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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Interview with Frank Beddor

Order “Seeing ReddHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Watch the “Seeing ReddTrailer HERE

Thanks to Megan from Goldberg McDuffie Communications, Inc. I was offered the opportunity to interview Frank Beddor, creator of The Looking Glass Wars. Since I was a fan of the first book in the trilogy as well as the Hatter M comic book series, and was looking forward to the sequel “Seeing Redd”, how could I refuse? So my sincerest appreciation goes out to Megan for setting up the interview and to Mr. Beddor for taking the time to talk about the trilogy, the LGW movies, the geo-graphic novels, and all of the other wonderful ideas that he has planned for The Looking Glass Wars universe:

Q: So let’s recap. You’ve been a world champion freestyle skier, a stuntman, an actor, a movie producer best known for There’s Something About Mary and now a writer. In your own words, you wanted to become “a creator and not a facilitator”, and then along came the inspiration for The Looking Glass Wars, which you worked on in secret before publishing the first book in the trilogy in 2004 (UK). Since then, you’ve produced a 4-issue limited comic book series starring Hatter M written by you and Liz Cavalier with art by Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night, Fell); a soundtrack to the first book in the trilogy; an online card game with a print version to come; you’ve completed a script for The Looking Glass Wars movie and are in the middle of finding a director and a cast; and “Seeing Redd”, the second novel in the trilogy, was just released on August 21, 2007. Now, I read that you had always envisioned The Looking Glass Wars as a franchise, so has everything you’ve accomplished so far been according to some master plan and how does it feel to see all of these projects come to life?

Frank: It wasn’t so much of a MASTER plan as a synchronistic series of imaginative impulses. Looking out over the scope of what has been accomplished is alternately exhilarating and daunting. Exhilarating in seeing the work reach readers and daunting in that so much more remains to be done.

Q: Out of all of The Looking Glass Wars-related projects, what has been the most difficult to get off the ground and why? What about the most rewarding?

Frank: Let’s look back on this question from the future since all of the projects are not yet off the ground. Taking a guess I would say it will be the films that take the honor of being most difficult to get off the ground. Most rewarding so far? I love all my children equally but seeing the finished cover art by Vance Kovacs for “Seeing Redd” and the Princess Alyss of Wonderland scrapbook and the comic masterpieces of Ben Templesmith bringing Hatter M to life were peak experiences.

Q: Focusing on the new book, what can readers expect from “Seeing Redd”?

Frank: The dust has barely settled since the Alyssians trounced Queen Redd and she fled through the Heart Crystal to parts unknown. We return to a Wonderland in flux as the young queen Alyss attempts to rule a world she barely knows; a world where everyone is seeing Redd! Has Her Imperial Viciousness returned or it only black imagination?

Readers will also be introduced to Boarderland and its alpha leader, King Arch, an avowed male chauvinist who loathes the idea of Queens ruling Wonderland. Aided by his henchmen, Ripkins and Blister, and the 21 warrior tribes, King Arch lays out his plan to dominate Wonderland like a master chess player. It comes quite naturally to Arch since Boarderland is a land of incessant gamers and gamblers. If you are a fan of anagrams, closely inspect the map included in “Seeing Redd” and see if you can decode the names of each of the 21 tribes. Hint: Each name is an anagram of a card or board game. Good luck!

Q: I didn’t know that about the tribe names. I’ll have to try and solve that ;) So middle volumes are usually considered the hardest to write in a trilogy. Was it that way for you with “Seeing Redd” and how does the book stack up to the other novels in the series, specifically in setting up the concluding volume?

Frank: For me, every book is a struggle but as the story deepens and expands it also generates, so the more material I have the more inspiration it creates to carry me towards the next book.

Q: I’ve heard that “Seeing Redd” is much more violent than its predecessor. Are you worried at all that a darker approach might alienate younger readers, especially since the book is marketed toward a ‘young adult’ audience? (This question was asked before I had read “Seeing Redd”)

Frank: I hadn’t heard that about “Seeing Redd” but I have to say I’m smiling because someone must have been shocked by the flesh-eating zombies. Overall, the violence in “Seeing Redd” is nothing more than kids would see at a PG movie or encounter (if they are at least 5 feet tall) in a spooky fun house at a carnival.

Q: What is your response toward criticisms from Lewis Carroll supporters and similarities between The Looking Glass Wars and the computer game Alice from American McGee?

Frank: Debate is healthy. I welcome all forms of criticism and only ask that they read my books first. As for American McGee – we’ve had lunch and he picked up the check so he must not be too upset.

Q: Who are the new characters you have introduced in "Seeing Redd"?

Frank: New characters in “Seeing Redd” are King Arch and his henchmen Ripkins and Blister who I chatted about in an earlier question. Also, villains introduced in the Hatter M comic series, Baroness Dvonna and Sacrénoir, will make a reappearance to join forces with Redd.

Q: So what’s the progress report with the third volume in the trilogy and can you give us any details?

Frank: Well, right now all I can say is that Spring 2009 is slated as the earliest publishing date. No confirmed title yet but I welcome suggestions. As for sharing details about the story, I’m afraid that’s not possible since I am still in the process of unraveling much of the mystery that surrounds the restoration of Imagination to Wonderland. One vital piece of information that recently came to me revealed that astronomers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center are testing a strangely-shaped mirror that will allow them to explore the Universe using super-energetic X-rays. This, to me, is pivotal and thrilling confirmation that the Looking Glass Wars has opened many minds to the possibility that Wonderland truly does exist. (You can read the full NASA article HERE)

Q: Regarding the film version of The Looking Glass Wars, can you tell us about the script, what kind of director you’re looking for, the cast, special effects, what your overall vision is for the movie, and any updates regarding its development?

Frank: At this point what I think fans may find most interesting about my process with regard to the film is that I am not interested in simply repeating the book that has already been read. Much like my decision to do the Hatter M series as a parallel story to the Looking Glass Wars novel by extending and enhancing the material through his POV I want the film to do the same for fans by revealing more of the world and the characters. To crack LGW open, I intend to start the movie when Alyss is 20-years-old and about to marry Prince Leopold. It’s the day of her wedding and fantasy is about to declare war on reality as the Alyssians arrive in London to rescue her. By introducing new material and points of view and expanding the storyline I want to really utilize the medium of film and all it is capable of delivering.

It’s much more exciting and invigorating for me to create ‘the film’ this way rather than simply ‘adapt’ the book. I have already had fun playing with the visual medium by working with SFX companies to create the card soldiers and then re-purpose the footage as book trailers.

My main focus right now is to meet with directors who are highly visual, creative and willing to follow the glow. As for the screenplays for LGW, Hatter M and Seeing Redd, I am collaborating with some deeply imaginative writers rumored to be from Wonderland whose names will be revealed in the future.

Q: I loved the Hatter M comic book series that you wrote. First off, what kind of experience was it writing a comic book and how different was it from writing a novel or producing a film?

Frank: While novels are a solo trip, comic books, much like film, are a collaborative effort. And I have to say, writing comic books are a lot more fun.

Q: Secondly, congrats on the two 2007 Eisner Award Nominations for Best Limited Series and Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (Ben Templesmith). Even though the series didn’t win, how cool was it to be nominated?

Frank: Thanks! Very exciting to be nominated and to be part of the elite comic book culture that constitutes the Eisner Awards. There is so much history that is honored as part of the Eisner’s that you really feel you are part of something much bigger than just this year’s nominations. Being invited to the awards as a nominee was definitely one of my peak experiences.

Q: Thirdly, for those that might have missed the mini-series, a hardcover edition collecting all four issues comes out September 26, 2007. Can readers look forward to any extra goodies with the hardcover?

Frank: Indeed. Geo-graphic novel volume one will be available on September 26. Readers can look forward to a brilliant new cover art from Ben Templesmith, stellar production values, concept art pages, a cover art gallery and a thorough, behind-the-scenes look at the Hatter M Institute for Paranormal Travel where Hatter’s journey is being tracked and verified even as we speak.

Q: And lastly in this area, you have a few other comic book projects planned, including two more Hatter M ‘Geo-Graphic’ novels and a series starring Queen Redd. What’s the latest on these projects?

Frank: We are currently finishing the scripts for the next 12 issues of the Hatter M series which will in turn becomes Geo-graphic Volumes 2 and 3. I am once again working with Liz Cavalier as co-writer and artist Ben Templesmith in the hope of being invited back to the Eisner’s.

As for Queen Redd’s future in graphics, no definite plans now but if I were to do a ‘comic’ based on Redd I would want to do it in a similar fashion to Hatter M which was created not as a comic book version of the character as readers were introduced to him in LGW, but as a stand alone series that is really an adjunct or extension of the novel. So for Redd, the comic series would possibly be a prequel of the girl who would kill to become Queen or maybe an exploration of Wonderland when she ruled for 13 years where the four suit families were vying for power as they assemble their own armies.

Q: Because of my music background, I loved the idea of having a soundtrack for your book and Hypnogaja was actually a favorite of mine when I wrote for Kings of A&R. What did you think of the end result of the Looking Glass Wars soundtrack? Do you plan or are working on a soundtrack for “Seeing Redd” and if so, could you give us any information?

Frank: Since LGW is a novel set in two dimensions it came to me that for the reader to more fully experience these characters and their world I should somehow extend the mental dimension of the page to the aural dimension to make it more sensory and emotional. Acting on an imaginative impulse I created an ‘aural novel’ by producing a soundtrack much the same as a director would for a film. The most exciting moment for me was when the music came together and the tracks compiled and I slowly realized that because of what the artists had created musically, I began to know the characters, MY characters, on a much deeper level. I was incredibly fortunate to work with Hypnogaja and thrilled with how they and the other artists chose to interpret the themes of the book. I am not planning a soundtrack to accompany “Seeing Redd” but am hoping to produce one for Book 3 and possibly include the CD with the book.

Q: I’ve read that you want to make a rollercoaster based on The Looking Glass Wars, that there’s a videogame in the works, and there’s even been a proposed theatrical musical. What’s the word on these and any other projects that you might be working on in further expanding The Looking Glass Wars franchise?

Frank: All true. Stay tuned.

Q: Obviously The Looking Glass Wars is your baby, but do you happen to be involved in any other projects?

Frank: Oh and what a baby LGW is. It never sleeps, it’s hungry 24/7 and the minute I turn my back it is up to some mischief. LGW has taken just about every moment of my life since I published the first novel and began doing book tours, creating Hatter M and going to comic cons, building and updating the website, not to mention books 2 and 3 etc… and just as with any baby, I cannot imagine my life without it.

But I did take the time to write a story for Hasbro to turn (Monopoly) into Monopoly: the Movie. The project interested me because it had the same requirement of imagining and creating a world, much the same as I did for LGW.

Q: From your experience in the film industry and now publishing, comic books, et cetera, what are your thoughts on the cross-pollination between different mediums (comic books, film/TV, videogames, etc.) today and where the future might lead regarding multi-media properties?

Frank: I think ‘cross-pollination’ allows the creator to envision everything as one big world and create accordingly rather than having splintered, subsidiary development phases. Additionally, the juice from one helps charge the others -- as though each one is pushing, challenging the others to reach greater heights. I believe the process creates healthy competition between mediums.

Q: Your website for The Looking Glass Wars is quite impressive and you do a great job utilizing online tools such as audio samples and book trailers. How much of an impact has the Internet had on your success as a writer and the franchise in general, and how important do you think the Internet will be in the future for publishers/authors, etc?

Frank: The website was created as a visual extension of the book for fans to have a place to visit and spend more time in the world and with the characters they had come to know. With this goal in mind, the website has been a brilliant means of disseminating information and fun. What’s great about the Internet and all it offers is that the huge ‘hardware’ potential pushes and encourages you to create ever more interesting and innovative material. I’m sure every publisher by now knows and appreciates the Internet as an extremely economical and creative mode of reaching audiences. Next up at the LGW website will be the Card Soldier Wars, a 2DMMO game that allows me in an interactive, dynamic way to share further aspects of the LGW story and mythology in a way that no other medium could deliver. We are currently taking applications to Beta test at http://www.cardsoldierwars.com/

Q: In speculative fiction, cover art is a bit of an issue, especially how important it is in selling a book, how fantasy covers are considered generic, the difference between international & stateside covers, et cetera. What do you think about this subject and how do you feel about your covers so far?

Frank: I was lucky because early on I began hiring concept artists to help me ‘visualize’ what I was writing. This hybrid approach introduced me to some extremely talented artists and taught me a lot about the process and how to articulate and share my vision with others. I also was able to develop a strong visual point of view. So unlike most writers, who focus entirely on the text and then must depend on the publishers to choose the art, I had a strong opinion on what I thought the cover should look like. Since the tone of the LGW trilogy is fantasy mixed with a bit of sci-fi it was important that the art reflect this. Because I’ve been lucky and worked with such talented artists my book covers have made the leap to other countries, which is not that common. The cover of the French, German and Spanish editions all used my art.

Q: You’re obviously pretty busy with The Looking Glass Wars, but what other activities or hobbies do you enjoy?

Frank: I have a 2-year-old son, Luc, and am expecting a daughter in the new year so be prepared for even more princess stories in the future.

Q: Wow, congrats!!! What about books? What’s been grabbing your attention lately?

Frank: I just finished reading “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold and am about to begin William Gibson’sSpook Country”.

Q: How about new authors? Any recommendations?

Frank: I highly recommend “The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1” by P.J Haarsma, it’s the first volume in a series of 5 set in the Rings of Orbis universe. Great sci-fi for young readers. Also, Ed Decter’s Outriders series of adventures for young readers.

Q: Well, I believed we’ve covered a lot. Any last words or comments?

Frank: I’ll just add that fans of Alyss and LGW should look for a fascinating volume that will be in stores November 2007 titled Princess Alyss of Wonderland. The book is an amazing collection of the art, journals and letters of the exiled Alyss Heart created during her early years in London. British historian Agnes MacKenzie has done an outstanding job of collecting and narrating the volume and I think curious eyes everywhere will open wide at the outcome.

Thanks for all the great questions.

4 comments:

SQT said...

Okay, this is totally inappropriate. But Frank's hot. :D

Now that I'm done drooling over the photo I need to go back and read the interview.

Robert said...

LOL

Katie said...

Great interview! I'm so glad you asked about the third book. I've been wondering about it. :)

Robert said...

Katie, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview :D

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