A.C. Wise is one of my first writer buddies here on the East Coast, and I’m delighted to have her here to talk for a quick chat about her debut novel, Wendy, Darling! Her fiction has appeared in publications such as Clarkesworld, Apex, and several Year’s Best anthologies, among other places. Her work has won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, as well as twice more being a finalist for the Sunburst Award, twice being a finalist for the Nebula Award, and being a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. She has two collections published with Lethe Press, and a novella published with Broken Eye Books. Her debut novel, Wendy, Darling, was published by Titan Books in June 2021, and a new collection, The Ghost Sequences, will be published by Undertow Books in Fall 2021.
First, the blurb…
Wendy, Darling is a feminist take on Peter Pan, following a grown-up Wendy Darling as she returns to Neverland after Peter kidnaps her daughter, forcing her to confront her past, the traumas she endured, the broken relationships, and the hidden darkness at the heart of her childhood paradise.
So, A.C., tell me a little more about your world…
The novel moves between London in the early 1900s and Neverland. For the most part, I tried to stick relatively close to actual London, whereas with Neverland, I took a fair number of liberties. At the same time, I tried to capture the spirit of Neverland. There are elements that fans of the original Peter Pan, and subsequent adaptations, may recognize and hopefully appreciate, but I also took it as a setting I could shape to suit the whims of my story. Time, geography, and physical features are tricksy and subject to shifting around. Sometimes the sun doesn’t set for days. Sometimes mountains and streams pop up where there were none before. It’s a world designed to be one particular boy’s ideal, and tends to shape itself to his will, whatever that may be at the moment. If Peter wants the perfect tree for climbing, it will appear. If he wants a band of inexperienced children to be able to regularly go up against a pirate ship full of seasoned, grown men, and never lose a fight, then so be it! If he says a thing is so, whether or not it comports at all with our understanding of reality, that’s the way it is and there’s no arguing it.
What makes this book different from anything else you’ve done?
It’s my first novel length work, which is pretty exciting! It’s also more historical than most of my work tends to be. The majority of what I’ve written to date, with a few exceptions, tends to be either contemporary fantasy/horror (or at least set within the last 20-30 years), near future science fiction, or something that exists in a nebulous time/place not particularly connected to our world.
What was the hardest thing about taking your book from an idea to the finished product?
Honestly, convincing myself that I could write something novel length. I had to trick myself into doing it. I started off with a flash fiction piece, expanded it into a novella, then eventually expanded that into a novel. I spent a lot of time in denial about the fact that I was writing a novel. I kept telling myself I was just adding words here and there to see how it would go, and I could always take them out again in order to placate the part of my brain convinced that novels are too big and scary and that I shouldn’t even attempt to write one.
There’s always a conversation around fiction around which parts of us end up in our work, intentionally or unintentionally. What do you think readers of Wendy, Darling will learn about you from your novel?
That I’m really into pockets. That I’m really into putting dark and/or queer spins on classic tales. That I enjoy mashing up genres, throwing in a little bit of fantasy here, a little bit of literary fiction there, and a dash of horror just to sweeten the mix. That one of the themes I can’t help returning to over and over again is found family. All that said, most of these things probably won’t come as a surprise to people who either know me or know my work.
Without context, what’s one of your favorite sentences in the book?
“Here, in the outside world, pockets are a convenience, a luxury; in the asylum, they were a necessity.”
You can find A.C. Wise online at www.acwise.net and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ac_wise. Wendy, Darling is available anywhere books are sold, but if possible, please order it through your local independent bookstore, or online at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781789096811.