is only capable of delivering compelling, emotionally raw, and powerful performances. You get the feeling that she holds nothing back.

Florence is her own brand of woman – unapologetic even as she bends and cuts herself open to the audience. Her distinct raspy voice along with a trademark frown rivet us, so much going on behind those eyes. Her energy fills and battles with forces internal and external, holding tension in the most visceral way.  Watching her, I find myself holding my breath… and imagining her doing battle with Queen Redd? Well, I’d like to be ringside for that one. 

Phoebe Dynevor

Phoebe Dynevor
Phoebe Dynevor

Phoebe Dynevor crashed onto the scene with her starring breakout role as Daphne Bridgerton in Shonda Rhimes’s Bridgerton. Her performance in this fictional period piece fits right into the story line for Alice Liddell in The Looking Glass Wars wonderverse. As Daphne, Phoebe portrayed a woman who was groomed to perfectly fit the mold of her society but who questioned and fought against the very ideals and assumptions of that society even as she ascended in position. Much like Alice Liddell, Daphne was swept up in all the decisions that were made for her, but underneath, she had her own headstrong ideas and desires.

Daphne’s coming of age is an awakening of self – especially in an era of dating and matrimony where class, position and stature out-weighs personal feelings and romance. This internal conflict against external circumstance parallels Alice Liddell’s travails. For this role, Phoebe brought grace, fortitude and exquisite vulnerability to her character.  She had the audience rooting for her every step of the way.  Now, to see her wield the power of Light Imagination, who knows what she’ll bring to the table?

Rachel Zegler

Rachel Zegler
Rachel Zegler

Coming in hot, last but not least on our list, is Rachel Zegler. While she has the least acting credits on this list, she is also the only one here who starred in a Steven Spielberg film. The part of Maria in West Side Story won her a Golden Globe — an exceptional and hard-earned performance filled with wit, charm, and musicality.  Rachel as Alyss/Alice would translate across any language in every platform. Her innocence and passion play seamlessly side-by-side – giving her undeniable appeal.

Each one of these talented actresses would bring something unforgettable to the dualistic role of Alyss Heart/Alice Liddell. What do you think of this list? Who would you pick as your favorite? Is there anyone I didn’t mention here that you think would make a good Alice? Put on your “Marty” hat… I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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?

Aspects of Arch: Who is King Arch In Our World?

Like a recurring nightmare, the enemies of Wonderland always seek to strike at the very Heart of our imaginations. Following the Boarderland King’s contact with the Heart Crystal, many ask the questions: “What happened to King Arch?”

If we are to peer into the Pool of Tears, and our memories of recent events, we can see the first and perhaps most damaging instance of such a “collision.” While it boggles the imagination as to how Queen Redd might have survived such an experience, what was spawned on the other side of the looking glass was less than surprising considering the Redd’s vicious determination.

So it stands to reason that if we are to search for a sign of Arch, we must look not for a villain calling himself “King of Boarderland & Wonderland”. Instead, we must seek out the fragments of Arch’s foul imagination having taken root in the minds of men.


Jack The Ripper
Jack The Ripper

A mysterious murderer who needs no introduction. The infamous serial killer who haunted Whitechapel exhibits the brutality and misogyny that made King Arch such a foul enemy of Queen Alyss and is considered by many to be the symbolic death of England’s Victorian era.

While we may never truly understand the man and the motive behind “The Ripper,” one can see the glimmer of King Arch’s cruelty and cunning when it comes to terrorizing the vulnerable. But not every aspect of Arch is so blatantly malevolent, some find themselves at odds with the realm they are in and seem to try and bring it down or escape it.


Pete Browning

A star of the early days of modern American baseball, Pete Browning was a heavy drinking but talented athlete who carried some strange beliefs, including the idea that baseball bats only contained a limited number of hits in them before they lost their “pow.”

His attitude and skill would give him the moniker of “The Louisville Slugger” years before the title would be branded by the H&B Company. While not the madman that Arch was, Browning clearly was a giant in his field and would be an “Arch”etype for many of baseball’s most colorful players.


Sante Geronimo Caserio
Sante Geronimo Caserio

The Italian anarchist whose notoriety erupted from his assassination of the French president Carnot to avenge the executions of his fellow anarchists. The bombastic trial of Caserio is punctuated by his bold refusal of plea deals and his proclamations of his anarchist ideas. King Arch’s distrust of “Queendoms” seems to have reached a full boil of distrust of any form of authority and their allies. Perhaps a sign of what King Arch’s continued reign of Wonderland would have looked like, a violent anarchy.


General Custer
General Custer

An educated and decorated commander in the American Union Army who would met his brutal end at the Battle of Little Bighorn, or the “Battle of Greasy Grass” as it was known to the Natives who fought against this military man.

King Arch himself could only be this aggressive and merciless in battle, as Custer would even use full military force against the unarmed peoples of the Indian Nations. And like the Boarderland King, his force of personality has echoed through time to blur the line between hero and villain.


Ferdinand Esterhazy
Ferdinand Esterhazy

A French military officer and spy for Germany, his nation’s enemy at the time. What is most villainous about this possible aspect of Arch’s tale is not just his betrayal of oaths & friends, but the antisemitic scapegoating of Alfred Dreyfus as the individual responsible for Esterhazy’s treason.

Unfortunately, Esterhazy would not face justice and would be quietly dismissed from military service. He would spend his final days in Britain where he would live on his military pension until his death and burial under a false name & date. Like Arch, this one has “gotten away with it.”


Ned Kelly
Ned Kelly

Equally hero and villain in his homeland of Australia, Ned Kelly truly embodies the aspect of Arch that made him “king” to the rough-and-tumble peoples of the Boarderlands. A long history of robbery, bush ranging, and eventually the murder of police officials, would come to an end at Kelly’s trial and execution.

Today, Ned Kelly holds the distinct “honor” of being synonymous with rebellion and “Robin Hood” banditry in Australia. However, one needs only to look at the long list of deaths associated with the man to appreciate that one person’s hero can be another’s worst nightmare.


Black Bart
Black Bart

An unusual entry into this list of potential aspects of King Arch, considering this colorful stagecoach robber of the American West was rumored to have never fired a single shot during his robberies. Black Bart was reputed to be a “gentleman bandit” with an air of sophistication, even leaving poetic messages at two robberies for the police.

Following his arrest and serving time in the notorious San Quentin Prison, Charles “Black Bart” Boles disappear into the realm of rumors and tall tales.


William Buckley
William Buckley

Formerly a soldier from “Alice’s” England, William Buckley would be convicted of theft and be sentenced to the Australian penal colonies. When the settlement proved lacking in vital resources such as fresh water and eventually Buckley left to try his own luck.

Buckley’s would be saved by members of the Wathaurong people and he would live amongst them for the next thirty-two years. Buckley would prevent conflict between indigenous and English colonizers, the latter of which would learn who Buckley was, leading to his eventual pardon and return to European society.

It seems that the dark imagination of men like King Arch persists through the Continuum into realms beyond Wonderland, or perhaps the Boarderland tyrant himself persists like an ink stain on a page. Should Arch be half the villain that Queen Redd continues to be, then perhaps the realm of Wonderland should expect a return.

To read more about the Boarderlands, check out The Books of The Looking Glass Wars.

Though we can never be certain of King Arch’s fate, we must stay vigilante should the tyrant ever show his face(s) in the Pool of Tears again.

Meet The Author

Marco Arizpe

Marco Arizpe graduated from the University of Southern California and The American Film Institute with degrees in filmmaking and screenwriting. His brand of borderland gothic horror stems from his experiences growing up in a small town where Texas and Mexico meet. Culturally steeped in a rich history of all things terrifying, Marco never fails to bring forward indigenous folklore in contemporary and fresh settings.