Find the diary, break the curse, step through The Looking Glass!
Fifteen-year-old Alice Montgomery wakes up in the lobby of the B&B where she has been vacationing with her family to a startling discovery: no one can see or hear her. The cheap desk lights have been replaced with gas lamps and the linoleum floor with hardwood and rich Oriental carpeting. Someone has replaced the artwork with eerie paintings of Elizabeth Blackwell, the insane actress and rumored witch who killed herself at the hotel in the 1880s. Alice watches from behind the looking glass where she is haunted by Elizabeth Blackwell. Trapped in the 19th-century version of the hotel, Alice must figure out a way to break Elizabeth’s curse—with the help of Elizabeth's old diary and Tony, the son of a ghost hunter who is investigating the haunted B&B— before she becomes the inn's next victim.
Thank you, Mrs. Jessica Arnold
Why a retelling? How far from the original story a retelling can go?
I like to call The Looking Glass an ‘untelling.’ A strict retelling attempts to shine new light on an old story; an untelling takes one or several elements from a well-known story, but doesn't try to mimic the original plot or even theme. For stories like Alice in Wonderland, which has already been retold to death, untellings are a way to build on a story instead of just remaking it. If stories are Lego buildings, a retelling takes all the pieces apart, then reassembles them. An untelling takes the pieces apart, grabs a few, and then adds in a whole bucket full of other pieces.
Why an untelling and not a retelling? Because I like to have ALL THE LEGOS.
The way I see it, there's so much incredible literature out there that it would be a shame not to build on it. I didn't conceive of this story as an Alice in Wonderland retelling, but because Alice in Wonderland offered the perfect framework for what I wanted to do, I grabbed those Legos and never looked back.
What do you think about our day fantasy/paranormal young adult literature and where do you think The Looking Glass fits?
The nice thing about YA paranormal/fantasy literature is that it's a wide, WIDE field. There's a tremendous amount of variety, and that allows authors a lot of freedom. That said, The Looking Glass is a bit of an oddball book. It's a bottle story—meaning it takes place in a small, constricted area with a small cast of characters over a short period of time. Most of the epically popular YA hits right now are enormous stories with wide scopes, long timelines, and tons of characters. I'm honestly not sure how most YA readers will react to the very different style of story that I'm telling, but I'm excited to find out!
The Looking Glass has a beautiful cover. Many say that the cover doesn’t matter. How and on what criteria did you choose this cover?
The cover IS amazing! Thankfully I didn’t have much to do with the actual design. My publisher asked me how I imagined my cover, and I came up with something about mirrors and glass and … probably not the most illustrative ideas. When I received a mock-up of this design, I immediately loved it. (I actually teared up. Who knew covers could be so emotional?) I think of the cover as the starting scene of the book—Alice unconscious in the pool, just fallen under the curse that puts her life in jeopardy. Because covers do matter a ton (they attract the right readers and set the mood for the whole story), I was worried I would end up with one I wasn’t happy with. But I’m fortunate to have one I adore.
I read your article “So You Got Your First Bad Review” and I must say that Mythical Books believe that art cannot be measured. My question is what do you think about all those book rating systems? What are their purpose, their advantages and disadvantages?
I think Mythical Books has exactly the right attitude! Truly art’s value can’t be determined by one person or even by a group of people! But I believe ratings can help readers decide which books they might enjoy. The most useful ratings are the ones in which readers don’t just rank a book, but also explain what they expected and then elaborate on how their expectations were or weren’t met. Because reading (and art!) is such a personal thing, by recognizing that we come into stories with different perspectives, we’re able to share the ways we enjoyed and didn’t enjoy stories in a safe way. And it’s all those unique viewpoints that make discussing literature such a rich experience.
You play a lot of Scrabble. How important is the language/words used by a writer and how it should be?
Haha, I do love Scrabble (and all word games)! Before I answer this question, I have to confess that I’m a literature-loving English major and am totally biased on any language-based topic. That said … words are everything. Black and white television shows tell a great story, but what a difference color makes! In the same way, stories can be told with careless words. But when a writer has an awareness of language—of the undertones that each word carries—the reader’s experience is richer and fuller and more impactful. Good writing is clear, well plotted, and tells an interesting story. But when we read writing that is beautiful, the words reach not just our minds, but also our hearts.
About the author:
Jessica Arnold writes YA, codes ebooks, and is currently a graduate student in publishing at Emerson College in Boston. She spends most of her time in class or work or slogging through the homework swamp. If she has a spare moment, she’s always up for a round of Boggle. Given the opportunity, Jessica will pontificate at length on the virtues of the serial comma, when and where to use an en dash, and why the semicolon is the best punctuation mark pretty much ever.
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