In The Search for WondLa, readers were introduced to 12-year-old Eva Nine, a girl who was raised by a robot and had never met another human being. That is, until she meets a boy named Hailey. Now her search for other humans continues in A Hero for WondLa. It’s the second book in best-selling author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi’s WondLa trilogy. When the story begins, Hailey is taking Eva and her alien friends to the human city of New Attica. But Eva soon learns that there is more to the city than meets the eye.
Recently, TFK sat down with DiTerlizzi, who is also known for co-authoring the popular Spiderwick Chronicles series, in San Jose, California. Read on to learn how WondLa came to be.
What inspired you to write the WondLa series?
A couple of things, actually. I was [captivated by] books that I loved as a kid—classics like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan and Wendy. All three of those books feature female protagonists who go off into this wild Neverland or Wonderland and learn what a family is. I liked that idea and wanted to do something like that, but more for the 21st century.
Had you originally planned to write a trilogy?
It was always a trilogy. I had mapped out the big chunks of what was going to happen. The interesting thing is that a lot of books start out with the character as an orphan. If you know anyone who has lost his or her parents, especially as a kid, it’s really intense. I decided to make the first book about Eva becoming an orphan. When I first was mapping out the story, I had the robot, Muthr, perish when Besteel lays siege on the Sanctuary [in Book 1]. But then I thought, “That seems kind of convenient. What if I changed it?” So, I had Muthr come along [on the journey]. Eva learns what a family is and that it’s not bound necessarily by flesh and blood.
In A Hero for WondLa, Eva is in for a big shock when she reaches New Attica. This shock seems to trigger a change in her. How would you describe this change?
This whole book is about change and adaptation. There are milestones in the book where Eva changes. She’s such an independent and compassionate girl. She learns that not everybody operates the same way, and that she has to make decisions on her own.
How were you able to come up with such unique creatures for the book?
Nature. I loved nature as a kid. I was always fascinated by the endless designs in nature. The character Otto was inspired by a real creature known as the water bear, which is microscopic. I sketched Rovender a couple of times. His extremities are very heavy. His feet and hands are big, but his forearms are skinny, and his neck is really skinny. It’s almost like he’s being pulled like taffy. That’s really symbolic. He’s very pulled; he’s very torn.
What was the inspiration for the names of your characters?
Eva’s name is an acronym, along with Muthr’s. Rovender’s name is a compound name: Rove and Wanderer. Cadmus was a general. Hailey is after Halley’s Comet. His name originally was a Hawaiian word for “retrieve,” but I was afraid it would be mispronounced, so I changed it to Hailey.
What was the most challenging part of writing the sequel to A Search for WondLa?
The sequel has to be better. It has to function as its own story, but also glue the beginning and the ending books. I wanted it to reflect the change in Eva
How does it feel to be both the author and the illustrator for these books?
It’s tiring. [Laughs] As a young reader, there were books that I wished were illustrated more, and I had problems with word comprehension. Today, I would probably be labeled as a reluctant reader. There are just some kids who don’t like to read as much. Or, they pick up a book, and because they don’t know what it’s about, they put it back. It’s tough because everything now is so visual. The books have to bring it, and there need to be more visuals in books.
Can you give TIME For Kids readers a hint on what’s going to happen next in the series?
It will end. [Laughs] Not everyone makes it.
What does it feel like to have a 3-D interactive game related to your series?
It’s really cool. I will do anything if it gets someone to pick up a book. There’s a point when you go to the library and you’re picking up a book because you have to, and then there’s a point when you pick up a book because you want to.
Do you think that working on the Spiderwick Chronicles series has helped you as both an author and illustrator?
Absolutely. I learned a lot by working with Holly [Black]. The biggest thing I took away from that is because we put so much illustration into those, it laid the groundwork for the illustrations for WondLa.
How did you feel when the Spiderwick Chronicles was adapted into a movie? Do you feel it did justice to the series?
Super excited. They did a great job. I got to consult with the screenwriters. I love what they did with the film.
Do you hope the WondLa trilogy will be adapted into a movie?
The screenplay’s done! We’re looking for a director right now.