Sixteen-year-old Alice just can’t find a way to be free. Her parents are environmental activists, whose cringe-worthy public protests might involve chaining themselves to a fence and pleading with passersby to “Save the World. Save Alice!” It’s not that Alice doesn’t believe there’s work to be done. But after a petition to start a farmer’s market meets with more snickers than signatures, she figures she should shut up instead of speaking out. At least, that is, until she can find something that feels real. Then along comes Whitney Lapin, a girl who speaks in cryptic riddles and spends her free time turning abandoned warehouses into beautiful gardens. Charismatic Whitney leads Alice on a rabbit trail into the underground–aka secret society–of Wonderland High. Curiouser and curiouser.
Alice is in wonderland! Even though Whitney’s group of teenage environmental vigilantes operates on the wrong side of the law, with them, Alice is finally free to be herself. She stomps on her good girl image by completing a series of environmental pranks to impress the new group: flooding the school and disguising a pig as a baby in order to smuggle it out of a testing facility. She wants to trust them, and she especially wants to trust (or maybe kiss) Chester Katz, a boy with a killer smile, a penchant for disappearing, and a secret that will turn Alice’s world backwards. But then, one of the young vigilantes tries to frame Alice for all the pranks, and she must figure out their secret before she ends up in front of a jury screaming, “Off with her head!”
I was lucky enough (thanks to Nori, the coordinator of our Sunday Street team) to have the opportunity to interview Rachel! Keep reading to get to know a little bit about Rachel and her new book.
- What made you choose to write YA fiction as opposed to writing children’s, middle grade, or adult fiction?
The simple answer is because I started writing while in high school and never stopped writing about that time period. Even though I’m solidly an adult now (apparently marriage and a child does that to you), I still feel like I relate better to teens. Most TV shows I watch are centered around teens. I love getting to experience all these firsts–first love, first big decision, etc.–again vicariously through my characters.
- What inspired you to write Alice in Wonderland High?
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has always been a favorite book of mine. When news came out that Tim Burton was doing an adaptation, I had the urge to re-read the original book. At the same time, I was trying to write an outline about a girl who does ecotage for a quasi-secret society. As I was reading Alice, I realized her main goal in the original was to get inside the beautiful garden, and that every beat in the story could be reworked to meet that goal from an environmentalism standpoint. I also loved the idea of making her main ally from the original–the cheshire cat–into the love interest since all retellings I’d read focused on the Mad Hatter.
- What do you think is key to creating a believable yet interesting character?
I think the key lies in what the character wants and what they do to get it. Characters who want something desperately and go to extreme measures to get it are interesting. And they become believable when the reader gets invested in seeing them meet their goal. Humor also helps!
4.What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a novel?
Everyone always says middles are difficult but I have a much harder time with endings. Specifically with Act 3. I had to rewrite the Act 3 of Alice in Wonderland High from scratch more than once because I’d written myself in the wrong direction. A particular challenge with this book was finding a good balance between recognizable items from the original but also making the characters and plot my own.
- The main character in your book, Alice, discovers a secret underground society in her high school. If you had the opportunity to make your own secret society, what kind of society would it be?
What a great question. I’d love to create a secret society of writer vigilantes who go around turning reluctant readers into avid ones.
- What do you do to relax yourself on days when you’re feeling very stressed?
I binge-watch every show that airs on TV that isn’t a medical, crime, or law procedural. But writing is also my main form of relaxation. I also have a 2.5-year-old who keeps me on my toes. We have a lot of tea parties.
- What is the last book you finished reading?
BONE DRY by my critique partner, Cady Vance. A fabulous paranormal YA.
- What activities do you like to do in your free time?
My free time is very limited these days but mostly I like to write, read, watch TV, and buy cute shoes I don’t need.
Thanks so much to Nori and Rachel for this awesome interview! If you’re interested in buying this book, then you’d be happy to know that Alice in Wonderland High is available for pre-order now. Click here to place your order through Amazon, or here to do it through Barnes and Noble.
Also, enter this giveaway to win an annotated hard-cover copy of Alice in Wonderland High!
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Rachel Shane studied Creative Writing at Syracuse University and now works in digital publishing at in New York City. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, young daughter, and a basement full of books. This is her first novel.