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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Guest post from Alyssa B. Sheinmel, author of Second Star! | #FairyTaleFortnight

Later in FTF, Bonnie is going to be telling us her thoughts on Alyssa B. Sheinmel's contemporary Peter Pan retelling, Second Star, and we'll also be giving you a chance to win a copy. But first, Alyssa has stopped in to talk a bit about how Second Star came to be!

I have always loved fairy tales of all sorts.  In fact, every book I’ve written has included at least a mention of a fairy tale.  The narrator of my first novel, The Beautiful Between, is kind of obsessed with fairy tales.  She has an elaborate fantasy life in which she images high school as a sort of fairy tale kingdom.  In The Stone Girl, the main character, Sethie, feels like a creature out of a fairy tale – in the worst possible way, when her eating disorder makes her feel like she isn’t real anymore.  But Second Star is my first attempt at a fairy tale re-imagining.  (I hope that it won’t be my last!)

I’ve been fascinated by the world of Peter Pan for as long as I can remember.  I even wrote one of my college essays about Neverland – having been the kind of kid who wore a watch from the day she learned to tell time and had asked for a Filofax for her thirteenth birthday – I was curious about the effect the timeless world of Neverland would have on me.

One of the most fun – and most challenging – parts of writing a reinterpretation like Second Star was figuring out how to integrate the original story into my story, and when to stray from the original story.  Luckily, J. M. Barrie created amazingly rich source material.  For starters, there are so many pieces of Peter Pan that even someone who never read the book is familiar with: little turns of phrase I could play with, like naming Jas’s drug of choice “fairy dust”; or having Pete tell Wendy that in order to surf, she needs to think of something that makes her happy, the same way that Peter Pan tells the original Wendy Darling that she must think of something happy in order to fly.  

Then, I came up with a few details that might not be quite as well-known: I called Second Star’s Neverland Kensington Beach, after the part of London where J. M. Barrie lived; and I named a seedy bar the Jolly Roger, after Captain Hook’s ship in the original story.  I got so excited each time I thought of another piece of the original tale that I could fit into Second Star, though I think my favorite was when I landed on the detail that gave the book its title: growing up, Wendy’s mother used to tell her children to make a wish on the first star they saw.  But Wendy’s little brothers, twins John and Michael, didn’t want their sister making a wish on the same star they did, so they insisted she make her wish on the second star she saw, which she does throughout the novel.

I think my favorite part of writing Second Star was knowing that I had Peter Pan as a sort of guide to help me figure out Wendy’s journey, holding my hand as the plot took on new twists and turns.  I remember there was a particular plot-point that was tripping me up.  (I won’t say which one because it’s pretty late in the book and I don’t want to give anything away to readers who haven’t read it yet!)  I couldn’t quite figure out how to get Wendy into a particular situation.  I picked up my copy of Peter Pan (for the zillionth time) and started reading.  Suddenly, I knew exactly what to do – because Barrie had figured it out long before I did.  I just had to look closely enough to see it.

For me, the most important part of writing Second Star was being respectful to Peter Pan and everything Barrie’s creation represents.  It’s a story most of us are familiar with, one that’s meaningful to so many people.  It’s inspired a dozen songs and movies and even a psychological complex!  Most of all – at least, for me – it’s a story I love very much.  So even though I had to give myself the freedom to stray from Barrie’s world – changing the characters’ ages and the setting, shifting some of the magical aspects into the real world, and letting Wendy take center stage – I always tried to remain true to the essence of J. M. Barrie’s characters and their adventures.  Perhaps my Peter won’t remain a child forever, but he doesn’t yet know how to be an adult, either.  Perhaps my Tinker Bell isn’t a fairy, but she is nimble and graceful, and jealous of Wendy from the instant the two meet.  My Captain Hook isn’t a pirate, but he is a criminal who feels endlessly tied to the boy who lives on the other side of his beach.  And while my Wendy won’t grow old while Peter remains a child, she still comes to understand that she has to leave him and his world behind in order to live her own life.  I hope Mr. Barrie would approve.

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Get It | Add It
Contemporary/Retelling, 248 pages
Expected publication: May 13th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

I was born in Stanford, California, and even though I moved across the country to New York when I was six years old, I still think of myself as a California girl.

Like so many writers, I grew up loving books. I loved stories so much that when there was nothing to read, I wrote my own stories just to give myself something to read. And when there was no pen and paper to be had, I made up stories and acted them out by myself. I played all the parts, and I was never bored.

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  1. Ahhh!! I'm so in love with the world of Neverland! I hope the giveaway is International, but even if it's not, I plan on grabbing a copy as soon as possible! If Kinokuniya doesn't ship any copies to Bangkok, I'll rage.

    1. Oh, crap, US/CAN! I can't believe I forgot to put that in there. Sorry, but I hope you're able to get your hands on a copy!!

  2. This was really interesting! I always love hearing authors share their inspiration, and hearing about all the little "Easter eggs" hidden in their books. I'm about the pick up Second Star, and now I'm really excited!

  3. I love the idea of a Peter Pan retelling. Thanks for sharing!

  4. This was such a great interview. I'm obsessed with Peter Pan retellings. I have read very few, but I have so many on my TBR list that when I saw Second Star I couldn't resist. I'm currently waiting for my copy to come to the library and then I'm going to read this Peter Pan retelling.

  5. I love the way you compare the two stories. I know now I must grab my old copy of Peter Pan and read it again, this time to my children. They haven't heard the original, longer version, only the short bastardized versions created by Disney. I think they'll really appreciate the story now that they're a bit older. I cannot wait to read Second Star, perhaps even with my own copy of Barrie's novel by my side for those sneak peeks. Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your work story with us. It was exciting, wonderful, and made me anxious to devour your novel.

  6. I love your review! It's amazing how you were able to compare the stories. I have loved Peter Pan since forever and Second Star sounds like a wonderful retelling. ♥


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