FAQs about the Worlds Apart fantasy story

You say you wrote the Worlds Apart duology over several decades. Why did it take so long to write the two science fantasy books, Outcast and Havoc?

Good question. I started writing Worlds Apart in my twenties as I embarked on my professional career – firstly in advertising, then branching into communications and sustainability. While being a welcome and addictive distraction, writing fantasy took a back seat to a job that brought home the bacon. Nowadays, I want to focus more on what I want to do. Another reason they took so long is that my style of writing has developed over the years. This means that whenever I returned to the manuscript (there was sometimes a several-year gap in between), I ended up totally rewriting the story, always adding to the plot and characters.

The books alternate between Luke’s first-person narrative in our world and Sye’s third-person story in his world. Isn’t this confusing for the reader?

I don't believe so. Sye’s story accounts for about 90% of the content. Luke’s first-person commentary is mostly at the beginning of the Outcast and Havoc books and at the beginning of each chapter (or session, as it is called in the books). When Luke talks in our world, the text is normally in italics. Sye’s story is plain text. Hopefully, this minimises any confusion. Of course, as the worlds start to collide in the minds of our characters, there is slightly more interchange but by that time, the reader should be more than comfortable with the concept of the story happening in two places.

Why did you choose to use British spelling?

I made many choices when it came to the use of language e.g. use of contractions by Luke in our world but not in Sye’s world, and some decisions may irritate people. I am British and since the relationship between Luke and Sye takes place in England, it made sense to use British spelling. Furthermore, I like to think that British spelling gives a sort of mysterious, antiquated feel to any epic fantasy, which can’t hurt. The main thing is that spelling and all other choices are consistent and I’ve gone to considerable lengths to try to enforce that in the Worlds Apart books.

Is there some of you in Luke? Or some of you in Sye? Which one do you identify with more? Is the female villain - Salm - based on a particular person? Are other characters based on real people?

The short answer to all those questions is yes and no.

FAQs about the Wonderland books

Why was the first book you published Alice Falls Again?

Although I love getting lost in the depths of a good epic fantasy book (Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant being my all-time favourite), the fantasy creations of Lewis Carroll and CS Lewis have always retained a special place in my heart. So when I reached the stage where I could spend more timeon storywriting, I decided that Alice Falls Again would be my first novel to reach the finishing line.It was relatively easy to put the Alice book to bed, compared to the far more complex plot and characters of the Worlds Apart duology. I just nudged Alice into the river and the book's characters more or less wrote the rest.

Are the Wonderland books just another Alice imitation?

Categorically no. And I’m sure that becomes evident right from page one. From the outset, I wanted to respect the linear journey, word-play and quirkiness of the original Alice books but that leaves a huge framework to work within. Alice Falls Again has its own characters and settings, the sinister back stories to common nursery rhymes and subtle links to challenges and injustices we face in today’s society. Alice is much older than in Lewis Carroll's stories. Once upon a Wonderland uses a similar approach but with the sinister and rarely talked about backstories to well-known fairy tales.

There are of course several nods to Lewis Carroll’s masterful tales, among them, the idea of being trapped in a twisted fantasy and a healthy dose of word-play in the dialogue. And no prizes for spotting that the main character is an older Alice, who during her journey has to confront developments in her own character. The Cheshire Cat is sometimes present too (well, parts of him) and the Hatter and Queen of Hearts also make an appearance, but other characters are new. The two stories bear no resemblance to Carroll's Wonderland adventures.

What makes your Wonderland books different from other Alice sequels?

When researching other books written about Alice's return to Wonderland, I was struck by how very different they were from my own notion about what might happen to Alice and how she would cope, should she return to Wonderland.I like to think that my two storiestake a wholly fresh approach. First of all, Alice is older, so the events and dialogue reflect that change, while still maintaining a playful and surreal quality. Another strong element is that events and characters are driven by the dark history behind our favourite nursery rhymes and fairy tales respectively, at the same time raising issues we all face in today's world. But there is none of the sex and violence that plague some of the contemporary Alice novels. In my version of dystopian Wonderland, menace and goodwill are not always what they seem and Alice needs to learn a thing or two about herself and the nature of her own world along the way. Readers will hopefully interpret events and concepts in different ways, depending on their own life experiences.

Are the Wonderland books for children or adults?

I would say any adult or young adult who likes fantasy and word-play, sprinkled with humour and sarcasm, would enjoy Alice Falls Againand Once Upon a Wonderland. As would anyone who was enthralled by the original Wonderland books or remembers childhood nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Imagine David Lynch has teamed up with Roald Dahl to write a new chapter in the life of Alice (I wish).