Heather Killough-Walden counts 6 series and trilogies and multiple books within each of these in her body of work as an independent author. I got to know her first Neverland book while researching the market for my own book, The Island of Lost Children , based on the Peter and Wendy story. Heather’s Forever Neverland is for young adults (YA) while I intended my book for middle grade readers. I enjoyed reading her modern take on the story, with Peter on a motorcycle and Wendy and her brothers dealing with the aftermath of their time with him.
Heather and I are visiting in a virtual Victorian parlor something like this one drinking hot Irish Breakfast tea (Heather’s with soy milk) and nibbling on sugar-free dark chocolate bars. Come and sit down, have a cup, and listen in on the conversation.
Heather’s latest book in the series, Beyond Neverland, is available on Amazon.
KB: You have an impressive body of work—series on werewolves and warlocks and other beings that lurk in the night. I understand that you started with a vampire series and your writing career took off from there. Where did your original vampire(s) come from?
HKW: I fell in love with The Count from Sesame Street when I was very little. My fascination with the night-dwelling be-fanged just grew from there.
KB: What I like to focus on in my blog conversations is exploring what inspires us and where our imaginations take us. What would be the most interesting inspiration you can describe for any of your numerous books/characters/settings?
HKW: Well… I’ve been all over the world, but I guess there’s no place truly as interesting as a person’s imagination. My dreams give me a lot of ideas for characters. Sometimes inspiration just strikes out of the blue, with no provocation. Music can also trigger images, as I like to create music videos in my head when I listen to songs. I was listening to Mitternacht when I saw Roman D’Angelo for the first time – gracefully hacking and slashing his magnificent vampire way through his enemies to reach the throne he occupies now.
KB: I’m interested most of all in your two Neverland books: Forever Neverland and Beyond Neverland, which you recently released. What sparked your interest in re-imagining that story?
HKW: I’ve always felt unsatisfied with the book. I felt as if it opened a door and then wouldn’t let anyone through. It was full of possibilities left unexplored, and fantastic things undiscovered. Especially when it came to Hook. I had never in my life read a more two-dimensional character. I very much felt there was so much more to him than, sadly, because of the way the book was written, anyone even cared to learn. And then I saw the 2003 production of Peter Pan with Jason Isaacs, and that sealed it. It was time for me to tell Neverland’s real story.
KB: How did you decide to age and “modernize” those characters?
HKW: You write what you know. I didn’t live in Victorian times and I had no desire to reawaken the overly romanticized version of them – they were anything but romantic, after all. They were misogynistic, ignorant, disease-ridden, and backwards. So I brought the characters into a time where they could fully develop and then I sat them down and said, “Okay. Tell me your stories.” And so they did. Hook’s was especially gratifying.
KB: One of the most compelling aspects of your book—and this is something that struck me after I finished reading it—is how Wendy’s storytelling is being stripped away from her. I find that aspect of the story powerful and incredibly tragic. So Wendy’s “story inspirations” (Peter, Hook, etc.) rescued her. I’d like to hear your thoughts on that aspect.
HKW: It’s exactly what you said. Society attempts to strip away the magic from us, the imagination. The result is a kind of death. This happens to millions of people every day and no one gives a thought to how tragic it truly is. I wanted people to see it – and understand it. Fortunately for Wendy, her imagination was strong enough to step in and save her.
KB: I realize after reading your work how Wendy’s storytelling ability has mostly “flown” under the radar.
HKW: There are so many talented people out there whose stories will never be read due to the circumstances of how our literary society is set up. Traditional print publishing made it next to impossible. EBook reading devices made it a little easier, but now that market is so flooded, all of those truly talented people are drowning in a sea of people who think they are talented but perhaps are not so much. So the result is the same. Thousands, if not millions, of magical imaginations go unnoticed. I just wanted to shed light on one – just one – and hopefully help some readers to comprehend that if Wendy’s stories are never heard by society, then maybe there are others who aren’t being heard? Perhaps we should attempt to listen a little harder?
KB: Given that Kathy Rigby is still touring in Peter Pan, what do you think makes this story so compelling?
HKW: Well, to be honest, I can’t see the appeal in a woman playing Peter Pan. At all. However, I think just about everyone sitting in the audience has experienced the desire to fly. All it takes is faith, trust, and pixie dust, right? Who wouldn’t get on board with that?
KB: What would your Neverland look like?
HKW: If you’ve read the book, then you know. (smiles) But if you’re asking me what my own fantasy world would look like… wow. I’m afraid even I am not a good enough storyteller to convey such wonder.