I always thought Captain Hook was a lot more fun than Peter Pan, who just seemed like a cocky little boy with an attitude. But when I went back and re-encountered Peter Pan as an adult, I started to realize how horrible it must be for Hook, a grown man, to be stuck forever in this world of perpetual childhood, run by 11-year-old boys. That would be my vision of Hell! So I began to ponder the plight of Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in pointless war games that never end.
What, I wondered, had his life been like before the Neverland—as a child, a young blood about town, a gentleman privateer, a pirate? What on earth had he ever done to deserve this fate, designated nightmare to generations of storybook-reading children?
Long before I ever had a particular story in mind, I was writing dozens of scenes about the Neverland from Hook’s perspective—which, as you can imagine, is very different from Peter Pan’s. Turns out Hook had very strong, caustic opinions about the Neverland and its inhabitants: the Indian tribes, the diabolical fairies, the sinister mermaids. And, of course, The Boy.
The original Peter Pan story ends with Hook falling overboard and getting eaten by the crocodile, while all the children cheer. I thought this was a terrible ending for a character with so much potential. Suppose he didn’t die? Suppose he was cursed to live forever, fighting bloody battles against the boys over and over again?
And then I started to wonder: what if he had one last chance to get out?
I realized I would need a new plot, not the same old story about the Darling children and Tinkerbell. I wanted my story to be James Hook’s journey out of the fear and rage that have ruled his life for so long in the Neverland. For that to happen, I needed a catalyst, a new character J. M. Barrie never thought of.
The best way to shake things up would be to introduce into the little boys’ club of the Neverland that most feared, mistrusted, and unexpected of creatures—a grown-up woman. Someone wise and forgiving enough to see the good in Hook as no one else ever had, but also open-hearted enough to appreciate the wondrous magical forces at work in the Neverland, forces that Hook has always thought were his enemies. Someone who could be a bridge between the two.
So my plot revolves around the new character I invented, Stella Parrish, a grown woman who dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of the boy’s rules against “ladies.” In James Hook, she sees someone far more complex and sympathetic than the usual storybook villain. With her help, he dares to cooperate with his “enemies,” and risk everything for love, and for the chance to finally earn his release. To finally become the hero of his own story.