A. C. Wise is joining us today to talk about her novel, Wendy, Darling. Here’s the publisher’s description:
A lush, feminist re-imagining on what happened to Wendy after Neverland, for fans of Circe and The Mere Wife.
Find the second star from the right, and fly straight on ’til morning, all the way to Neverland, a children’s paradise with no rules, no adults, only endless adventure and enchanted forests – all led by the charismatic boy who will never grow old.
But Wendy Darling grew up. She has a husband and a young daughter called Jane, a life in London. But one night, after all these years, Peter Pan returns. Wendy finds him outside her daughter’s window, looking to claim a new mother for his Lost Boys. But instead of Wendy, he takes Jane.
Now a grown woman, a mother, a patient and a survivor, Wendy must follow Peter back to Neverland to rescue her daughter and finally face the darkness at the heart of the island…
What’s A.C. Wise’s favorite bit?
A. C. Wise
I am a fan of pockets. Dresses with pockets, skirts with pockets, pants with pockets, bags with pockets, pockets with smaller secret pockets tucked inside. It’s a delightful feeling when someone compliments something I’m wearing, and I can giddily reply, “Thanks, it has pockets!” One of my favorite bits of my debut novel, Wendy, Darling, is that if someone happens to say they like the book, I can do the same. It does indeed have pockets!
To my mind, pockets represent a kind of freedom. The ability to carry money, keys, and essential items on your person without having to rely on anyone else is pretty useful. For Wendy Darling, pockets are a vital part of her life. There’s a particular line in the novel that I’m quite fond of that sums it up nicely: Here, in the outside world, pockets are a convenience, a luxury; in the asylum, they were a necessity.
Following her time in Neverland as a child, Wendy is put away in an asylum “for her own good.” She is repeatedly told that her memories are wrong, that she cannot trust her own mind, or that she is simply a liar. She is told that her freedom depends on accepting someone else’s truth, and letting others define her.
During her time in the asylum, Wendy befriends a young woman named Mary who teaches her how to sew quick, hidden pockets into her clothing, using stitches that can easily be picked out so they won’t be discovered. Wendy uses these pockets to steal and hide small, unimportant things as a way of taking revenge on the nurses and attendants and reasserting control over her life. Occasionally, she even uses her pockets to steal things that help her and Mary gain a few moments of freedom.
Outside of the asylum, Wendy continues to sew pockets into her clothing, which allows her to carry everything she needs when she returns to Neverland to rescue her daughter from Peter’s clutches.
I liked the idea of having a domestic skill, one often labeled as “women’s work” and therefore dismissed as unimportant, being key to Wendy’s character, and key in her reckoning with Peter Pan. When Wendy first meets Peter as a child, one of the first things he demands of her is that she sew his shadow back on after he loses it. As an adult, Wendy reclaims the skill of sewing for herself, and uses it for her own ends, rather than in service to Peter as a stand-in mother to him and the Lost Boys.
There are different modes of strength, and different ways of fighting back against the injustices of the world. Being a hero doesn’t always mean picking up a sword, or punching your problems in the face, though those methods have their place too. In the case of Wendy, Darling, strength is a needle and thread, holding onto your truth, and not letting anyone define your world for you. It is the ability to sew pockets into every piece of your clothing, and fill them with everything you need to save yourself and those you love.
A.C. Wise is the author of two collections published by Lethe Press, and a novella published by Broken Eye Books. She has won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, as well as being a two-time Sunburst finalist, a two-time Nebula finalist, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. A new collection, The Ghost Sequences, will be published by Undertow in October 2021. Wendy, Darling is her debut novel. In addition to her fiction, she contributes review columns to Apex Magazine and The Book Smugglers