Monday, March 24, 2014

Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Look at Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes + Giveaway! (US only)

Queen of Hearts: The Crown
Colleen Oakes

A Father’s Betrayal.

A Kingdom with a Dark Secret.

A Princess Unraveling.

For Dinah, Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, days at the palace are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, The King of Hearts. Her only relief are her visits with her childhood best friend Wardley, the future Knave of Hearts—and her heart’s greatest desire.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to burn. As her coronation date approaches, a series of bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs within the halls of Wonderland. Driven by her furious nature, Dinah must unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the palace before she quite literally loses her head in a game of treachery against a clever and faceless foe.

Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, readers will delight in familiar characters such as Cheshire, The White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter in Volume One of this new, dark take on Lewis Carroll’s classic story.

But readers be warned... not every fairytale has a happy ending.

For this is the story of the Princess who became a villain.
Buy the book from: Amazon

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at how Queen of Hearts Came About

The Idea Behind Queen
I was driving to meet a friend at the mall (honestly, I only go there like once a year, just so this doesn't sound ridiculous) and the idea just popped into my head. I had been thinking about Alice in Wonderland, and the Queen, and the thought that started it all was "Why is the Queen of Hearts so angry all the time?"  I had wanted to venture into fantasy and a more serious story than the Elly in Bloom series was giving me, and once the idea hit I couldn't stop thinking about it.  By the time I made it to California Pizza Kitchen, I had already figured out the characters. I grabbed a napkin and began mapping out a plot.  Later, when I actually started researching, I stumbled across a quote from Lewis Carroll describing The Queen as "an embodiment of blind fury". At that moment, I knew I would write it and when I did, it would be an epic story of love denied.

Adapting the Characters
I knew right away that the talking animals of Wonderland were not going to make an appearance in my Wonderland. They work so beautifully in Carroll’s Wonderland, and I knew there was no way to top that. I wanted my Wonderland to be whimsical, but also very dark, which mirrors a lot of the underlying viciousness in Carroll’s world. Instead, I took those characters traits and turned them into realistic people: The white rabbit became Harris, Dinah’s tutor and guardian, a portly man who is constantly saying “We’re late! We’re late!” and pointing to his watch. Cheshire became the King of Heart’s advisor and councilor, a man so devious that as the reader we aren’t exactly sure of his motives – but we know he’s a clever and dangerous fellow. There are other characters in Volume One that the reader will love discovering: The Mad Hatter and Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum also make their appearance in this book.

Creating a Believable Villain
My lead protagonist, Dinah, is a spoiled princess when the book begins. Her Father, the terrible King of Hearts, is verbally and sometimes physically abusive. For Dinah, I wanted to explore how a girl born of royalty became a villain so famous for her anger. What seeds were planted within her that could grew into such a bloodthirsty character? And who wouldn’t want to witness that transformation? We are going to see a girl being very, very bad and very, very heroic.  I think that prism of her emotions will attract readers who are looking for a little bit more dimension in their female characters. I am excited to see how readers will feel about Dinah in the end. I have a feeling it will be quite divisive.

The Whimsical World of Wonderland
I needed Wonderland to be fantastical, brutal and believable. For inspiration, I looked to George R.R Martin. Westeros is a terrifyingly real place even though it possesses dragons and magic. There is magic in Wonderland, but it’s subtle; pink snow falls from the sky, and the stars move every night to a new location. Beheadings are a normal thing in Wonderland, as are terrifying carnivorous horses and fruit that buzzes. We will get a broader look at the wild Wonderland in the second book, and I can tell you that it was very fun to let me imagination run wild. And yes, we will see mushrooms. Just you wait.

My Imagination Casting Couch
I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to this! From the moment I wrote the first lines of Queen of Hearts, Mae Whitman was my Dinah. She is currently playing Amber in Parenthood. Mae is both darkly striking and talented, and it was easy to imagine her slowly turning into an anger tsunami. I could see Wardley being played by either Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Aaron Tveit (who I loved in Les Mis), and Cheshire – well, would getting Tom Hiddleston be too much to ask?

About the Author

Colleen Oakes is the author of the Elly in Bloom series and the new YA fantasy Queen of Hearts Saga, both published via Sparkpress.

She lives in North Denver with her husband and son. When not writing, Colleen enjoys swimming, traveling, and immersing herself in nerdy pop culture.

She is currently at work on the last Elly novel and another YA fantasy series called Wendy Darling.


Books à la Mode is giving away two finished print copies of Queen of Hearts—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What side character from classic children’s literature would you love to see have their own book?

Don't forget to include your email address or Twitter username in your comment so I know who to contact when I choose a winner. Don't make me track you down!!!! No email = No entry!
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Colleen and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publicist—a huge thank you to SparkPoint Studio!
Giveaway ends April 7th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only—sorry, international readers! Check out my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!