Christina Henry is the author of the Black Wings urban fantasy series, books featuring an angel of death and—wait for it—her loyal gargoyle. To be honest, however, I didn’t hear of her until she took a huge departure and went classical—with a twist.
Alice came out last year, and I was blown away by the way the story is utterly changed, and yet so very similar. Frankly, I loved it. As did so many others (read the VBC review of Alice). It is with great anticipation that we wait for the sequel, Red Queen (out today, order your copy), to see where Alice and Hatcher end up and whether the Red Queen truly lives up to her name.
We are lucky enough to have Christina with us to answer a few questions about Alice, Red Queen, and what wonderful surprises she has up her sleeve for the coming year.
Beth/Vampire Book Club: You’ve said that you wanted to write your own version of Alice in Wonderland. What was it about her or her story that made you decide this was what you wanted to do?
Christina Henry: The interesting thing about Alice as a character is that she’s really become embedded in our cultural memory in a way that almost makes her seem like a character from myth. It feels like we’ve always had Alice with us, and because of that there’s a level of comfort and familiarity with the character that’s a great entry point for a writer.
There are a few other characters/places like this—Peter Pan & Neverland, any character from Oz. There’s something about these characters and places that strike a chord with us and become a part of our shared lexicon, much in the way we think of traditional fairy tales.
VBC: Re-creating a character that has become a classic, almost an icon, can go very well, or it can go very, very wrong. In some ways, trying to recreate such a character may almost be harder than writing an entirely new one. Would you say having that classic hovering in the background made it easier or harder on you, and why?
Christina Henry: In one sense it can be more difficult because there is this cultural understanding of Alice, and everyone has their own idea of who and what Alice is. Even people who have never read the original story feel they know Alice. On the other hand it does give readers that familiar place to start from, and it’s up to the writer to take the reader in a new direction.
VBC: In the original Alice in Wonderland, Alice is almost more of a victim—constantly harassed, chased, and threatened by those around her—and in a perpetual state of confusion and/or fear. In your version, women are also quite often seen as victims. Was the similarity intentional, or was it something simply based off of the darker nature of your tale?
Christina Henry: Since I was changing the story in so many ways I wanted to maintain the linear/questing structure of the original—Alice travels for a while, meets somebody, something happens with that person and then she moves on.
In the original she’s trying to find the rabbit that she followed down the hole because she’s curious—in my version of the story she’s still trying to find the rabbit, but so that she can fill in the holes in her memory and put her life together again. Alice’s quest is to overcome her victimhood—to be more than just a person something happened to and to realize her own strength again.
VBC: Did you know right away that this would be a series, or did it begin as a stand-alone and grow?
Christina Henry: It was intended to be a stand-alone and then my editor at the time, Danielle Stockley, expressed interest in a sequel. It was more challenging to write the sequel because I hadn’t really thought about where Alice and Hatcher might go, but Red Queen became a meditation on what happens after trauma. What happens once you’ve survived? How do you go on and build a new identity for yourself? Those questions really informed the overall narrative arc of Red Queen.
VBC: The Red Queen in the original book was an extremely unpleasant person that actually might have fit into your version of the world quite nicely. What should readers expect from your Red Queen?
Christina Henry: Hmm. In this case I’m just going to say expect the unexpected, because she isn’t what you think she is.
VBC: What would you say to those who might suggest that authors should stick to creating new stories and new characters, rather than revisiting old ones?
Christina Henry: I would say there really is no such thing as an “original” story, only original writers. Every writer brings their intellect, talent, experience and influences to what they write and that makes their point of view unique. Most writers draw on what they have read before in some way—they use fairy tales, or monsters that are familiar to us (werewolves, vampires, zombies).
The classic epic fantasy trope of the Chosen One who goes on a quest to find a thing/destroy a thing/save a kingdom isn’t original, but there are tons of writers taking this exact formula and making something fresh and new out of it.
VBC: Would you ever consider writing another book or series based on a fairy tale or another classic? If so, which would you choose and why?
Christina Henry: My next book is called Lostboy, and it’s an origin story of Captain Hook, so I’ve already made my way from Wonderland to Neverland.
I wanted to write this book because I always wanted to know why Captain Hook stays in Neverland harassing these kids instead of moving on and pirating like good pirates do. I decided there had to be a history between him and Peter Pan, and that perhaps they were friends once but no more.
Lostboy will be released by Ace in July 2017.
Thanks for having me here!
Have you read Alice yet? You should, and here’s your chance. Enter below for your chance to win a copy of Christina Henry’s Alice.