Sep 8, 2014

Shiver Me Timbers, an Intarrrview with Captain Heidi Schulz

Arghh, mateys! Once upon a treasure hunt, I heard of this amazing sounding book called Hook's Revenge. Long story short: I asked Heidi Schulz if I could interview her about her debut novel, and she said yes! And today I am very excited to share that interview with you, because it's pretty darn cool, if I do say so myself. So please read on--or walk the plank.

RachelHi, Heidi! How about we start off with the obvious? Where did you come up with the idea for a Peter Pan retelling of sortsthe story of the infamous Captain Hook's daughter?

HeidiHi Rachel! Thanks for having me! 

Peter Pan and its many adaptions, retellings, and spin-offs have always had a special place in my heart, though I didn't actually take the time to read the original until I was a young adult. Once I did, however, I was hooked (pardon the pun). The book is absolutely charming.

A handful of years later, I chose Peter and Wendy as the first longer-than-one-sitting book I read to my daughter. I can still picture her as a pink pajamaed two-year-old sitting in her little toddler bed and quietly playing with her toys while I read aloud to her. At first, I wasn’t sure if any of my words were sinking in, but she soon began acting out scenes that she had seemed to ignore when I read them. From that time on through the next several years, Peter Pan was both her imaginary friend and alter-ego. We spent many hours fully steeped in Neverland, pretending to “fight those nasty pirates” together.

Because she was so obsessed with Peter Pan, I became even more interested. And then I had a friend return home from a trip to England/Scotland where she and her husband had been able to take a sort of self-guided J. M. Barrie tour. I was fascinated and wanted to know more about him and his other works. I searched out and read biographical works as well as some of his novels. The Little White Birdwhich contains the origin of Peter Pan as a story within a story, became a favorite.

One day, when my daughter was about five, I came down with the flu. She was far too young to leave to her own devices while I marinated in my germs, so I made myself a little nest on the couch, and set her up with a couple DVDs: Hook and the live action 2003 Peter Pan. While she watched, I slept. When the movies ended I woke up with a question in my head: What if Captain Hook had had a daughter?

Hook’s Revenge grew from that day, though it would be several years before I became serious about completing it and seeking publication. 

RachelThat is so cool! I love your back story to Hook's Revenge! What does your daughter think of Peter Pan now, and is she as excited for Hook's Revenge as we are?

HeidiShe still loves Peter Pan, though not in the same way as when she was little. She is about to turn fourteen and Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Pratt are far more interesting to her at the moment.

As for Hook's Revenge, I have to admit, I was a tiny bit worried for awhile. She actually only got around to reading it last month. I don't know if it was less interesting at first because it was written by me—familiarity taking the excitement out of it—or if she felt too much pressure to like it, but it took her a long time to decide she wanted to read it. When she finally picked it up, I tried to act super casual about it, but on the inside, I was bouncing on my heels and saying, "Do you like it? What part are you on? Who's your favorite character? Is it funny? How funny?"

The day after she finished, we were on a long drive and she told me that she really, really loved it and that she was proud of me. This whole publishing experience has had some wonderful moments, but that was easily my favorite.

RachelSuch a great story! Now, I'm always interested in a Peter Pan retelling because I want them all. So I'm wondering, what are your favorite retellings, and what Peter Pan films are your favorite?

HeidiOh, good question. I've read some that I liked quite a lot and some that I liked...quite a little, but I always enjoy seeing the ways different authors reinvent the story and characters.

I thought Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson was an inventive and original origin story. I remember reading it to my daughter right about the same time I started dreaming up Hook's Revenge. I'd look at that Disney*Hyperion logo on the spine and dream: maybe one day. I still can't believe that dream came true.

And though it's been about ten years since I read it, I remember being charmed by Peter Pan in Scarletthe authorized sequel by Geraldine McCaughrean. It said that if adult Wendy, John, and the Lost Boys put on their children's clothes,they could become children again themselves and return to Neverland. I'm sad to report that method has not worked for me.

I have both Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson and Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel loaded on my Kindle, but I'm saving them for once I finish with my sequel to Hook's Revenge.

As for movies, you can probably guess from the ones I chose to put on for my daughter, that fluish day that the idea for Hook's Revenge came into existence. My absolute favorite is the 2003 live action Peter Pan. Quite often in film adaptations, Wendy comes across as rather passive, but not so here. She is a true heroine and I adore her. I adore them all (and I have a raging crush on Jason Isaacs's Captain Hook).

I also love Hook, with Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman. Bangarang!

RachelYou must read Tiger Lily immediately (or as soon as possible), for it is fantastic. You know, Peter Pan seems to be the new hot commodity here in not-Neverland. We've got some books and movies, plus upcoming shows and a new film (Pan). Not that I'm complaining. And let's not forget Once Upon a Time, which combines everything.

HeidiI've noticed, and I couldn't be more thrilled! I think there is a timelessness to the story. Is it too corny for me to say that, like Peter Pan, it never gets old?

I can't wait to see Pan. I've been following the casting news (and controversy) and I'm hopeful that it will be a good one.

As for Once Upon a Time, I have actually never seen an episode. I'm not opposed to it, but when it first came out, it was up against Grimm, and that's the one I ended up watching. I know, I know, I could have DVR'd. I don't know why I didn't. And now it's on Netflix, so I really have no excuse. One of these days.

However, Hook's Revenge does have a fun little connection to OUAT. I modeled Jocelyn's ship on the Lady Washington, a beautiful replica of an 18th century sailing ship. I toured the ship and it was in my mind's eye as I wrote. Later, Once Upon a Time filmed the Lady Washington, using her on the show as Captain Hook's shipthe Jolly Roger.

I know there aren't all that many replica 18th century ships out there, but still, I thought it was a fun coincidence. 

RachelSince we're talking about adaptations, what parts of Pan's tale did you put into Hook's Revenge, or did you start from a little bit of scratch?

HeidiJocelyn's adventure in Neverland starts after Captain Hook was eaten by the crocodile, so most of the events that happened in Peter Pan are a part of this story's history. Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys, the mermaids, Mr. Smee, and of course, the crocodile are all present in Hook's Revenge, but it is really very much Jocelyn's story.

I drew heavily on both the original and the Peter Pan chapters in J. M. Barrie's The Little White Bird (also published on their own as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens) for character details and information on how the Neverland works. I also used those source materials for inspiration in naming new places on the Neverland, such as Plunder Point or the Black Swamp. I wanted readers familiar with the original to feel like those places had always been a part of the Neverland, even if they hadn't heard their stories yet. I worked hard to make this book feel like it could have been set in that same world that J. M. Barrie created, while at the same time being something original and fresh.

In rereading Peter Pan while working on the sequel to Hook's Revenge (Hook's Revenge: The Pirate Codedue out in September of 2015), I surprised myself a few times, either by finding a detail referencing something I thought I had made up or by discovering I had made something up I had thought was part of the original. I hope this means I have done my job well—at least well enough to fool myself!

RachelAh, your book just sounds so good and I can't wait to read it! How is Hook's Revenge: The Pirate Code going? And pleeease tell us about Giraffes Ruin Everything

HeidiThank you so much! The Pirate Code is coming along nicely. I'm about to start in on a second round of revision. In the downtime since I turned in the last round, I've had several little epiphanies about places to trim, things I can smooth out, and ways to ramp up the tension. I'm really excited about the direction it is taking and can't wait to see what it will be in the end.

The clay is still wet, so to speak, but I can tell you there is more of Jocelyn's friend Roger and there are more pirates! And Jocelyn will get to spend time in Tiger Lily's village, explore more of the Neverland, and go on a treasure hunt, while being pursued by a malicious pirate captain with a wicked thirst for gold. Those who have read Hook's Revenge should be able to guess who that is!

And then there is Giraffes Ruin Everything, my first picture book. It's currently set for release in the spring of 2016 (picture books can take a long time). I have a personal history with a ruinous giraffe—when I was three, one bit the head off my doll at the zoo! You can read about it here.

As a result, I have never really liked giraffes. My agent encouraged me to put some of my giraffe angst on paper, and Giraffes Ruin Everything was born. It details all the ways a giraffe might ruin your day, for example, using its long neck to block your view at the movie theater. Oddly enough, by the end, the giraffe in my book becomes a bit of a hero, albeit a misunderstood one.

I still don't like giraffes (except for maybe this one). All I can say is that my feelings are complicated.

RachelCan't wait to read them! I'm sorry you don't like giraffes; that really stinks. Now, let's have some fun: If you could be one Peter Pan (or Hook's Revenge) character, who would you be?

HeidiOoh, that's a hard question! I love Jocelyn, but I wouldn't want to be her—I did some terrible things to the poor girl in the book—but I would like to be a pirate on the Neverland seas. The pirates on Captain Hook's crew in Peter Pan had such a high mortality rate, I'd want to be on Jocelyn's crew instead. Her pirates are dreadfully inexperienced, but are desperate to not appear so. One-Armed Jack has two arms, but keeps one tucked in his shirt, claiming to have lost the other in battle. Jim McCraig with a Wooden Leg actually only has a really big sliver in his toe. Blind Bart could see just fine if he were to remove at least one of his eye patches. Nubbins, the cook, is the only one with a real injury—he lost his thumb in a kitchen accident, but claims a giant squid bit it off.

Nubbins turns normally disgusting ship's fare into such wonderful dishes like hardtack with a lime-ginger creme or key lime pie. I love to experiment in the kitchen, so I'd have to pick him.

RachelAhh, these characters sound so fun! I love it! How'd you create them and write this story?

HeidiYou know, I was just thinking about that this very afternoon. I'm afraid the answer is that I have no idea.


Sometimes, when I'm out, I'll notice something about someone. If it seems interesting or absurd, I'll write it down, either in a notebook, or make a note in my phone. I may not have any idea what it could be used for, but I want to remember it. I once noticed a man driving in his car. I only saw him for a second, but he looked like he was just about to sneeze. I thought, What if he always looks like that?

I grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote, "He had the perpetual pinched up look of a man waiting for a sneeze that never would come." It was at least a year before I ended up using that description to build another character in Hook's Revenge, a not-very-nice girl at finishing school, Nanette Arbuckle (whom Jocelyn thinks of as Pinch Face).

RachelSo you're neither a pantser nor a drafter--you're an imagineer? 

HeidiHa! I love that.

You know, when I took the quiz to find out my color code, I came out nearly even on all of them. I had the same result when I tried to find out my love language. I'm neither an introvert or extrovert—I'm a weird ambiverted hybrid. And when it comes to pantsing, plotting, and imagineering, I'm all of the above.

For Hook's Revenge, I plotted the beginning and end, and wrote with only a lose idea of everything in the middle. There was a lot of pantsing there. For The Pirate Code, I did a lot more plotting, but still have been surprised by the way the story has been shaking out.

Really, everything I've worked on has all those things in common: Some plotting, some pantsing, a lot of imagineering. 

RachelSounds like an interesting writing process! Okay, let's wrap this up and set sail with one last question. You see Hook's Revenge in a store for the first timewhat do you do?

HeidiOh gosh! I have chills just thinking about it. I always have delayed reactions to big things, and I feel super awkward emoting in public, so I'll probably just stare at it—maybe pick it up and discretely smell it. I'll want to cry, but I won't. I'll physically restrain myself from telling passersby, "Hey! I wrote this book!"

I'll leave the store and go have dinner, then come home and start a load of laundry. Halfway through folding the batch, I'll burst into tears—the really loud, messy kind—and tell my husband, "My book is in stores!" He'll smile and hug me. He's used to my madness.

(Actually, this scenario is not likely at all. There's no way I'll do laundry that night.)

RachelAnything else, Captain?

HeidiJust some piratical advice: Keep an eye on the weather, make sure your purse strings are tied tight, and don't spit into the wind.

Thanks so much for having me, Rachel! This was such a fun interview! Yo ho!

Title: Hook's Revenge
Author: Heidi Schulz
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publishing Date: September 16, 2014
Pages: 304

Captain Hook's feisty daughter hits the high seas to avenge her father's death at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile in Heidi Schulz's spirited middle-grade debut.

Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she's sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb's Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn's hopes of following in her father's fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.

So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn't hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she'd bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland's most fearsome beast isn't enough to deal with, she's tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.

The crocodile's clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz's debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?

Heidi Schulz is a writer, reader, and giraffe suspicioner. She lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband, co-captaining a crew made of their teen daughter, a terrible little dog, and five irascible chickens. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, Hook's Revenge, will be published by Disney•Hyperion on September 16, 2014. A sequel, Hook's Revenge: The Pirate Code, will follow in fall 2015. Bloomsbury Kids will publish her picture book debut, Giraffes Ruin Everything, in 2016.

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