Frank Beddor is a writer you may be familiar with from his The Looking Glass Wars novels or Hatter M graphic novels, but the man is so much more than just a writer. He’s his own PR machine, book cover designer, and publisher, as well as a creator of strategy card games. He’s also a former world champion freestyle skier, film producer, actor, and stuntman. He played John Cusack’s stunt double in Better Off Dead and was a Producer on There’s Something About Mary. He has now gone on to publish new authors who catch his fancy, such as with Eric Laster’s new book #STATIC. He’s worked with fan-favorite artists Ben Templesmith and Sami Makkonen on the Hatter M comics.
He bills himself on his website as a “Literary sleuth and world builder” which is a pretty apt title. I had the chance to chat with him at Long Beach Comic Con two weekends ago, as I stumbled upon a booth with a very familiar banner, but this isn’t that chat. This is part of a chat we had through email from questions I had sent the day before the convention. Quite the prolific writer, he has two books coming out in just a short while; The Looking Glass Wars: Crossfire and Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the Hatbox. As gracious a human as you’ll ever meet, we spoke about his inspirations, his newest books, and what the future holds.
I had read that you were inspired to write the first book by playing cards in a museum.
Close! I actually was visiting the British Museum where I discovered an unusual deck of cards. The images summoned a place that as a boy I was far from enamored of, Wonderland. The deck was incomplete. I tracked the remaining cards to a London antiquities dealer who revealed another story of Wonderland, a story of an exiled Princess Alyss finding her way to London where she met a young author and then I began writing the Looking Glass Wars.
The Looking Glass Wars tells the true story of Princess Alyss OF Wonderland. Alyss in fact did not travel from our world to Wonderland but was born a Princess in Wonderland and would someday become Queen. But on Alyss’ 7th birthday her Aunt Redd invaded the Queendom in a bloody coup designed to take out her sister, Queen Genevieve and Princess Alyss so that she would reign as Queen. But Alyss was able to escape. Accompanied by Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan she traveled via the Pool of Tears to our world. Madigan had been instructed by the Queen to keep Alyss safe until she was old enough to return and rule. But tragically, they are separated and Alyss is lost. Alyss emerged through a portal into 1859 London where she eventually met Lewis Carroll who agreed to write her harrowing story. But he got it all wrong! Her bodyguard became a Mad Hatter, her Royal Tutor Bibwit Harte a nervous white rabbit. So essentially, the Looking Glass Wars is the book that Alyss wanted Lewis Carroll to write. Without giving anything away, Alyss’s bodyguard will search for 13 years to find Alyss and hopefully bring her home to battle her aunt, the current Queen of Wonderland.
After five years of writing the book and being turned down by every publisher in the US, did you ever feel like giving up? I’m glad you didn’t by the way.
It wasn’t quite that traumatic, I wasn’t turned down by EVERY US publisher, there were a few I didn’t submit to. But to answer your question, no, I knew the book was good and it was just a matter of time until a publisher recognized that fact.
After Egmont published the book and it became a New York Times bestseller, did you feel vindicated? How did it change your life?
I did feel vindicated, but more importantly, I felt empowered. My faith in the book had been correct, so I trusted my own instincts that much more.
You’ve also published a series of spin-off graphic novels starring Hatter Madigan first illustrated by Ben Templesmith and later by Finnish artist Sami Makkonen. How did you come to work with these artists, and how is your process different when writing for them?
I was able to engage Ben Templesmith primarily because of a lucky, intuitive phonecall. Trusting my instinct I just phoned him up and caught him on a good day. For Sami, I searched through a lot of artists after Ben finished the first 4 issue mini-series. Eventually, I was super lucky to get a recommendation from a comic insider for Sami Makkonen and we just clicked. He did the final 4 volumes of the Hatter M geo-graphic series. Working with artists is extra-dimensional. You still need to have your plot, story, characters, and world but on an additional level you have to write clear, vivid descriptions for the artist. While this is very, very exacting – especially when they are on the other side of the planet and never in the same room (Ben was in Australia and Sami in Finland) the amazing payoff is seeing the panels of art show up daily and having this mind merge with exceptional visual artists.
You’ve used Kickstarter in the past to fund Hatter M and Looking Glass Wars books. Crowdfunding is a great way to not only get your work in the hands of your fans, but to interact with them. How did you find the process of this 21st-century distribution model, and would you use it again in the future?
I loved it. The interaction with the hardcore, supportive fans is another whole level of communion. They are so supportive and so enthusiastic that it takes the experience to a level beyond funding. It is really sharing the journey. I also love conceiving the reward tiers and sending out the reward boxes. I always ask that they send me a pic of them opening the box and how they display the books on their bookshelf, it’s all so much fun and so rewarding to go right to the reader who wants the books and is willing to support you.
Well, what’s better than flaptext to intrigue a reader? Here’s a bit from Crossfire which will be available in stores April 20.
Rally the Chessmen! Wonderland is under attack!
Dashing Ovid Grey, rogue and criminal, is an ex-Millinery man ordered to Earth by Queen Alyss to locate and retrieve the shard of Heart Crystal igniting Black Imagination across the realms. Returning to Wonderland with the shard and devastating intel that a Borderland invasion is about to be launched, Ovid joins forces with his Queen to protect the homeland against the barbaric extremist tribes intent on victory via the heinous Battlelaw. Armed with valuable foreknowledge of the coming invasion, the Wonderland forces prepare for the horrific red tide of axe wielding tribes and herds of mutant Jabberwocks known as Jabbers. The Chessboard, a massive defense center, is deployed with its battalions of Chessmen taking to the streets to battle the Borderland invaders.
Black Imagination, rampaging Rumble Makers, and the future of a Wonderland without war are all caught in the crossfire of this thrilling sequel to the NY Times bestselling trilogy, The Looking Glass Wars.
There was a Looking Glass Wars film in development that was put on the backburner due to Tim Burton’s Alice movies. Is it still dead in the water, or is there life left in it? Maybe as a Hatter M television series?
Ha! Nothing is ever dead in the water! As I mentioned before, having the Looking Glass Wars make it onto the NY Times Bestseller list after a number of U S publishers had turned me down gave me confidence in my choices and my work. People will tell you no, projects will appear hopeless, but if you believe in what you are doing it’s never over. There is a discussion happening right now about an animated series based on my prequel to LGW, Hatter Madigan, Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X. This series is set in the Wonderland Millinery Academy and introduces a young Hatter Madigan, long before he was a Royal Bodyguard. He is a cadet at the Millinery, learning the mystic and martial Way of the Hat. So hope blooms eternal if you just keep trying.
How many more books do you have planned for this series? Do you have an endgame in sight?
No end game. I will continue to expand the Looking Glass Wars universe with my new prose series featuring Cadet Hatter Madigan at the Millinery Academy as well as writing and publishing graphic novels depicting Alyss’ Wonderland. Additionally, in the interest of continuing to open and explore fantastical realms, I have been collaborating with authors to create a fantastical universe that revolves around SoCal’s Paradise High where the monstrous and metaphysical congregate. Located on the cliffs overlooking an epic surf break, the privileged community of Paradise is seemingly perfect. A series of novels and comic books will refute the perfection and reveal a darker side. Stay tuned for, Double Rainbow Murder, #Static, Killville and Warpaint . Coming soon from Automatic Publishing!
Do you have any famous last words for our readers?
Keep the Faith! You’re the only one who can stop you from succeeding.