(re)Visions: Alice – Interview: Amanda Ching, author of the novelette “House of Cards”

(image (c) Candlestick and Gleam)
(image (c) Candlestick and Gleam)


This is the fourth in a series of interviews with the (re)Visions: Alice that I published on a now sadly defunct writing site back in 2012. I hope you enjoy discovering more about the authors behind these remarkably imaginative re-imagined tales.

Amanda Ching describes herself on her blog, Panda-monium, as being someone who “one day dreams of being a real girl.”

We hope she gets her wish, but until she does, we expect she will keep busy writing magical tales like “House of Cards”, which is her contribution to Candlestick and Gleam’s (re)Visions: Alice. This imaginative project, which asked four authors to write a tale based on Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland, inspired Amanda to pen an almost surrealist take on the theme.

Her story, which leaps imaginatively from scene to scene, and character to character, is a beguiling puzzle that builds to a wholly satisfying conclusion that is indisputably its own creation, while paying loving homage to Lewis Carroll’s Alice.

I interviewed Pittsburgh-based Amanda recently and asked what it is that she loved so much about the well-loved classic and why the intricate writing style of Lewis Carroll is such an inspiration.

(1) What have you written prior to this and how did you come to be involved in the (re)Visions: Alice project? Was it a natural fit for you as a writer?
Before I wrote for Alice, I was a more than avid fanfic writer.  I’ve had pieces here and there but nothing big, and nothing paying.  Kate was looking for authors for her Alice book, and a friend recommended me.  She and I struck up an accord and she asked me on board. The things about this project is that in a way it is fanfiction, so I was really rather right at home.  I’ve always kind of seen fanfic as a place to not only work within and without a pre-existing text, but also to experiment with styles and formats in a much broader way.  With fanfic, you don’t have to worry if something will sell.

(2) How hard was it to pay homage to such a well-loved book as Alice in Wonderland in your contributed story without losing your own voice,especially since it casts such a long shadow over modern fiction?
I hadn’t read Alice in years, so when I got the assignment, I reread the first book, but my copy is the annotated edition.  Most of the things that struck me when I was rereading were the pop cultural things from Carroll’s day–the songs, the references that Victorians would have got, but that we might not.  So I tried to play more with those than with anything sweeping from the text itself.  I was enamored of the Queen of Hearts’ anger management problem, especially.  And the poems.  I tried to put pop culture in there from today, and some from the past. I’m not sure if it worked.  In a geeky way, I think “House of Cards” might read better, or at least differently, to someone who has come fresh from reading the annotated version, and for that, whoops.

(3) What is the one fantastical element from Alice in Wonderland that you were most looking forward to introducing into your story and why? Did it come first or did you simply weave it into an existing idea you had?
Oh the cat.  And the fact that Wonderland isn’t real.  Or maybe it was the idea that somewhere in all of this, I always felt there was a reason the Queen was so pissy, and that she was being shafted in the story.  The last time I watched the cartoon with my kid, I remember watching her lose her temper and think, “Jesus, if that had been me, everyone would be dead.”  Everyone is just so silly.  And you see even Alice gets angry and loses her temper.  That tie between the two of them just struck me.


(image (c) Candlestick and Gleam)
(image (c) Candlestick and Gleam)


(4) Was Alice in Wonderland an inspiration for you prior to being involved in this project or did you really only come to appreciate its worth once you started writing your story for (re)Visions: Alice?
I grew up in the nineties, when Alice experienced a resurgence in popularity in the stoner way.  everyone was all about the caterpillar.  And the drugs.  In that way, I guess I always fancied that drug mythos (though now I would be hard pressed to agree that it’s actually present in the book).  But before that, no, Alice was never really a thing for me.  Things invade pop culture.  The cat, really, and the eat me, drink me bit.  Jefferson Airplane. It wasn’t until afterwards, when I tried to emulate Carroll’s style, to put in pop cultural bits the way he did, make jokes without over-explaining, and MY GOD THE PUNS, that I realized just how complicated Alice is.  Carroll’s writing is layered in a technical way.  No wonder he was a mathematician.  It shows.

(5) What is your preferred writing style? Pantser or plotter? How did that work with a unique project such as this?
I’m a half and half.  I usually start out filling in things here and there as I think of them.  I go back and forth.  I almost always have the end written before I’m done with the middle.  Somewhere in there I make plans.  In this case, I ended up writing and then rearranging all the scenes anyway.  The nature of the project wasn’t that much of a stretch for me, because as I have said, I like to write fanfic, I enjoy it in a stress relieving way, and this was an extension of that.

(6) What does the future hold for you? Similar themed projects or do you plan to take a dramatic leap to another genre entirely?
I GO WHERE I AM NEEDED.  No, kidding.  In all seriousness, I don’t know.  I like to try all kinds of new things.  I plan on putting out a book of short stories on Lulu, just for fun, called “ILU-486 and other Stories”.  I also have a Christmas scifi romance in the works.

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