Straight On Till Morning: Interview with Disney Twisted Tales author Liz Braswell

This week has been filled with a whole lot of faith, trust and pixie dust.

On February 5, Disney’s animated film Peter Pan celebrated its 67th anniversary. Released in 1953 and based on the play by J.M. Barrie, the film was allegedly the final animated feature in which all nine members of Disney’s Nine Old Men worked together as directing animators. Its legacy includes books, video games, board games, a musical, a sequel and a live-action adaptation. Over six decades and multiple media; that is a lot of trips to Never Land. We just really love it there.

Powerhouse author and former video-game producer Liz Braswell loves it there too.

Released on February 4, Straight On Till Morning: A Twisted Tale, written by Braswell and published by Disney-Hyperion, is a Wendy-driven exploration into Never Land and beyond. The main character of Peter Pan may be Peter himself, but the story is largely told from Wendy’s point of view and, according to Braswell, Wendy deserves to tell it in her own way.

More than just disgruntled pirates and daring sword fights, Straight On Till Morning effectively captures childhood whimsy and “the adult version of dreaming” while encouraging readers to consider what Never Land might mean to them. Not forgetting, of course, mermaids with sharp teeth, shadows with their own agenda, and a desperate search for Peter Pan also await. This is one late night flight you are not going to want to miss. 

Animal costumes, getting inside Peter Pan’s head and a writer’s need for desk toys to ward off madness, are but a few of the topics I covered with Liz Braswell in our chat this week. Go on, think a happy thought and check out the interview below!

Liz, thanks for chatting with us at The Disney Blog. 

Thanks for having me!

You have had an adventurous career! From majoring in Egyptology at Brown University to spending a decade in producing video games; to writing novels and teaming up with Disney Publishing, tell us a bit about how you got to this point in your career and what you have learned along the way.

I have always written. Always—from the time I could write words I wrote stories. Throughout everything I’ve done in my life I have written; my thesis in college was a (very dry) historical fiction, my first stories were published while I produced video games.

What have I learned? Let’s see: writing is a skill that needs to be practiced; you can’t just wait for your muse to appear.  Be polite, professional, and generous. No, for real. Opportunities sometimes open up just because you weren’t a jerk. Most importantly, desk toys are a must.  Otherwise madness ensues.

Have you always been a Disney fan?

YES. Yes? Yes! As a child I really wanted to be a Disney animator and read all the available books on the art of Disney and how my favorite movies were made. The fact that I couldn’t draw did not dampen my dreams at all. I was in college when Beauty and the Beast came out and it premiered at RISD (across the hill from Brown) and I got to go!! Hey, want to see some really terrible pictures of Snow White from when I was nine?

Yes! We hope you will share them on your social media so we can check them out!

You are the talented author of many Twisted Tales, including A Whole New World, Once Upon a Dream, As Old as Time, Part of Your World, and now, Straight On Till Morning. How did you come to write these Twisted Tales in particular? Did you choose the Disney classic on which your story was to be based or was each one assigned to you?

I, and my brilliant editor Brittany, discuss which movies would be the right fit for Twisted Tales.  We don’t always agree, but usually we come to terms. Especially when they’re movies she loves (kidding). But there are so many stories, and so many other interesting voices to tell them! 

What do you consider to be the most appropriate description for your Twisted Tales? Do you think of them as new versions of Disney stories; adaptations, remakes or something else? How do you describe them?

‘Twisted’ sometimes gives people the wrong idea. They’re more like ‘what if’ stories, really; what if x happened instead of y.  It’s a big universe to play around in. Disney’s movies have become part of the collective mythology of the world. And of course there are many versions of myths…

Your stories pay homage to the classic Disney tales we know and love while simultaneously writing old characters into new adventures, as well as introducing us to new characters. How do you strike the balance between “out with the old and in with the new”?

No lie, it’s super, super hard. A tightrope. I try to keep the spirit of the movie in my head while altering it.

You use all the tools given to you by Disney’s Peter Pan – from the infamous “Codfish” nickname Peter so graciously gives to Captain Hook, right down to the piano in Hook’s quarters – and embellish it in an intelligent, thoughtful, mature and inviting way. What are some of your favorite tidbits from Peter Pan that you chose to include as part of the story you wanted to tell in Straight on Till Morning and why?

The animal costumes the Lost Boys wore…I sort of adulted them a bit, made them more shabby chic with nods to the animals they identified with. Also I added a bilby, because they were endangered even before the wildfires. And the mermaids. I love evil mermaids! They were fun to tweak a little: still naughty, but now with sharp teeth.

Was it important for you to maintain the same “feel” of the classic Disney characters, and if so, why?

It’s important that they feel exactly the same as the classic movie characters at the beginning of the story; from there it’s then easier to explore more complex and nuanced feelings and thoughts that are still true to the characters but illustrate growth in an organic way.

Wanderlust Wendy becomes quite the explorer in this story. She expressly notes at one point that all the stories she reads are about boys and men and that there are a few, rare female explorers. This seems to poke right at the heart of one of your objectives in writing Straight On Till Morning – it is a female-led exploration story. That is just awesome. Did you have this objective from the outset or was it something that manifested as your story unfolded?

Oh it was there from the outset. As a girl who grew up reading science fiction and fantasy in the 70s and 80s I have a *lot* of thoughts on women adventurers. It was also very important to show another relationship between Wendy and Tinker Bell; that they were actually quite well set up to become friends if only they had met in other circumstances.

Our interview with Straight on Till Morning author Liz Braswell continues on page two

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