I’m thrilled to welcome Lisa Jensen to Lit, etc! Today Lisa is talking about her newest release, Alias Hook (hello Capitan Hook!). I was lucky enough to receive an ARC and liked it (ah Hook’s voice really comes through) and I’m hoping to get my review up soon. In the meantime you can read an exclusive excerpt.
I also am giving away a copy of Alias Hook (US only). Just be sure to leave a blog comment letting me know who your favorite pirate is and why! Good luck!
Q. Tell me something about Lisa Jensen other than the standard bio on your website.
I’ve been a doll-maker, a cartoonist, and I’ve hosted shows on the local TV channel on the rocky road to becoming a published author.
Q. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m not really a plotter or a pantster (although I’ve attempted to write books both ways). What works best for me, once I get an idea for a novel, is compiling a bunch of key scenes in a doc as they occur to me. Then I try to arrange them in some kind of comprehensible order—like “This should be my Big Finale,” or “This will be the mid-point Reversal of Fortune.” Once I have these key scenes mapped out in more or less chronological order, then it’s just a question of connecting the dots, or, I should say, writing the connecting material.
Q. Let’s talk about pirates! Your debut book, The Witch From the Sea, features a heroine who is a stowaway on a ship that is captured by pirates and she herself ends up on the pirate ship. Now there’s Alias Hook, where Neverland’s own Captain Hook comes to life with his own story. What drew you to pirates and what’s so fascinating about them?
I’ve always loved pirates! Who knows why? Maybe it’s the cool clothes, or maybe it was watching too many Errol Flynn movies on TV with my mom when I was a kid. Anyway, there’s something appealing about the idea of being on a ship, away from landlocked society with all its rules and manners.
In The Witch, the pirates are a metaphor for freedom. My heroine is a mixed-race, orphan outcast of the early 19th Century who wants something more than a constricted female life on shore. But, of course, they’re also an excuse for my heroine to have rollicking adventures and fall in love.
Q. I admit, I’ve always been a fan of Captain Hook. What inspired you to write about him?
Me too! I always thought Captain Hook was a lot more fun than Peter Pan, who’s just a cocky little boy with an attitude. But it wasn’t until I went back and re-encountered the Peter Pan story as an adult that I started to realize how horrible it must be for Hook, a grown man, to be stuck in this world of perpetual children, trapped forever in a pointless war with Pan that never ends. I started to wonder what he’d ever done to deserve such a fate. And then I started to wonder: what if he had one last chance to get out?
Q. Piracy is one of the oldest professions, dating back to the Ancient World. What type of research did you do conduct for Alias Hook and was there anything that surprised you in the research? Did you make any discoveries that changed your perspective?
Well, I’d already done a lot of research on piracy for my first book. James Hook comes from the previous century, the early 1700s (J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, tells us Hook once sailed with Blackbeard), which is considered the “Golden Age” of piracy. So there was a lot of material available on pirate life of that era when I was writing my flashback scenes to Hook’s past. But it was all background, because most of my novel takes place in the timelessness of the Neverland. The only thing that surprised me, I guess, is I found out that my James Hook would have been way too smart to ever actually sail with Blackbeard, who was a lunatic! James makes a joke about it in my book.
Q. What were some of the challenges you faced while writing Alias Hook?
When writing historical fiction, an author always has the historical record to fall back on for inspiration if she gets stuck in the story, or to get the details right. But if you’re writing fantasy, you’re on your own! My only “source material” was the book Peter and Wendy, Barrie’s novelization of his famous play, which goes into more detail than the play about how things work in the Neverland, and its various inhabitants. On the other hand, writing fantasy is liberating in that you get to make everything up! I stuck to the “facts” of Barrie’s Neverland up to a point. But since I feel he barely scratched the surface of his magical creation, with its societies of fairies, mermaids, and Indians, I tried to rise to the challenge of making up a lot of that world on my own.
Q. Alias Hook is told via Hook’s perspective and I found him to be a trustworthy narrator. Did his voice come naturally while writing or did you struggle to trust what he was saying?
It’s funny you should say that! Hook’s voice popped into my head from the first minute I had an idea for the book; he talked to me constantly, telling me what he thought of everything and everyone in the Neverland. It was all I could do to type it in fast enough. But what I discovered as I went along is that his observations were not always reliable. What he thought was happening was not always what was really going on. Which made things even more interesting! I think part of his journey is he has to let go of certain fears and prejudices and open his eyes to what’s really happening.
Q. Without giving away spoilers, what was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I hope it’s not a spoiler to say the catalyst for my plot is an adult woman who tumbles into the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s “rules” against grown-ups—especially “ladies.” Hook doesn’t trust her either, at first, so my favorite part of the book is the way their tentative alliance evolves into a love story.
Q. You were a book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle for several years and are a film critic. How did your work as a reviewer and critic inform or impact Alias Hook?
The experience of analyzing filmed and written stories for years as a critic helped me to learn how to structure my own fiction. And I hope the experience of writing novels helps to make me a more compassionate critic!
Q. Finally, and on an entirely unrelated note, who would play you in a film of your life?
Oh, boy, that’s a tough one! Writers lead the most boring lives; all we do is sit in front of the keyboard all day (all the excitement happens in our heads). How about Susan Sarandon? She’s a great actress, and she’s just offbeat enough to make sitting in front of the computer look interesting!
01. Superpower you wish you had?
02. Favorite season?
03. Favorite city?
Santa Cruz, CA, where I live. Runner-up: Prague.
04. Favorite song?
Too many to choose!
05. Cake or Pie?
Pie, with plenty of fruit!
06. Beach or Mountain?
07. Favorite drink (alcohol counts)?
Lisa Jensen is a veteran film critic and newspaper columnist from Santa Cruz, California. Her reviews and articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Cinefantastique, Take One, and Paradox Magazine. She has reviewed film on numerous area TV and radio stations. She also reviewed books for the San Francisco Chronicle for 13 years, where her specialty was historical and women’s fiction.
Synopsis: Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.
With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their neverending game. Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen is a beautifully and romantically written adult fairy tale.