What Is It Like to Write An OUAT Novel? – An Exclusive Interview with Wendy Toliver

There has been precious little added to the canon of the show Once Upon A Time outside of what you see on your television screens every Sunday night.  Scant nuggets of new information about the characters have been available, which has been a driving force of the show.  Watching each week not only to see the plot advance but to find out more about these heroes and villains we’ve come to love and become invested in is part of the fun.  So when fans get a whole extra slice of information cake in a book like Red’s Untold Tale it is indeed a treat.  But we have an extra special treat – an interview with author Wendy Toliver who was tapped to do this novel.  She shares her insights into writing this fun and revealing book.

Wendy's newest novel - Red's Untold Tale
Wendy’s newest novel – Red’s Untold Tale

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Wendy! I think nearly every fan of the show is jealous of you right now. It must have been a thrill to get asked to do this novel. How did that happen?

My pleasure! I’m not exactly sure what went on behind-the-scenes to make this novel happen, but I came into the plan when my literary agent asked if I’m a fan of “Once Upon a Time,” and I said YES! She then asked if I’d like her to put my name in the hat for the opportunity to write a tie-in novel about Red, and again I said YES! I went back and re-watched every episode, took notes, and started brainstorming ideas about what Red would’ve been like in her younger years. Many emails went between myself and a wonderful group of people from ABC, Disney, and OUAT. I didn’t hear anything for a long time, so I was delighted when I was invited to do a conference call with them. Delighted and nervous, because by this point I’d put a lot of time and hope into the project, and I wanted to prove to them that I was the right person for the job. When I finally got the news that I’d been chosen, I could hardly believe it. I realize that many people would have liked to have been the one to write this book, and I am honored to have been given this opportunity.

Author Wendy Toliver shares her thoughts on writing this newest addition to the OUAT canon
Author Wendy Toliver shares her thoughts on writing this newest addition to the OUAT canon

Are you a fan of the show? If so, were you already familiar with Red’s story? Red has been missing from the show for quite a while, but she seems to be a fan favorite. Why do you think Red has such a following?

I love OUAT. I love how creative it is, and how all the characters tie together in the most unexpected of ways. I also think the actors are very talented, and the costumes are exquisite.

And oh, yes, I was very familiar with Red’s story. It’s one of the most imaginative and shocking of the whole show, don’t you think? In my opinion, Red is a favorite (and was sorely missed when she was gone) for many reasons. She’s an intriguing mix of sweet and rebellious. She’s a good friend. For all intents and purposes, she’s an orphan living with her overbearing granny. All of these traits make us care about her. And when her Big Secret (I don’t want to spoil it for anyone reading this who doesn’t yet know) is revealed and the Horrible Incident happens, fans can’t help but sink into the depths of anguish alongside her. Red is a beautiful, flawed, emotional, and multi-faceted character, and I’m glad the OUAT folks decided that she needed her very own novel.

I imagine you must have had the opportunity to talk to the creators about Red’s background. Were there limitations about what you could and could not write about?

I wrote an outline, which was checked and approved. If I needed any fact-checking, I always had someone to ask. My editor was readily available to make sure everything meshed with OUAT. Overall, I was given a great deal of creative freedom, and the project was an absolute pleasure to work on.

What was the most exciting part about adding to the legacy of this show? What was your favorite contribution to Red’s story? Who was your favorite character in the book to write?

The most exciting part so far has been the flood of love from the OUAT fans, even those who confessed they never read but HAD to read this book.

My favorite part of the book is the relationship between Peter and Red and how it ties into the series. I’m a romantic myself, and I hoped that showing their budding relationship would make what happens between them in the 15th episode (“Red Handed”) even more tragic and heartbreaking.

To be honest, I love (or love to hate) all of the characters in RED’S UNTOLD TALE! But if I had to choose one, it would have to be Knubbin, the wizard who’d put a spell on Red’s riding hood, and previously, her mother’s golden cross pendant. He was a really quirky and interesting character to write.

The end of the book left some questions unanswered like what’s Red’s real name and what happened to her father. It also left open the possibility of a sequel. Will those unanswered questions be answered in an upcoming novel and would you want to write that novel?

You’re right; there are definitely questions that can still be answered, mysteries to be solved, relationships to be explored, and even a quest to embark upon. It is my personal wish that I will get to write a sequel for RED’S UNTOLD TALE.

You’ve had a really interesting variety of jobs prior to becoming a professional writer – Marilyn Monroe singing telegrams, bagging groceries at Safeway, and perhaps my favorite – being Funshine Bear. Which of your previous jobs prepared you the most for what you’re doing now?

Of the jobs you’ve listed, I would say that being a singing telegram prepared me the most. It was my job to come up with a performance to entertain people on their birthdays. Even if they were embarrassed and wanted to strangle whichever of their friends had hired me, it was up to me to bring them into the world I was creating for them. I wanted them to believe that the iconic bombshell was there in their home or workplace to make their special day unforgettable.

The same goes for writing. As an author, I’m inviting readers to leave their everyday lives and enter a new world—and I hope it’s a place where the adventures, characters, and emotions they experience will spark their imaginations and live in their memories for a long, long time.

For other busy professionals, what would you say is the key to balancing home life and your writing life? Is it ever difficult to balance the two?

Goodness, yes! Thankfully, my family and friends are very supportive of my career. Whenever I’m on deadline, my mom comes out and takes care of us, from driving my boys to their sports to making sure I eat something every few hours. My dear husband makes me come to bed every night, even if for a few hours. When I’m not on deadline, I still try to write every day, and I also make it a point to spend quality time with my family, friends, and community.

Okay, a few fun questions to round out our time together:

If you could write about any other character on Once Upon A Time who would you choose?

Whoa, that’s a tough question! I’m fascinated with new arrival Merida, and I’m ecstatic for Mulan’s return. Those would be my choices of the moment.

When you’re writing, do you have a drink of choice? A favorite snack? A particular thing you like to do to get your brain flowing?

I’m pretty typical when it comes to snacking. I enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, Diet Coke in the afternoon, and I reward myself with a glass of red wine in the evening. Chocolate and almonds are good any time of day. To get my creative juices flowing, I enjoy hiking, yoga, and dancing around the house and in the car.

Which Denver Bronco is your all time favorite? I have to admit to being partial to Terrell Davis myself, but it’s hard not to like John Elway.

Terrell Davis and Elway are awesome, no doubt! As for me, I would have to say my all-time favorite is Emmanuel Sanders. It’s kind of embarrassing how much I like him. I hope he stays with the Broncos for a long time.

Thank you again so much for doing this interview, Wendy. It’s really been a pleasure for me to have this opportunity.

The pleasure was all mine. ::smiley face::

You can follow Wendy on her website, Twitter, and a whole host of other social media sites and see what else she is up to.

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