Guildford inspires Alice In Wonderland stories

Liz Nicholls

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Take a journey through the looking glass and discover a new story based on the Alice in Wonderland tales just released by a Guildford author.

Alice Ventures Beyond Wonderland written by Robin G Smith introduces a host of new creatures to an audience of children and adults alike.

Guildford has been associated with Alice in Wonderland since author, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, completed the sequel, Through the Looking Glass.

Robin has written children’s books as well as adult science-fiction and factual titles, for 20 years, but it wasn’t until lockdown he turned his skills to reimagining the world that Carroll created. Alice Ventures Beyond Wonderland introduces a new audience to a world of intriguing creatures through strange encounters yet also touches on difficult issues that we are all too familiar with today, such as bullying and identity.

Robin says: “I have always loved the two Alice in Wonderland books and wanted to see if it was possible to write something similar. I had been collecting ideas for years and lockdown gave me the opportunity to concentrate on completing the project. I’m delighted with the response I’ve already had from adults and children alike, who seem to enjoy its blend of subtle humour and contemporary issues.”

He is already planning the sequel to Alice Ventures Beyond Wonderland. Alice Ventures Beyond Wonderland is illustrated by Helena Chessher and available to buy now in hardback, paperback, and e-book from Amazon or www.treefirecreative.com

For a preview, visit www.alicebeyondwonderland.com

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Star Q&A: David Walliams

Round & About

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Author & dad David Walliams, 49, talks about life & the arts ahead of the adaptation of his novel Billionaire Boy as a Covid-safe Car Park Party

Q. We’re excited about this show – are you on a mission to save Easter for families? “It’s the most brilliant thing, seeing a book you’ve written come to life. You feel like a magician because what was in your head is somehow now all real. I think people are craving entertainment, especially live, because although the TV has still been on, you haven’t been able to be part of an audience, so this is a great and safe way to enjoy a show.”

Q. Are you passionate about the arts during these difficult times? “Well, it is important. I have friends who are actors, directors, designers and so on who have been all out of work. They are all raring to go. I feel like the audience wants it too. It’s hard to put a value on the arts… they enhance your life, but you can’t put a figure on it. When you read something or see something though, it moves you. It changes the way you think, how you feel about the world and about life. We have always had a very very vibrant arts culture here and it’s something we really need to protect.”

Q. Billionaire Boy tells the story of Joe & his friendship with Bob. Do you think connection is especially important for children now? “It’s very important they can keep in touch with their friends at the moment. Luckily, technology exists, though not everyone has access to it, but at least with phones and computers you can see people and speak to them. Just checking in with people making sure they are okay is crucial at the moment, because a lot of people are struggling.”

Q. How would Joe’s toilet paper baron dad have reacted to last year’s stockpiling? “He would’ve been one of the few that benefited… him and Jeff Bezos! That whole thing was extraordinary wasn’t it? I almost forgot about it. Jack would’ve liked it. His BumFresh toilet paper was actually a good invention, dry on one side and wet on the other.”

Q. In 2016, you played Mrs Trafe the dinner lady in the TV version…. can audiences look forward to seeing you on stage? “I haven’t been asked to perform, but I want to come and see it and if I do, I’ll come on the stage and say hello.”

Q. Have you been busy over the last year? “Fortunately writing is something you can do in your own at home. Last year I brought out four books, two or three of which were written during lockdown and I’m writing my new one. So in that department I feel very lucky indeed.”

Q. If we gave you £1billion to spend today, what would you buy? “There’s one thing that Joe Spud has in the book which is a water slide going down from his bedroom to a swimming pool. He just gets out of bed and goes straight down a water slide. That is something I don’t have and it really pains me. So I’d get that water slide because water slides are so much fun. I love them!”

Billionaire Boy tours the UK, including Windsor Racecourse on 11th April & Newbury on 12th April. Book at carparkparty.com

Good things

Round & About

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Acclaimed author Vesna Main, who lives in Putney, tells us about her new novel Good Day? and the ideas that helped it come to fruition

One January more than a decade ago, Woman’s Hour broadcast an interview with a woman whose husband had been visiting prostitutes for many years. The programme had an online discussion board and many other women poured out similar traumatic stories.

Most of them were in happy, sexually fulfilling relationships. More often than not, their partners were professionally successful, gregarious. There were many conflicting views – some hated the prostitutes seeing them as rivals but also believed as ‘sisters’ they should support them.

That discussion made me question many of my views. I used to think men who visited prostitutes were mostly single and that prostitution was no different from any other industry, with workers freely offering a service in exchange for remuneration. Reading academic research and interviews with prostitutes, it became clear to me that selling one’s body is very different from selling one’s skills and that most of the sex workers were forced to do so usually through social or personal circumstances.

From the material I gathered, a story emerged of two characters, Richard and Anna, a middle aged, middle-class, educated, articulate couple. Richard had been seeing prostitutes for many years and when he was discovered, Anna’s world fell apart. Her past felt false knowing he had had a secret life. Her dignity as a woman was undermined: her husband had chosen others over her. If she confided in a friend, she feared being judged as a woman who denied sex to her partner. She was at a loss at to what to do.

I wrote two versions of the novel, both in a more or less classic realist style, the style that I associate with the great novels of the 19th-century. I abandoned both versions.

After various false starts, I had the idea of writing a novel within a novel. In Good Day?, the main character is a woman writer and every day, as her husband, the reader, returns from work, they discuss her progress.

The story of Richard and Anna is the novel she is working on. In this way, the text had two equally important view points and the dialogue structure suited the questioning nature of the exchanges between the reader and the writer which, as the story progresses, become increasingly confrontational, with the two regularly siding with Richard or Anna, according to their gender role.
We asked Vesna about where she lives and how it inspires her…

Q. Do you have any favourite local places to write, or simply relax? “I tend to write at home. Putney is great for walks and walks are good for thinking. Anywhere I go, the world of the text I am working on is with me and any ideas that pop into my head, I jot down in a pocket notebook. I particularly love the path up or down the Thames near Wandsworth Park. The walled garden at the Bishop’s Palace, just across Putney bridge, is another favourite spot.”

Q. Do you already know what your next book is going to be about? “I wrote a novel last summer and it is in my drawer, left to ‘mature’ before I send it out. Its protagonist is a woman of 92, a former piano teacher. The story takes place over one day as she looks back on her life. Without disclosing what happens, let me just say that my main impulse in writing it was to create a woman at an advanced age who is still very much a sexual being, longing for love and physical affection. It is a positive, affirmative story.”

Q. Do you feel as though you live with the characters while you’re writing them? “In some ways, it is inevitable. I am not a writer who works out the story in advance. I start with an idea, or an image, and the characters and their lives emerge, or not, gradually as they gain confidence in me and tell me what they are about. I have to be patient and leave them time to come back to me. While waiting, I might write a short story or a novella. At the moment, I have two projects I have just started, or rather false started. But that’s how it works with me. I have to keep trying, beginning and abandoning the first 10,000 words until the story emerges. One of the two novels I am working on emerged from a sentence one of my grown-up daughters said, a casual, inconsequential remark that sparked my imagination. The other grew from something I saw through the window of my study, which faces a large block of flats with balconies. One warm day, a man took his laptop onto his balcony and proceeded to work there. At some point we seemed to look at each other, or at least, that’s what it appeared to me. I don’t think he saw me because my side of the house was in the shade but that’s irrelevant. A vague trajectory of a story emerged, very blurred, rather like an image that appears on photographic paper bathing in a tray of film developer.

Q. Do you have any favourite book shops locally that you enjoy visiting?
“The second-hand bookshop by Putney Bridge is excellent and the owner is very knowledgeable.”

Q. How friendly do you feel the Putney community is?
“The best thing about Putney residents is their diversity, in terms of age, class and ethnicity. The area is also home to many Europeans and, as a Francophile, I love hearing French and take every opportunity to speak it.”

Good Day?

is out now