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Interview with Anna Patrick author of "Meditations in Wonderland", a modern retelling of Lewis Carrol's classic: "There's always ideas for upcoming novels floating in my head…I'll leave it up to my inner Alice to point me in the right direction."

Interview: Anna Patrick, Author of ‘Meditations in Wonderland’, Her Modern Retelling of the Classic Story

Anna Patrick has pulled off a very challenging task: Write an updated, modern retelling of the classic Alice in Wonderland. This new take on the book is an excellent way to mark the 150th anniversary of the book’s original release.

Patrick graduated from Boston College with both a degree in communications and the first draft of the manuscript that would become her first novel, Meditations In Wonderland. Between then and the book’s publication she created and ran a popular Tumblr under the same title.

Patrick has helped me with many interviews but this is the first time where I am directly interviewing her. Why’s that? She’s been a publicist and promoter for other authors for a publishing house for two years but this is her first book.
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This version of the book is not for children. I admit, for example, I blanched the first time Alice called another character the b word. And there is recreational drug use, specifically, Adderall. But it is quite engaging.

The book is as fascinating as it is intriguing. Check it out.
 
How did you come up with this story?

Meditations In Wonderland has been brewing in my mind for years. It began taking shape during my visit to London my freshman year of college – more on that below. It took a few years, but I finally began writing the story my last semester of college at Boston College. Within four months I had a completed draft, it flowed out of me. As it was fermenting over the years it was shaped by other influences, such as Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and various other pieces of literature that have stuck with me. It became an amalgamation of classic meets a dark new age, contemporary story for the 20- and 30-something audience, though I think teenagers can definitely relate. Think Pretty Little Liars meets Alice In Wonderland, where a new girl (Elizabeth) comes to Wonderland, and Alice wants her dead.

Have you had a lifelong interest in Alice in Wonderland? Why?

My interest and passion for Alice In Wonderland has definitely been lifelong. Like many ‘90s children I grew up with the Disney version. Then I sought out any TV and film remakes I could find – and there were plenty! Finally I studied abroad in London my freshman year of college, and I was able to see the original, hand-written and illustrated manuscript for Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. That was a meaningful moment for me. I also visited Lewis Carroll’s stomping grounds in Oxford while abroad. The story has become a cultural staple, and I think it has stuck around for so long because there is a part of it that resonates with each of us. For me, I think it was the girl with the overactive imagination on a journey of the self.

What can readers expect from your version of Alice in the story? How is the Wonderland different in your book from the original?

Readers will find that overall my book is much darker – we have an older protagonist who comes to find a Wonderland that echoes dystopian and gothic themes, and there she discovers that Alice is much older too, and is less than thrilled that she’s discovered Wonderland. In fact, she wants her dead. Many of the original, beloved characters can be found there, however altered in some ways. Overall, this is a darker, more evolved setting that reflects more modern themes for an older audience.

I read that you have a Tumblr page with the same name as your book. What do you use that space for? Did it play a role in the eventual publication of this book?

Yes, I have a Tumblr under the same name! I started it about two years before I began writing the novel. I announced that I began writing the novel on my Tumblr, and many of my readers have been following the process since the beginning. From that first announcement thru publication, that space has been instrumental for gaining feedback and support throughout the writing and publishing process. More than anything the space is a place of expression of similar tones from the book, an extension of the same themes laid out in quotes and art. You can also find the most up to date book updates there. In many ways, this is the book that Tumblr wrote.

Is it coincidence and/or smart marketing that this is being published on the 150th anniversary of the
book’s publication?

I would like to think it’s a combination of both! In terms of the latter, it being a coincidence, I have to concede that as an author it’s impossible to know exactly when you’ll be published. If only it were that easy! Once I was able to sign a book deal, I was thrilled that it happened to be within the same year of the 150th anniversary. When it came to the exact publication date, October 6th, that was to ensure that it was out pre-Halloween and pre-anniversary!

How did you structure your book based on the original story?

The book is laid out into 13 chapters, and like the original each chapter yields a new encounter with a beloved character. However, mine also mimics a structure as a nod to Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars – Elizabeth follows Alice’s notes and letters that she leaves for Elizabeth as breadcrumbs, essentially, that lead her through Wonderland. And, ultimately, lead to their confrontation.

What has it been like going from promoting and publicizing the books of other authors to being one promoted herself?

It has been a very eye-opening journey, and one that I’m grateful to experience! It has given me a full 360-degree view of publishing that I feel privileged to see. It’s a vantage point that has allowed me to make decisions for the book that I likely wouldn’t have known to make – such as the timing for publication, decisions on distribution and pricing, and “behind the scenes” details like that. I also have a renewed sense of compassion for first-time authors – it can be a daunting, though fulfilling, experience!

The book’s promotional material says the book “readers can discover a realistic look at how recreational drugs influence youth culture.” Can you elaborate? Same with a comment on “The role of self-disconnect in modern society and how it affects our mental well-being”?

As for the former on recreational drugs influencing youth culture – Elizabeth, like many college-age students today, turned to amphetamines like Adderall to try to combat anxious feelings and overall boost her day-to-day performance. In regards to the former, her Adderall use is something that left her feeling disconnected to herself and to the world around her – which is the circumstance that led her to her fateful meditation where she discovered the rabbit hole for herself. Like many in their 20s, her struggle with what many consider “harmless” recreational performance drugs affects her psyche in ways that she didn’t fully anticipate, and in the book we see how it plays out in relation to her ability to find herself and true life purpose.

Many Alice retellings attempt to fold in drugs or drug references into the subject matter, and I felt that, like the original, while drugs or drug use may or may not influence the story in the beginning, the story ultimately still centers on a personal journey of self-discovery.

What are you working on next?

I am considering a sequel, where Alice and Elizabeth battle it out in the “real world.” What would happen if Alice were to leave Wonderland and enter the gritty real world on an entirely different stage? That’s something I’d like to explore in a similar context as Meditations. There are always ideas for upcoming novels floating in my head, one or two have been grabbing at me – but, like Elizabeth, I’ll leave it up to my inner Alice to point me in the right direction!
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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.

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