A.G.Howard-Interview with the Author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Coming off a hugely successful run of her novel SPLINTERED, The Reading Cafe would like to welcome the author A.G.Howard.
Anita Grace Howard lives in the Texas panhandle, and is most at home weaving the melancholy and macabre into settings and scenes, twisting the expected into the unexpected. She’s inspired by all things flawed, utilizing the complex loveliness of human conditions and raw emotions to give her characters life, then turning their world upside down so the reader’s blood will race.
Married and mother of two teens (as well as surrogate mom to two Labrador retrievers), Anita divides her days between spending time with her family and plodding along or plotting on her next book.
When she’s not writing, Anita enjoys rollerblading, biking, snow skiing, gardening, and family vacations that at any given time might include an impromptu side trip to an 18th century graveyard or a condemned schoolhouse for photo ops.
TRC: Hi Anita and welcome to The Reading Café. Congratulations on the success of SPLINTERED.
Anita: Thank you! And I’m honored to be here.
TRC: We would like to start with some background information. Would you please tell us something about yourself?
Anita: Let’s see, I rollerblade. I sew. I have a fear of heights, spiders, and creepy dolls. I’m drawn to all things Victorian and lacy. I’ve been writing seriously for over eight years. Also, I’m a wife and mother of two teens + four pets.
TRC: SPLINTERED is your first novel. For those who do not know, would you please tell us something about the premise?
Anita: SPLINTERED is the first young adult novel I’ve written, but I’ve been writing adult fantasy novels since 2005, and have seven books completed now. 😉 As per the premise, SPLINTERED is a YA spinoff of Alice in Wonderland, in which Alice Liddell’s granddaughter has to face the darker side of Wonderland’s whimsy to rescue her mom from an asylum.
Read our review HERE
TRC: How much research (logistic, historical, philosophical, original storyline) was involved in the writing of this particular book and series?
Anita: The only thing I did was research Alice Liddell, then reread both of Carroll’s novels. Spirals in hand, I made notes of what scenes and characters were my personal favorites. I intentionally chose some scenes and characters that are familiar to almost everyone through media saturation. Pictures of the Hatter’s tea party, the caterpillar smoking his hookah, Twiddledee and Tweedledumm, the card guards…these can be seen online and television and even as themes in miniature golf courses and amusement parks around the world. But for the less familiar characters/scenes, I needed to have a way to bring the readers up to speed. So, throughout Splintered, Alyssa turns to her mother’s copy of Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece to help her solve riddles. When something came along that I thought needed clarification, I would let Alyssa comment in her narrative, referring to what she remembers in her mother’s copies of the original book(s).
TRC: How were you able to keep your plot unpredictable without sacrificing the original ‘Alice in Wonderland’ storyline content?
Anita: This is hard to explain because it was all very organic. I wanted a colorful/vivid world edged with creepiness for my Wonderland setting. To help me visualize, I started gathering pictures into my Splintered synopsis and character folder of anything “Alice-esque” for inspiration. When I Googled for images, I sought out “Gothic” Alice themes. I found that I was drawn to pictures tinged with an “aura of Alice”, but completely different from the original. This led me to go one step further and not only warp the settings, but warp the original characters in unexpected ways—enough that it would throw my heroine and hero for a loop when they first saw them. But in order to stay true to Carroll’s vision, there needed to be an explanation for “why” everything was so different, so I came up with one that is tied to the original Alice Liddell. You’ll have to read the book to find out what that is. 😉
TRC: Do you have plans to continue the SPLINTERED storyline into a series? Trilogy?
Anita: There is a sequel titled UNHINGED and it’s due out January 2014. I would actually love to stretch it into three, but that’s up to the publisher. We’ll have to wait and see what they decide!
TRC: What do you believe is the biggest misconception about SPLINTERED?
Anita: That it’s a retelling. In fact, it’s more of a spinoff—a continuation of the story put into play by Carroll.
TRC: Had you ever considered a current relationship between Alyssa and Morpheus?
Anita: Absolutely! There’s a side of her that’s drawn to him, certainly, and he’s also good for her in that he lets her take chances even if it puts her in a little danger. He believes in her abilities unconditionally.
TRC: Did you ever think that Morpheus, with his dark side etc would have such a following of fans?
Anita: Is it the ‘bad boy’ persona that his legions of fans are attracted (to)? I think it’s the fact that he’s a redeemable bad boy. On some level, even when he’s lying to Alyssa or manipulating her, there are moments of goodness and tenderness that shine through—even though he tries to hide them. It’s those glimpses of light through the darkness that I think attract the majority of his fans.
TRC: SPLINTERED has one of the most captivating and beautiful covers. The colors catch the eye and pull you in. What say, if any, did you have in the final version of the cover ?
Anita: Thank you! I love it, too. And yes I did have some input. My agent arranged a “Meaningful Consultation” clause in my contract, which meant I got to watch the evolution and actually had back and forths w/my editor along the way. But honestly, their ideas were so amazing, I hardly had anything to say. Although there was a lot of swooning going on. LOL.
TRC: The first thing that attracts many readers to a book is the cover-especially in a retail outlet. Do you believe people ‘judge a book by its’ cover’ before they have had a chance to read the story?
Anita: Yes. A cover is the first thing that draws a reader’s eye. I think the two most important things about a book cover are:
1. On some level it mirrors the story within. Even if it’s just one small detail on the front that the reader will go back and notice after reading it.
2. It’s eye catching and intriguing.
TRC: If you could change something about yourself personal or professional, what would it be and why?
Anita: I would clone myself. Ha! I have so many books inside me that want to be written, yet never enough time to get them all out.
TRC: Who or what has been the biggest influence in your life and why?
Anita: I have had so many influences in life, including my parents. But if I were to whittle it down to who influenced my writing the most, I would have to say my grandfather. I never took my writing too seriously until I lost him to brain cancer. The night he died, I sat down and wrote a two page tribute to him and his life. It ended up being used in his eulogy because all of my cousins were so touched by it. That’s when I realized the depth of emotions writing could portray. So I hold him up as my inspiration, because the end of his journey was to be the beginning of mine.
TRC: Who is the first person you think about when you need someone to talk with and why?
Anita: My best pal Bethany Crandell. Because she knows me better than I know myself, and can talk me down off of any ledge, no matter how high. 😉
TRC: What five things would you like to accomplish in the next ten years?
1. Write and publish ten more books
2. Move into a house in the country or the mountains
3. Perfect my gardening skills
4. Make enough money for my husband to retire and play golf all day
5. See both of my kids graduate and have fulfilling careers that they love
TRC: What are your thoughts on book reviews-good or bad?
Anita: Everyone has a right to their opinion, even if it’s painful to me. 😉 Reviews are necessary for getting the buzz out about a book, and whether they’re positive or negative they can accomplish that. However, I don’t read them—even the good ones, unless the reviewer contacts me themselves via GoodReads, FB, twitter, or email. Sometimes the negative ones can get in my head and affect my productivity when I’m on a deadline, so I’ve learned it’s best for me to steer clear of the review sections online altogether.
TRC: On what are you currently working?
Anita: Edits for UNHINGED
TRC: Would you like to add anything else?
Anita: A huge thank you to all of the readers who have made my debut so much fun this year!
Favorite Dessert—Godiva dark chocolate truffles
Favorite TV Show—Revolution
Last Movie you saw—Warhorse
Dark or Milk Chocolate—DARK, just like I like my stories. 🙂
TRC: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Again, congratulations on the success of SPLINTERED. The Reading Cafe wishes you all the best.
Anita: And thank you again for having me over to your beautiful blog!
SPLINTERED by A.G. Howard
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
Well, the blurb just about explains it all: the premise of the novel focuses on Alyssa Gardner and her adventures in Wonderland, but any similarity to the original storyline of our childhood or the Disney version we watched with our children will be met with a much darker version and a more sinister nightmare.
I have read a few reviews where readers claimed that Splintered is the re-telling of Alice in Wonderland-modernized and updated-but in my opinion it is not. A.G Howard admits to a fascination with Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and Tim Burton’s artistic genius and it shows throughout the novel. But Alyssa’s adventures down the rabbit hole are complicated when the boy she has always loved follows her through and, the boy from her childhood dreams promises her the world-one will sacrifice his life while the other will sacrifice a friendship.
Splintered re-visits Wonderland but Wonderland is no longer the happy place of Alice’s childhood. Six generations removed from the original Alice, Alyssa Gardner will become the pawn in a game much larger and deadlier than Lewis Carroll could ever have imagined. Believing she is in Wonderland to right the wrongs inflicted by her great grandmother (several generations removed) Alyssa will learn that she has a bigger role to play in Wonderland than awakening the Mad Hatter or finding the Chesire Cat’s grin.
All of Carroll’s characters will return but each is a grotesque caricature of the original. Bloody knights, skeletal creatures, dismembered queens, headless cats and lust inducing berries are far from the Mad Hatters tea party or the White Rabbit’s hyper-active Wonderland run. And Alyssa will learn that perhaps Alice Liddell’s recounting of what happened is something far from the truth. Through it all, the boy from her dreams, will tell her what must be done, but even he has an ulterior motive in returning Wonderland back to its original beauty. Only Alyssa Gardner has the power to save Wonderland –but at what cost?
SPLINTERED is a well-written, graphically descriptive and eerily disturbing storyline that will make you wonder how many of our childhood fairy tales are reflections of a more sinister story. Historically, the bedtime story was meant to scare children to sleep; to keep them in bed at night. A.G’s re-visit to Wonderland would have given many children nightmares.
Howard’s description is so detailed that I was lost in the intricate and elaborate narration-I like to place myself into the storyline, but the circumstantial minutiae and finer points were confusing as I traveled Wonderland with Alyssa. Like a mirror, Wonderland is a reflection of its original, but a reflection that is backwards and dark –fascinating and dangerous. You can’t help but make the comparisons to Tim Burton’s recent Alice in Wonderland and the descriptive nature with which A.G Howard tells her story will have you casting and directing your own movie as your read along.
Reviewed by Sandy
Copy supplied by the publisher.