Once Upon A Fan Editor Gareth Hughes spoke with author Wendy Toliver about the challenges of bringing the world of Once Upon A Time to the written page with the first original OUAT Novel, 'Red's Untold Tale'.
How did the opportunity to write an original novel for Once Upon A Time come about?
My literary agent asked if I was a fan of OUAT, and when I told her I was a huge fan, she asked if I’d like her to “put my name in the hat” for an opportunity to write a novel that would give greater insight into the popular and beloved character, Red (Ruby). Many emails and phone calls later, I was informed that the involved parties from Disney, ABC-TV, and OUAT liked my ideas about what Red was like as a teenager. They placed a crown upon my head and told me I was the chosen one. I’m just kidding about the crown, but I was so excited and honored; it felt like that!
When it comes to the central plot of the novel, were you given free rein on the story or were specific guidelines given from the producers that had to be followed?
I had creative freedom for the story, with a deep curtsey to the character and world created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. At the very beginning, I submitted an outline so there’d be no big surprises. Naturally, everything had to work cohesively and be in step with the character of Red, the plotlines that had already been aired on the show, and the overall themes and feel of OUAT. It was nice knowing that I could ask questions and get input whenever needed. Truly, working with everyone who’s been involved with this project has been a magical experience, right from the get-go.
How did you prepare for writing the novel in regards to the world and characters that have already been established by the TV show?
I bought the “Once Upon A Time” DVD sets and my family and I watched and re-watched every single episode. For further insight, I also read the graphic novel, ONCE UPON A TIME: SHADOW OF THE QUEEN. (If you haven’t read it yet, it’s fantastic!) I took extensive notes and spent countless hours brainstorming. Once I began writing the novel, I printed out a variety of pictures of Red, Granny, and Peter, and kept them by my computer. I even have a red riding hood that I dare say is almost as beautiful as the one Megan Ory wears on the show!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
The deadline was definitely a challenge, particularly since it was during the holidays. Thankfully, my mom came out to help hold down the fort while I was glued to my laptop. However, I believe the biggest challenge was writing a novel that would wow the fans of OUAT. It goes without saying that the fans are accustomed to brilliant writing, shocking twists, fantastic world-building, and original, multi-dimensional characters. They (we) deserve nothing but the best, and that’s no small order!
Can you tease the storyline and what fans can expect from the novel?
Red Riding Hood/Ruby is such a fascinating addition to OUAT, and we want to know everything about her! ONCE UPON A TIME: RED’S UNTOLD TALE introduces us to Red when she is a teenager, delivering baked goods for Granny in the Enchanted Forest. The novel will answer the questions we wonder about, including: Who is the wizard who made her enchanted red cloak? What happened to her parents? Who are her friends, and who are her enemies? Will other characters from OUAT or Disney stories make appearances? And, for all the romantics out there, with whom is Red’s first kiss? Of course, the fans of the show will pick up on hints about Red’s true identity as it presents itself in her teen years. However, I truly feel that even if you haven’t watched the TV series and just happened to pick this book off the shelf at your local bookstore because it has such a gorgeous cover, you’ll fall in love with Red, and dive right into a “Once Upon A Time” marathon.
Will elements of the plot and Red's untold history be surprising to fans or have a unique twist?
Oh, I hope so! I guess we’ll have to wait for fans to read it and see if they’re surprised.
We have lots of OUAT fans who are aspiring writers and contribute fan fiction etc. What piece of advice would you give to them?
One thing I think is important, especially if you want to write professionally, is to network. Taking writing classes not only helps you practice your craft; it puts you in the same room with people who have similar talents and aspirations. Attend writing conferences and join writing clubs or organizations. I just got back from a writers’ retreat with some of my closest author-friends, and it does wonders for a creative soul. Immerse yourself in the magnificent writing community!
Do you have any other projects currently in development?
Yes, always! Hopefully I’ll get to make a public announcement about them soon.
Red's Untold Tale is released in the USA on September 22
Pre-Order Now at Amazon
You can catch Wendy in person at Salt Lake City Comic Con (September 24-26) where she will be signing books and sitting on a few panels.