Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Real Alice in Wonderland

The Real Alice in Wonderland is a large, coffee-table style book filled with interesting facts about Alice Liddell, the young girl who inspired the classic story, Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. Not many people know the story was inspired by a real person, and that is one of the reasons Cathy Rubin and her daughter, Gabriella Rubin decided to create this book.

Cathy recently agreed to an interview on the making of the book. "I’d like to thank you Maryann for giving me the opportunity to share our 'making of the book' story with you."

Q. What prompted you to undertake a project like this?

A. My daughter’s school selected Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for Book Day, and Gabriella begged me to collaborate with her and tell the kids the story behind the story. It would be three years before a one-hour classroom PowerPoint presentation evolved into a finished book.

Q. What was it like working with your daughter? How did you break up writing tasks?

A. There was never any set rules about how to break up the research or even the writing tasks. We had a treatment for sure, but then we naturally discovered different parts of the story that interested us. And then there’s fate. For example when my daughter had the opportunity to explore Christ Church Oxford (Alice’s childhood home) with her theater group at the invitation of the Dean’s office, it made sense for that part of the project to become hers. Similarly, when my family helped me make a connection to the village of Lyndhurst, where Alice lived during her married life, I took ownership of that part of the story. Writing a book with my daughter was one of the most memorable experiences of my life as well as one of the most challenging learning curves for me as a mother and author.

Q. Why did you decide to self-publish?  Did you show the idea to a major publisher before going this route?

A. There were two traditional publishers who showed some interest in the manuscript. However, neither could produce the book in time for the release of the Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland film. We felt it was very important for the book to be released at the same time as the movie. Ultimately, we had no choice but to self-publish. AuthorHouse did a great job handling the essential printing and distribution tasks for us, and more importantly, got the book out in time. Self publishing today is very different to how it has been portrayed in the past. My husband and I have worked in senior executive positions in various publishing businesses for over 20 years, and we found that AuthorHouse had experienced and professional managers in all the key functions who executed the principal tasks at a high level of excellence.

Q. Did you use a professional editor?

A. I always work with professional editors – I’ve been known to work with more than one on many of my projects. Writing is so subjective. No one has all the right answers – subsequently it’s important to get as many perspectives as you can. We give the credit for the final cut to my husband, Harry Rubin. As you know, the vision for our book was very different to your traditional non-fiction books. We needed to share the voices and perspectives of many people from Alice’s lifetime right through the ages to today. We believed the Victoriana ‘scrapbook’ creative approach lent itself to our project. Because of the multi media content we needed an editor who had experience in a diverse range of media businesses – my husband, Harry, fit the bill.

Q. Was it difficult to get permissions to use copies of photographs and original artwork from some of the original Alice books?

A. Yes and No. I think people knew what a labor of love our book was. They also sensed The Real Alice In Wonderland was going to be an important book – a collector’s item --and so they wanted to be a part of it. Plus, I also think they liked the fact that we were connected to the original Alice. (They are related to the Liddell family.) What was more difficult was dealing with the burden of responsibility we felt about the art entrusted in our care. We wanted everything to be perfect and I’m sure that drove a lot of people crazy during the process. We feel blessed to have been able to work with our talented designer, Deborah Frano. Additionally, permission to use Nancy Rosin’s Victorian Treasury really helped us to realize our vision.

The authors did extensive research to chronicle Alice Liddell's life from childhood until she died in 1934; her friendship with Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), her marriage, the birth of her three sons, and the deaths of two of them in WWI. There is also a wealth of facts about life in England, the various "Alice" books and the phenomenon the characters and stories became.

As an interesting side-note, the producers of the Harry Potter movies were inspired by Christ Church Oxford as a location and it was there that many of the famous Hogwarts scenes were filmed, including Hogwarth's Dining Hall and the grand staircase leading up to the Great Hall. When people visit Christ Church Oxford today there are two tours - the Harry Potter tour and the Alice In Wonderland tour.

Buy the book by clicking here.

Posted by Maryann Miller, who has been on both sides of the editing table and appreciates a good editor. Visit Maryann's Web site for information about her editing services and her books. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play farmer on her little ranch in East Texas.

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  1. I think this book looks stunning and I'm really keen to get hold of a copy. Thanks for doing this interview Maryann.

    Word 4 Writers on HearWriteNow
    Blood-Red Pencil

  2. The pictures are wonderful, Elle, and it was interesting to find out about the woman who inspired the story.

  3. Very interesting interview, Maryann. Thanks. It sounds like a great book and I can see why she wanted it to coincide with the movie.

    Straight From Hel

  4. What a job it must have been - and a great resource for "Alice" fans, too.

  5. Always fun to see what inspires books. Beautiful!

    Morgan Mandel

  6. I've heard a little about the relationship between author and Alice, I think it was a T.V. movie and you know they always embellish the truth. This book will be fun to own and read.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  7. This is Hannah Bevills, Editor for which is a social network made specifically for Christians, by Christians, to directly fulfill Christian's needs. We embarked on this endeavor to offer the ENTIRE christian community an outlet to join together as one (no matter denomination) and better spread the good word of Christianity. has many great features aside from the obvious like christian TV, prayer request or even find a church/receive advice. We have emailed you because we have interest in collaborating with you and your blog to help us spread the good word. I look forward to an email regarding the matter, Thanks!

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    |Hannah Bevills||


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