The Big Idea: A. C. Wise
Are the bad guys inherently bad, or did they choose to be bad? Author A. C. Wise takes us into the mind of one of literature’s most famous villains in her new novel, Hooked, in order to shed some light on this question.
A. C. WISE:
Part of me wants to be a little bit cheeky and quote the tagline of my favorite computer game of all time, Planescape:Torment, and say the big idea at the center of Hooked is “What can change the nature of a man?” That’s certainly part of it, but there are other questions that follow from that one as well: How easy is it to change the nature of a man? Does true change always come from within? At the end of the day, all these questions feed into one big question that James (aka Captain Hook) must answer for himself over the course of the novel: Who am I, and who do I want to be?
Hooked is a companion novel to Wendy, Darling, which was published by Titan Books in June 2021. While the two can be read as standalone titles, they do inform each other, and they explore many similar themes as well. Wendy has a very strong sense of who she is, and much of her story is about holding onto her truth and fighting for the right to define herself rather than fitting herself into someone else’s definition of who she ought to be. James, on the other hand, is a bit more lost.
Is he only a villain because Peter Pan cast him as one? Or is there something fundamentally wicked in him that Pan simply brought to the surface? Given the opportunity, can he become something other than a villain? And does he even want to, or is it easier to play the role Pan designed for him? After all, a vicious, sneering, larger-than-life pirate captain never has to be vulnerable or afraid if all there is to him is being the baddie in someone else’s story. However, if James allows himself to be introspective and question his own nature, he opens himself up to all the messiness that comes with being human, including loss and heartache.
Both Wendy and James as characters have been shaped by their experiences in Neverland and their encounters with Peter Pan. They are both recovering from trauma, and each has different means of coping. Their strategies aren’t always perfect. Frequently they are messy and result in the people around them getting hurt, either intentionally or unintentionally. But in their way, they are both trying to seize control of their own identities and lives.
To what degree does my past shape me? Can I make it part of who I am without letting it wholly dictate my future? These questions of identity echo across both books. Who am I? Who was I? Who will I choose to be? They are indeed big ideas and big questions and it was fun letting a character who has often been reduced to a one-dimensional foil to Peter Pan explore them in Hooked.