Please welcome Colleen Oakes to Parajunkee’s View.
Queen of Hearts
Feb. 14, 2014
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Absolutely! I was born in Denver and grew up here with my parents and younger sister. I currently live in Denver, not far from where I grew up, but I’ve lived many places: St. Louis, Nebraska, New York and Connecticut. I have a heart for the East Coast, but my family is here. My husband and I recently became parents through adoption, so we are loving life but losing sleep. When I’m not writing, I really enjoy swimming, going out with friends, traveling and of course, reading. I’m a voracious reader. I indulge in nerdy pop-culture, so I love discussing what I’m reading or watching on my blog.
(Currently it’s House of Cards Season Two – Kevin Spacey, so diabolically delicious!)
In your own words, tell us a little bit about your book?
Queen of Hearts: Volume One, The Crown is the first of three books that tell the story of how a princess named Dinah became the infamous Queen of Hearts from Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s a whimsical, dark and bloody journey through both Wonderland and the vulnerable heart of a girl pushed too far. When I read that Carroll described the Queen as “An embodiment of blind fury”, I knew that I would write this book.
Can you tell us about the characters in your book? Who is your favorite?
My protagonist, Dinah, my favorite character. I love her angry, damaged heart, and I think she is the best sort of unflinching. Some of the other characters in the book that I’m particular to are Cheshire – I adore writing his scenes, and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that you haven’t seen the last of him – and the Mad Hatter. He was a tricky character to adapt. I felt like my Wonderland was so dark and twisted that I wanted someone who was almost above that entire world and yet a part of it, and that’s Charles. He’s insane, beautiful and innocent. I also wanted Dinah to have someone who she could love purely, without gain, and that is Charles. He is her link to love in its purest form.
What makes your book different from other books out there in the same genre?
I think that readers have always been hungry for a bit more from Alice in Wonderland, being that it’s such an iconic story, with so many images that are forever seared into our consciousness. With that aside, I would hope that readers would pick up Queen of Hearts because they are ready to read about a princess who does a little more than just fall in love. I was ready, as a reader, to see a princess do some bad things, to see a princess who doesn’t have everything handed to her and to be honest, to see a princess who didn’t end up with her happy ending tied with a sparkling bow. I wanted to see more – I wanted to see darkness and bravery, sacrifice and consequences, brutality and grace – all in one character. I think that is what makes my book different. We are not reading about a girl who will turn out just fine in the end. This is the tale of a princess who became a villain.
Is writing your full-time profession?
It is. Until very recently, I also ran a wedding florist, but I sold that last year when Elly in Bloom was published so that I could focus solely on writing.
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
I do. I go downstairs to my office, pull a blanket over my legs, turn on Spotify (my dramatic movie score playlist), put on these gigantic headphones and really lose myself for a few hours. I must have a hot drink with me, either tea or hot chocolate. It’s not terribly exciting, but it works.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Audrey Niffenegger is probably my favorite current writer. Her books and work are just creative, inspired and bold. She doesn’t write for a certain audience, she writes for the story, and she has inspired me to stick to plot line and characters arcs that at times felt a bit reckless. Her books encourage me to take risks. Some of my other favorite authors are George R.R Martin, Ann Patchett, Christopher Paolini, Kert Haruf, J.K Rowling and Steve Martin.
What are you reading now?
I just started Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, and I have The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and Red Rising by Pierce Brown on deck.
What advice can you give to struggling writers?
For writing, I have two favorite quotes that I use for motivation. The first is “Hold the vision, trust the process.” I repeat this to myself daily, even when it feels like I am writing really slow. The other quote is from Stephen King: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all else: read a lot and write a lot.” My advice to struggling writers would be to do the work, and the novel will create itself. Secondly, read every minute you can. You will find so much innovative thinking in the pages of other people’s novels.
Find out more about Colleen Oakes and The Queen of Hearts Saga Here: