Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time is one of the most beloved children's books out there. The editor and illustrator of A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel, Margaret Ferguson and Hope Larson, shared their thoughts on adapting the classic and its enduring message.
Margaret: I have a confession to make.
Hope: What’s that?
Margaret: I didn’t read A Wrinkle in Time until I was an adult and got my job at FSG. My childhood favorites were the Little House on the Prairie books. I always wanted to be a pioneer girl and loved how the family lived off the land. What do you think it is about Wrinkle that made it your childhood favorite?
Hope: Most of the books I read as a kid were based in what I thought of as "olden times"–A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Black Beauty–or else were high fantasy, like The Black Cauldron, The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia. Wrinkle felt very fresh and different, starting out in the real world and then going on a quest across the universe.
Margaret: I think those of us that our bookish have always felt that books are our friends. Even now, I re-read the Wilder books when I need to be reminded of a simpler life. Before the adaptation, did you re-read Wrinkle on a regular basis?
Hope: Yeah, it's one I came back to over and over, along with the rest of the Time Quartet. Until I left for college, if I was stressed out, or if I had a nightmare, I would go downstairs and raid the bookshelf for one of my childhood favorites and read it until I fell back asleep.
Margaret: Were there any surprises when you-re-read it to prepare for the adaptation—something you had to think about in a different way as you tried to visualize how you were going to translate words into art?
Hope: The mental images I had of the main characters were way off. My theory is that this has to do with the book covers. I tried to stay as true as possible to the descriptions that are actually in the book.
Margaret: Are there any other books that you return to year after year that you first read as a child?
Hope: I don't do much rereading anymore because there's so much new stuff for me to read. There's a huge pile on my nightstand that never goes away, and because so many of my friends are writers and cartoonists and screenwriters, there's always a manuscript waiting in my inbox, too. I've been meaning to reread Wait Till Helen Comes and Matilda.
Margaret: I remember being so impressed when I first read your script for the adaptation and then thinking, but it is too long—not as in wordy, but as in the number of pages would make for an expensive production cost. But as we tried to cut scenes, we soon realized that it was like a house of cards—and that the most important thing was to try and stay as true to the original as possible. How could we disappoint so many fans? I know this made more work for you, but in the end are you glad that this is the decision we made? If so, why?
Hope: I'm so relieved we were able to make such a long book. My concern was never making more work for myself, but doing the story justice. It is like a house of cards–so delicate, most of it resting on L'Engle's dialogue. I didn't want to end up with an adaptation that felt truncated, or relied heavily on caption boxes to get you from point A to point B in the most economical way. There's no way to tesser through A Wrinkle in Time. If you take shortcuts in a book like this, you damage it.
Margaret: I never told you this, but at one meeting in the office everyone thought I looked like Meg which is, of course, quite flattering given our age differences. Did you model the character after someone you know? (I know it can’t be me not just because of the age gap but because you started character sketches before we first met.)
Hope: That's awesome! And no, I didn't. If anything (and this is going to sound totally narcissistic) she's modeled on me. One of those weird things about being a cartoonist, and this happens to most of us, is you draw everyone looking like you. Even it's not intentional. I think it has to do with your own face being the one you see the most; your face becomes the template you start from. I actually look a lot more like Meg now than I did when I started drawing the book–I have a bob with bangs, I have big nerd glasses. It's kind of embarrassing.