Award-winning American author Colleen Oakes is releasing her newest novel, YA book, Wendy Darling: Vol. 2: Seas, the sequel to Vol. 1: Stars, on September 20. Giving a unique twist to J.M Barrie’s iconic Peter Pan, Oakes focuses on how Wendy and Michael Darling struggle to survive aboard Captain Hook’s ship in the middle of the Neverland Seas.
Wendy Darling: Vol 2: Seas is a book about finding strength, having courage, and protecting family:
“Wendy and Michael are in the middle of the Neverland Seas aboard the dreaded Sudden Night, sailed by the infamous Captain Hook and his blood-thirsty crew. In this exotic world full of mermaids, spies and pirate-feuds, the Darling’s could not be further from their London home. Hunted by the twisted boy who once stole her heart, Wendy finds herself struggling to evade his search and keep her family alive. Returning home to London now seems like an impossibility — and the betrayals have just begun.”
Authors like Gregory Maguire revamp old stories and create prequels and sequels that become big hits. What it about Peter Pan that most resonates with you?
When I first picked up Peter Pan to read it again before starting Wendy Darling, I was struck by just how adult that story is. As a child, you remember the Lost Boys having fun and Peter flying, but there are a lot of dark and twisted things about the story of Peter Pan; gender roles, violence, strange hints of hatred for Mothers, it’s a much deeper and more diabolical story that it gets credit for. That resonated with me, and I knew that Wendy Darling would be the character for me.
Do you think there’s a little bit of Peter Pan in each of us?
I do! Adulting is kind of the worst, and I think everyone of us longs a bit for that perfect freedom of childhood, where your imagination can take you anywhere and you don’t have to pay bills. That being said, a little bit TOO MUCH Peter Pan has a name: Peter Pan syndrome, which is when a man doesn’t grow up and accept his responsibilities. A little bit of Peter Pan’s magic is just right, I think.
People say the best writers are constantly reading. If you could be one literary character, who would you be and why?
Hermione Granger will forever be my literary hero with her wit, wisdom and her love for reading, but I would love to be a Penseive and get to visit Narnia as well, so it’s a tossup. Wardrobe or Wand? I can’t decide.
Sometimes inspiration just sparks and an idea needs to be written down. Where do you do most of your writing?
I do most of my writing at the Starbucks near my home, and I do most of my editing in my home office. Inspiration strikes me most when I am doing one of two things: driving or listening to instrumental music.
Was Wendy Darling your favourite character in J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan?
To be honest, Peter is my favorite character, but Wendy was the character who deserved to have her own story told. Peter had a lot of depth that was best brought to the light by another character, a girl known for being good to juxtapose his feral tendencies.
Your previous works focus on strong, dynamic female characters. What’s your process like when deciding which character to focus on?
First, I take a look at the original text, so for me that was Alice in Wonderland for Queen of Hearts and Peter Pan for Wendy Darling. Then I ask myself, what am I seeing underneath the surface? What are the red letters in their dialogue? Who is the real person that has become such an infamous character, and how did they get there? These and so many more questions are how I begin.
Why do you think people resonate so much with the Peter Pan story?
I think that one, it reminds them of their childhood, especially if they grew up reading the story, and two, I think the freedom of flight represents so much more than just flying for grown-ups; it represents a way to leave your problems behind. It’s the desire for adventure and we never grow out of that.
What’s a genre you admire but absolutely hate writing?
I would be a terrible true-crime or horror writer. Even though there are very dark parts of Queen of Hearts and Wendy Darling, I am kind of a weanie when it comes to real life terror.
What is the writing process like for you?
I usually write about 20 hours a week, and about half of those are spent at a Starbucks or library. I have to write with my headphones. I usually have a word count in mind, but it’s not a hard deadline. I outline my books by chapters and what needs to happen in each chapter. I am a freeform writer which means I do not stop to research or edit as I am writing – I do all that later, after I have a finished book. (I do participate in research before I start a novel, however, just not during.) After my first draft is done, I do three major edits – one of my own, one of my beta readers, and one from my agent, before turning in anything officially.
What made you want to focus on Wendy Darling?
Peter Pan starts and begins with Wendy Darling and yet she is cast aside and held up as a lovely decoration, a set piece to accompany the charming, effervescent Peter Pan. I wanted to learn more about this girl and her family; what did she love before Peter came along? Why did she fall for him? What does a member of a rigid social class do in the wilds? Did she ever really want to be a mother? There was so much to learn about Wendy and so many wonderful situations to put her in that I knew I had the bones of my novel in this very strong, very polite and good girl.