Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest author Anna Patrick. Anna graduated from Boston College with both a degree in communications and the first draft of the manuscript that would become her first novel, Meditations In Wonderland. She is also the creator of a popular Tumblr under the same title. Now a full-time book publicist, Anna lives in Northern Virginia with her boyfriend and their French bulldog.
Norm: Good day Anna and thanks for participating in our interview
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Anna: Ever since I carried around my first “novel” in a black and white composition notebook in elementary school I knew my dream in life was to be an author. A love for reading grew into a love of writing – which I think many authors can relate to me on – and I wrote ever since. As most elementary school age kids do, I lost that notebook. But I never lost my love for writing, and the longing to share stories and ideas through the written word.
Norm: What was the first story you ever wrote, and what happened to it?
Anna: I’m pretty sure the contents of that first novel I mentioned above, which in my memory is the first “serious” piece I wrote, were awful – I have a vivid memory of a hand-drawn map, smeared and poorly constructed via mechanical pencil, accompanying the first chapter like a wannabe Lord of the Rings novel. It was about a group of elementary school kids who get lost while on a field trip in the Amazon, and chase a monkey with an emerald earring through the jungle. Ironically, in Meditations In Wonderland, Elizabeth chases Alice through Wonderland. Unlike that first story, what Elizabeth finds is a lot deeper than physical treasure.
As I mentioned above, I lost that composition notebook. I’m pretty sure it’s for the best!
Norm: In the past few years you seen any changes in the way publishers publish and/or distribute books? Are there any emerging trends developing?
Many people don’t know this, but I was a book publicist before I
officially became an author. It gave me a unique opportunity to get
more of 360-degree view of the publishing industry. From that
background I know that, for the majority of authors, most book sales
are digital these days. While within the publishing industry that has
been generally regarded as a threat to the status quo I also think
it’s wildly exciting.
The possibilities are endless. We can now make reading e-books so much more of an immersive and integrative experience as the technology improves – they can become interactive, and be tied to social media to continue the discussion without even leaving the confines of the e-book file. I’m thrilled to see where it goes, this is still just the beginning!
Norm: What is the most important characteristics of an author? As a follow up, what, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Anna: I think authors need to be brave enough to fall down the rabbit hole of their creative intuition. That’s easier said than done, of course. Readers are intuitive – they can tell if you’re holding back. You owe it to your reader, and yourself, to really “go there.” Don’t be afraid to write your truth, even if it might not be favored by others. I think good writing honors the creative mind of the author, while still forging a strong bond of trust between the author and the reader. Readers enter a bond of trust with the author that the author will lead them somewhere inventive and worthwhile, and it’s the author’s job to take them there.
Norm: Why do we like to read fiction?
Anna: I think Lewis Carroll said it best when he said “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” I think that’s very true of fiction. When I first started getting feedback on Meditations In Wonderland, from the early stages to pre-release, I felt like there was a common obsession of finding non-fiction elements within the writing – is Adam based off of my boyfriend in real life? Is Elizabeth really just me? The answer is that whether something is real or not is not to say that it is any less relevant. That’s the essence of Alice’s journey through Wonderland – whether the entire journey was in her head or not, it was very real to her – it altered her chemistry even in some small way. The same is true for Elizabeth in my modern re-telling. The original Alice character was just a child, whereas Elizabeth is a 24-year-old, and that’s a testament to that fact that we need to be able to explore our own worlds and create our own realities no matter what age we are or where we are in our lives. Fiction then becomes a precious tool to help us do that, even from our favorite reading chairs.
Norm: What's the worst advice you hear authors give writers?
I go back and forth on this – but at times I think establishing a
rigid writing schedule can do more harm than good. All the time I
hear authors instructing others to sit at that writing chair, at the
same time each day, even if nothing is coming out and you stare at a
blank screen or page for an hour. I’ve found that to be a
demoralizing experience, personally.
I write when my creative energy strikes me. That might be at my established time slot, or it might be at 1 a.m., but I try to honor the energy more than anything. If it’s just not happening for me one day, I take that day to explore something else – a new book, exercising, painting or writing in a different genre, anything to keep my creative channels engaged. But honoring your energy still involves discipline, as any meditation or yoga practitioner will quickly remind you. It’s a unique balance, but ultimately I find it more rewarding to follow your own personal creative energy structure rather than a schedule or an alarm clock.
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Anna: I wrote Meditations In Wonderland in college, and it very much colored the story, especially in regards to the way Elizabeth struggles with the disconnect she feels at the beginning of the novel, which ultimately leads her to Wonderland through a meditation practice. I found that there seemed to be a general disconnect brewing in that particular stage of life, and whether it was a recreational drug like Adderall or a meditation practice, people were looking for stillness and clarity – to connect with themselves in the midst of it all.
Outside of that, so much of the imagery in the book was borrowed from my upbringing. I spent a lot of time in nature growing up, riding in the Virginia countryside – I was at the barn riding horses since before I can remember. For me, Wonderland was a very real place. Anyone who reads my book will certainly come to the conclusion that I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods! At some point along the way I think people started losing their connection with nature, but that also helped to make the relationship more sacred in many ways, giving many a deeper appreciation for it. A return to nature is a return to the self, and that’s very true of Wonderland, which in my novel is representative of the subconscious.
Norm: How did you decide you were ready to write Meditations In Wonderland?
Anna: My last semester of my senior year as an undergrad at Boston College I enrolled in a fiction workshop. I felt that that was my time to write the novel I had been dreaming about for years. By the end of the semester in May I had the original draft completed – much to the dismay of my professor!
Norm: What served as the primary inspiration for Meditations In Wonderland? As a follow up, what purpose do you believe your story serves and what matters to you about the story?
Like many children of the 90s, I was first introduced to Lewis
Carroll’s story from the Disney movie version of Alice In
Wonderland, and I sought out every film and TV remake I could get my
hands on, in addition to reading his original works. For me the story
was a heroine’s story of self-discovery, and as an only child with
a very active imagination I felt myself very drawn to both Alice and
the general themes.
My freshman year in college I studied abroad in London, and I was fortunate enough to visit Oxford, and see Carroll’s original stomping grounds. I also saw his original, hand-drawn manuscript of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, and I think all of the seeds that had been planted up until that time began to finally germinate. Three years later, after much more dreaming and exploring, I started writing Meditations In Wonderland.
The universality of Carroll’s Alice story is the reason it has been so celebrated for the last 150 years. I’m honored to add to the legacy by offering what I believe is a modern take on the story for teenagers and 20-somethings who each have an inner Alice, who are curious and exploring themselves and the world around them and are asking questions, looking for connection and deeper meaning. What would Alice’s story look like if she was 24, alive today, and navigating our current society? I think Meditations In Wonderland offers a particularly dark take on that.
Norm: How did you structure your plot based on the original story of Alice In Wonderland?
Anna: Similarly to the original story, the plot is furthered with each new meeting of a character or challenge as Elizabeth makes her journey through Wonderland, which leads to a final crescendo of a confrontation between Elizabeth and Alice. The difference is that Elizabeth is now following Alice’s clues in the form of letters and notes she leaves her like breadcrumbs along the way.
Norm: Could you tell our readers a little about Meditations In Wonderland.
Anna: For those familiar with Pretty Little Liars I like to say that it’s akin to Pretty Little Liars in Wonderland, where Alice is “A.” What would you do if you discovered Wonderland, and also found out that Alice wants you dead? That’s the threat that Elizabeth faces. In order to release herself from Wonderland she must first confront Alice – and all of her inner demons – along the way, with a little help from some of Carroll’s most beloved characters, many of whom have taken on a new incarnation in my story. What Elizabeth wants most in the world is something we all strive for – to feel connected and one with ourselves, to merge both the light and darkness that we hold within, and to accept that both coexist within us. It’s revealed that Alice’s true identity, and the secret she has been keeping, may be what Elizabeth has been looking for all along.
Norm: What was the time-line between the time you decided to write your book and publication? What were the major events along the way?
Anna: I began writing this novel my last semester during my senior year of college as an undergrad at Boston College, that was in January of 2013. By the time I graduated in May of 2013 I had a completed first draft. I spent all of 2014 re-writing, revising, editing, and also work shopping the story in a Reader’s Digest boot camp and a Gotham Writers workshop. In fall of 2013 I began my job as a book publicist, which I am still doing today. It was at an Author’s Summit I attended in January 2015 that I made the serendipitous acquaintance of a publisher from Greenleaf – we were both attending the conference as sponsors, and just happened to sit next to each other at the final dinner. The rest was history! We spent the next 10 months going through the whole publishing process – editing, cover designing, setting up distribution, etc. and now Meditations In Wonderlandis releasing on October 6th, just in time for the 150th anniversary of the original Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland!
Norm: Any unique ways you'll be marketing your book that is different from how others authors market their books?
Anna: Tumblr. In many ways, this is the book that Tumblr wrote. I have a Tumblr under the same title that I started years before the book, and it has since grown to about 25k followers and growing. I’m by no means a large platform, however many of my connections on Tumblr have been with me from the first announcement I made that I was writing a novel. They were there to give advice, make suggestions, and overall support the project. I don’t think I could have written it without Tumblr – and so most of my publicity efforts are focused there, and across the blogosphere and social media. I’ve also been doing a lot on SnapChat, that’s an avenue I think more authors could explore.
Norm: Where do you see yourself (with regards to writing) in the next five years?
Anna: Hopefully still enjoying it! I hope I never lose the joy of the craft, I don’t want it to become something I feel guilty if I don’t do or something that is more of a job that a passion. I think I have several more novels in me, and I hope that over the next five years I will have brought at least one more to life, if not more.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Meditations In Wonderland?
Tumblr! I can be found on TUMBLR and I can be found everywhere else across the social media universe
Norm: What is next for Anna Patrick:
Anna: I’m going to do what I know how to do best – keep writing. Keep exploring. I hope to pursue writing another novel, potentially a sequel. I have two other ideas for novels that are fighting for dominance in my mind right now. I’m also about to embark on a new adventure – I’m getting a French Bulldog puppy in November, after many years of wanting one! That’s one of the only things I have in common with Elizabeth. No, he won’t also be named Fitz, as hers was in my story.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Anna: What would happen in a potential sequel to Meditations In Wonderland? To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that I’ve gotten feedback so far that there is ample room for a sequel, where perhaps Elizabeth and Alice might battle it out in the “real world.” So far the response has been overwhelming positive and enthusiastic to that idea, so I think I might be ready to fall down that rabbit hole again.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Thank you Norm!