Born in Birmingham, England, raised in Storrs, Connecticut, and now living in (and possibly protecting) Brooklyn (from evil), Liz Braswell is a science fiction fan who is also an amazing novelist. Under several pennames Braswell has written The Nine Lives of Chloe King, The Big Empty, various Pirates of the Caribbean novels, and several books within the “Twisted Tales” banner. Braswell’s latest “Twisted Tales” takes readers to a reimagined Neverland in Straight On Till Morning. Wanting to learn more about her career and this novel, I was able to interview Braswell for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some stories you loved experiencing? Are there any you still enjoy revisiting?
Liz Braswell: After my mom told me that her big book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales were too scary I read it front to back—and still do occasionally. That opened my eyes to the world of folklore and myths, from Anansi the Spider to the Mabinogion and beyond. Right now, I’m rereading Myths and Legends of Japan.
Yanes: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Was there a moment in which this goal crystalized for you?
Braswell: I have always wanted to be a writer—I have always written! It was less crystalizing than a slow and formative process. I sold my first story to Amazing Stories magazine, which was one of my life goals (love short stories), and then had my first book published, which was another life goal…and then somewhere between the third and fourth I was like whelp, guess I’m a writer now. Sweet!
Yanes: As someone who enjoys video games, how do you think playing video games helps you become a better writer?
Braswell: I definitely think the process that made me a better writer made my video games better. As for the other way around…a good video game can be another way of storytelling (I’m thinking Journey, not Tetris).
My book Stuffed which came out last year is about how monsters are real and your stuffed animals really do protect you from them at night. It was going to be a video game originally. I liked the idea of playing different character POVs to a point and then adding them together to make a team in which you controlled one at a time with the others acting like friendly NPCs–. Er, these would all have been stuffed animals.
Yanes: You’ve written a bunch of Disney’s “Twisted Tales” novels. Has writing these twisted takes on classic Disney stories helped you understand the original stories in a new way? For instance, do you better understand the motives of a character like Gaston or other villains?
Braswell: I mean, Gaston is a train wreck. But I definitely got into some more nuanced reasons-for-being of other characters. Hook and Ursula, for instance. What exactly is her end goal? What drives Hook?
Yanes: Your latest novel is Straight On Till Morning. What was the inspiration for this story? Specifically, when did you know you had a good hook for this novel?
Braswell: Are you setting me up? Captain Hook was the best hook for this novel!
The intriguing thing for me was developing the friendship between Tink and Wendy that could have been there from the start if only they hadn’t gotten off on the wrong foot.
Yanes: Peter Pan has been a cultural icon for over a century. What are some of your favorite interpretations of this character?
Braswell: The best doughnuts on the planet are in my Brooklyn neighborhood at a place called Peter Pan Donuts. The clerks all wear old fashioned pastel outfits and it’s very much a neighborhood joint despite all the tourists who come in for the apple crumb and blueberry. Definitely one of my favorite interpretations of his character.
Yanes: Wendy Darling has also been a cultural icon for over a century. In a society in which more men refuse to grow up, I’ve noticed Wendy being increasingly framed as the responsible hero. How do you see Wendy? On this note, how did you approach Wendy when writing this Straight On Till Morning?
Braswell: I see Wendy as a young woman who is struggling with childhood dreams and also struggling to form adult ones: in the Edwardian world she might be moved out of the nursery and then what—marriage? Spinsterhood, taking care of her parents? What adult dreams were available to her?
Also, side note: while I’m sick of ‘failure to launch’ syndrome, I’m also sick of women being portrayed/framed as responsible heroes. We can be kickass and nutty too—and I don’t mean just manic pixie dream girl with a knife.
Yanes: When structuring Straight On Till Morning how did you keep yourself from going to dark? Was there a twisted take on Neverland you were worried might get edited out?
Braswell: My editor Brittany does a brilliant job of keeping me in check when things get a little too out of control (I won’t lie, horror is one of my favorite genres), but she also gives me tremendous freedom to push the limits. Just don’t ask about the flesh pillows.
Yanes: When people finish reading Straight On Till Morning what do you hope they take from the experience?
Braswell: A good story, a chance to hang with their Neverland friends, and a friendly reminder to change the world, even a little bit.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
Braswell: ALICE!!!! Unbirthday, which is just. So. Fun. Also, a sequel to Stuffed, published by Disney-Hyperion I might add!