What I Learned from Frank Beddor
“Imagination is a powerful thing,” said Professor Jim Blasingame, as he welcomed Frank Beddor, author of the Looking Glass Wars trilogy, to an event this past February 19.
Blasingame, who specializes in young adult (YA) literature, regularly invites renowned authors to visit his “Adolescent Literacy” classes to discuss their work and careers.
YA literature can be an effective entry into the literary world for many kids, avid readers or not. Personally, it helped inspire me to major in English at ASU. Now I am a Master’s of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MTESOL) student at ASU where I hope to one day use stories in teaching English to second language learners.
From Disinterested to Delighted
I first read one of Frank Beddor’s books when I was a senior in high school. My AP English teacher required us to write a book report on a book of our choosing. There were plenty of stories to choose from, but none that really seemed to interest me. My teacher suggested The Looking Glass Wars—a book that no one had done a report on yet; I was ecstatic to dive right in to it. I have always been a fan of all things fantasy and, once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down.
The Looking Glass Wars borrows themes and characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but with a twist. Alyss Heart, heir to the throne, has fled from Wonderland to our world. It is here that she meets Lewis Carroll and tells him her story, hoping it will one day help her find her way home. However, Carroll tells the story incorrectly, even spelling her name wrong in the process. After thirteen years in our world she is found by none other than Hatter Madigan, a member of the Millinery who protects the royals, and is brought back to Wonderland to take her rightful place as queen. But with the throne already occupied by Redd, Alyss will have to fight for her right to take her place as the Queen of Hearts.
Before Beddor's ASU visit, I had the opportunity to meet him at Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest in December 2015. I had told him the story of how I first came upon The Looking Glass Wars in high school and he said, “Well, here you go. Welcome Millinery Cadet!” as he handed me an advance copy of his new book, Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X. I was so excited I almost fainted. Hatter Madigan, a prequel, follows the young protagonist as he trains to become the Hatter all his fans know and love. Being able to read more about this incredible world created by an author I admire was a dream-come-true.
After Inspiration, Perspiration
At the ASU event, Beddor gave great advice to aspiring writers. “There are so many ways to have a career in storytelling,” he said as he explained his own journey to becoming the author he is today.
Beddor certainly followed a wandering path: he was a world champion freestyle skier and even doubled as John Cusack’s stunt double in the movie Better off Dead. He went on to produce the movie There’s Something About Mary before finding his inspiration for The Looking Glass Wars in a set of playing cards in the British Museum. The cards reminded Beddor of Lewis Carroll’s world, but they were more dark and twisted figures.
After writing the first book, he submitted it to about thirty different publishers in the U.S. with no publishing house willing to take on the project. He then went to the U.K. where it was picked up by Egmont Books and published in 2004. Beddor has now created his own publishing house, Automatic Publishing, and is a New York Times bestselling author.
But how does one sell a book? Beddor explained that attending comicons and book fairs is a good way to get started. Book trailers are also becoming a new and popular way to promote books. “With such a visual world we live in, they become portals for readers,” Beddor said. He also shared that he found it was important to go to schools and inspire young children to read. These are his favorite events. Indeed—they have served as inspiration.
Beddor told how he got the idea behind writing the Hatter Madigan graphic novels. A boy at one of his events asked him what happened to Hatter Madigan in the thirteen years he was in our world looking for Alyss. It was such a simple question, yet it led to the creation of multiple graphic novels telling that story.
After the event, I felt very inspired to continue writing my own book as I’m sure many others were, too.
As Jim Blasingame commented, “In Alyss’s universe, all life is powered by the Crystal of Imagination, and the more creativity and initiative someone has, the more magic they can call on. I’m not sure if that’s an allegory for real life or just a fact of life.”
Image 1: Kira Assad poses with Frank Beddor during the author's February 2016 visit to Jim Blasingame's class at ASU. Photo by Kira Assad.
Image 2: Beddor discusses his new graphic novels and YA book publishing during his visit to ASU. Photo by Bruce Matsunaga. More from the event here.
Image 3: The cover of Frank Beddor's newest book, Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X. (2016). Image courtesy Automatic Publishing.