Jan 3, 2016

Finding Neverland with Nora & Kettle

Hello, lost boys and girls! In case you didn't know, I'm kind of sort of obsessed with Peter Pan retellings. Despite my favorite tale clearly being Beauty and the Beast, Peter Pan retellings tend to be the most successful. So when I discovered this latest version, a retelling set in the 1950s that explores internment camps, I was super excited. Not only does it sound fantastic, but it's also a pretty original take on a tale that's been told many, many times. And because I'm so stoked for this book--Nora & Kettle--I asked Lauren Nicolle Taylor if she'd be up for an interview, and she so kindly said yes! Here's what she had said about Nora & Kettle, but be warned: you're going to want this book as soon as possible.

RachelHi, Lauren! It's my understanding that Nora & Kettle is a retelling of Peter Pan, or at least about the relationship between Peter and Wendy. Please tell all, because my gosh, this sounds amazing.

Lauren: Hi! I would say Nora & Kettle is a reimagined Peter Pan, where Wendy is still the dreamy girl who doesn’t want to grow up, but is forced to through very adverse circumstances. Imagine a Wendy, dreaming of far off places, of Neverland, because she needs to escape her violent life. And the Peter Pan in my story is not perched on the window inviting Wendy to fly away. Instead, he is a homeless kid, living in the alley beneath her window. He still ultimately offers Wendy an escape, he still has a family of Lost Boys (street kids like him) but his world is tough, and he faces his own real life challenges of survival and the responsibility of caring for a bunch of hungry, homeless kids.

The relationship between my Peter Pan and Wendy is perhaps more mature than the traditional story. The two characters are around the same age (17-18) and of course there is a hint of romance between them. Predominantly, though, this is a story of two lost souls finding and helping each other through some very dark times.

RachelYou've taken this well-known tale and made it more modern, so I'm wondering: does your book have a Captain Hook-esque character, or is the infamous codfish something that's more inanimate?

Lauren: My book does have a Captain Hook-esque character but he is more comical, embodying more of the physical characteristics of the classic Hook and less of the evil personality traits. The book is set in the early 1950s at a time when employment is hard won for those with little qualifications and Kettle works at a shipyard, fighting against other ‘pirates’ for the chance to work. My Hook character is the shipyard’s surly, unsatisfied boss.

RachelI've noticed that in a lot of stories about Peter Pan, Neverland is like Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee: It's there when you need it, and when you no longer need it, it magically goes away--but you'll do just fine without it. Since Nora & Kettle is set in reality, how does Neverland come into play? 

Lauren: The two main characters are struggling to survive in their everyday lives and so Neverland becomes an abstract concept, a coping mechanism. It’s an idea of what life could be like if things were different, a dream world to escape to when life gets too hard. Neverland is the tantalizing fantasy that’s just out of reach. 

RachelWhether it's a book or a movie, there are a lot of retellings of Barrie's original Peter Pan tale. Were any a big inspiration for you when writing Nora and Kettle? Or did the story start with the piece of time you're retelling--post-World War II effects of Japanese American internment camps?

Lauren: My grandparents were Malaysian citizens interned by the Japanese during World War II when they were just nineteen years old. They had only been married about a year and had a very young baby. They were very open about their experiences in those horrible camps and I used what I recalled of their descriptions and feelings about internment to inspire my writing.

The Peter Pan influence came after I’d written a couple of chapters. I felt like something was missing, though I couldn’t quite name it. Sitting on my bookshelf was a copy of the original Peter Pan story, complete with illustrations. When I flipped through the book and read some of the dark prose and fantastical elements with this grounding in real life struggles, I could relate my characters to it. It drew me to enhance Nora and Kettle’s story with a Peter Pan twist.

RachelIf you were to retell another fairy tale and mix it in with actual history, what would the story be?

Lauren: Snow-White and Rose-Red is another interesting, less covered tale. The story of two sisters who are polar opposites could provide inspiration for a multitude of different storylines… In the original story, the characters are quite poor and I could see it taking place during the Great Depression.

Hansel and Gretel would be an interesting story to tackle. I can imagine the siblings as two teens led down a bad path, the witch, a drug dealer, perhaps in the nineties. Her house of candy, a meth lab…

There are so many options…

Rachel: That Hansel and Gretel one? Oh my gosh, yes pleaseWho's your favorite character in Nora & Kettle (and are they your favorite character from the original tale)?

Lauren: That’s a hard one, I love all my characters. But if I had to pick one I’d say Kettle, who is the Peter Pan inspired character. He’s such a beautiful boy, who despite his hardships manages to stay positive and build a life for himself.

RachelIf you had to sell Nora & Kettle in five words to a room full of readers of all ages, they'd be

Lauren: Love in a lost place.

Faith, trust, and
Pixie dust!

RachelIt's publication day! WOOHOO! Besides party, what do you do?

Lauren: I have this terrible habit of buying myself shoes every release day. It’s beginning to be quite an expensive tradition!

TitleNora & Kettle
Author: Lauren Nicolle Taylor
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Publishing Date: February 29, 2016

"What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?"

Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having "one drop of Japanese blood in them" things are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.

Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to naive, eighteen-year-old Nora the privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.

For months, they've lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting. But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.

In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.

Set in 1953, Nora & Kettle explores the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing. Their stories, "a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world."

Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology. 

She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing. 

She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Are you looking forward to reading Nora & Kettle? I love how it's such a unique, more realistic take on Peter Pan. I'm super excited!


  1. Ummm. HELLO.

    I haven't even heard of this book, but I'll definitely be checking it out. Excellent interview!!


  2. I have been looking for new Peter Pan retellings, but never heard of this one! This one sounds really interesting and unique, and I love the idea of a comical Captain Hook. Thanks for sharing this interview with us :)

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  4. I really enjoyed doing this interview :) Thanks Rachel <3

  5. Nora and Kettle is INCREDIBLE. It is seriously everything you want a book to be. I don't even know how to review it yet because... it's glorious. I pre-ordered a finished copy because I need it. I loved the interview too, Rachel! Lauren is just so lovely, I am so glad you shared this :D

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