Alice I Have Been – author interview – Melanie Benjamin

www.melaniebenjamin.com
Melanie Benjamin, author of Alice I Have Been joins us today as our first author of the new year. Alice I Have Been is a love story and a literary mystery, that brilliantly blends fact and fiction to capture the passionate spirit of a woman who was truly worthy of her fictional alter ego, in a world as captivating as the Wonderland only she could inspire.

About the Book:

Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole–and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.
But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?

Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.

That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war.
For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey.

Hi Melanie,

Welcome to Paperback Writer

PBW: Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?

MB: While visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, I happened upon a traveling exhibit called “Dreaming in Pictures: The Photography of Lewis Carroll.” I had little knowledge of Lewis Carroll – or Charles Dodgson, his real name – prior to that moment. I certainly had no idea he was a pioneer of early photography! In the exhibit was one image in particular that stood out; it was the very worldly, very wise face of 7-year-old Alice Liddell as a beggar girl. The caption said that she was the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. I hadn’t known there ever was a real little girl named Alice; I wondered what happened to her after she grew up. I wondered what happened between the two of them, Dodgson and Alice, to result in such a startling photograph. I thought that it might make a good story; it took me a while to get around to researching it but when I did, I knew right away that I had to write it.

PBW: Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?

MB: I generally have a good idea of the beginning and the end; the middle is a bit more unplanned. With ALICE I HAVE BEEN, however, I knew from the beginning that it would be in three distinct parts, touching on three distinct periods in Alice Liddell’s life – little girl, young woman, wife and mother – so that helped.

PBW: Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?

MB: Yes, I do know. I will have composed the last page of the book long before I write it, and I make myself wait until I get there before I do write it down. It’s very satisfying.

PBW: Do you have a process for developing your characters?

MB: I gestate them. I get an idea in my head, and then I spend a fair amount of time – a month, maybe two – not doing any conscious work on the novel, but there’s something going on that I can’t really define. Some mysterious alchemy in my subconscious, I think. But at some point the characters just tell me they’re ready to go, and I get down to the business of writing.

PBW: It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?

MB: I don’t know about that. I think that with historical fiction, there has to be less of this going on. I research my characters – with Alice, my research was mainly the photograph of her and of course, the voice of Alice in ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. So I’m not sure there’s room for much of me, in the end.

PBW: What is your most favorite part about this book?

MB: I think the third section, when Alice is married with three soldier sons, dealing with war and a marriage that, at first, appears not to be satisfying – that was the most poignant part of the book for me. It was the most difficult to get right, but ended up being my favorite. That’s often the way it goes.

PBW: When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?

MB: Only once it was done!

PBW: What struggles have you had on the road to being published?

MB: The usual struggles – for every stop forward, there have been several steps back. Lots of rejection, a couple of books previously published that led me down a path that, in the end, wasn’t right for me, so that basically, I had to start over. But I’m very glad I did; I’m glad for all the experiences, good and bad, for they have all made me the writer I am today.

PBW: What has been the best part about being published?

MB: I really think it’s the privilege of meeting and working with people who love books and writing as much as I do; people with such amazing experiences, such knowledge and talent.

PBW: What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?

MB: That Alice Liddell’s real life story was every bit as amazing and fantastical as her fictional one; That behind some of the great stories of our time are even greater stories of human pain and human triumph; That there was a real Alice in Wonderland, after all.

PBW: Do you have plans to write another book?

MB: Yes! I’m at work on another historical novel, this time set during the Civil War.

PBW: Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?

MB: So far, so good; painless and fun! It’s a privilege to answer such interesting questions and talk about my book.

PBW: Where can readers find a copy of your book?

MB: Readers can find a copy at the usual places – independent bookstores, Borders, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, online outlets such as Amazon.

PBW: Do you have a website for readers to go to?

MB: There are two, actually; a discussion forum at www.aliceihavebeen.com, and then my personal website with more information about me, the book, and the world of Alice at www.melaniebenjamin.com.

Thank you, Melanie for sharing your book and characters with us today.

It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.

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2 thoughts on “Alice I Have Been – author interview – Melanie Benjamin”

  1. Thanks for hosting Melanie today, Becky. This book has gotten a lot of attention so far. I can’t wait to read some of the reviews from this tour.

    Cheryl

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