Interview on the ‘Shakespeare Now!’ Trilogy by Sally Odgers
From Sally Odger’s blog spot: PROMOTE ME PLEASE
Shakespeare Now! by Goldie Alexander
Today we have the fabulous Goldie Alexander on board to answer some curly questions about her brand new venture SHAKESPEARE NOW!
Q.1. Shakespeare Now! is a fascinating concept. How did you first come up with the idea?
In a previous life, I taught these plays to secondary school students and spent most of my time ‘in translation’. There have been countless previous versions both on stage and in film. Novels by well-known writers have appeared in the last few years. I wanted to show how contemporary these characters and plots still are to younger readers and place them in recognisable settings. Five Senses Publications were keen on the idea so I spent the last three years hard at work.
Q.2. Some people think of Shakespeare as Literature with a capital L. In my opinion, he was really a writer of popular fiction. Can we have your take on this?
Definitely, a writer of popular fiction picking up on attitudes, themes and language of his day. But if attitudes and themes don’t change, language does, and that’s why some people have problems. Of course his poetry is timeless, and we can’t hope to emulate that in any way.
Q.3. Shakespeare’s plays play with universal themes. What drew you to the three plays you chose to modernise?
I changed the magical island in ‘The Tempest’ to The Trytth Chronicles’ because science fiction is popular with young readers. The themes of betrayal, alienation, and good versus evil, are universal.
‘Macbeth’ became ‘Gap Year Nanny’ set in suburban Melbourne. The themes of hubris, ambition, and narcissus-ism are relevant to our local politics and business magnates. But these days you don’t have to kill rivals to ruin them. Running alongside Stuart Macbeth’s story, I also followed Merri, the Macbeth’s ‘gap year nanny’, growing maturity.
‘Romeo and Juliet’ turned into the time-warp ‘Changing History?’ Note the question mark. Is altering history ever possible? When Taylor finds herself transported from Melbourne 2017 to 1928 Berlin she is protected by Jewish Rom and gentile Juliet, a couple who adore each other but both families forbid them to marry. This story was influenced by the discovery of an old building in Mitte Berlin once known as ‘The Hummingbird Theatre and Restaurant’. This way I could use my love of history and point to some of the events that led to Hitler’s rise in power, the Holocaust and WW2.
Q.4. Who is your favourite character in Shakespeare Now! and why?
Don’t have one. I love all my characters, including the bad ones like Caliban and Stuart Macbeth, even Lorna Macbeth and she is pretty horrible. If I didn’t, I couldn’t write about them.
Q.5. Suppose you, as a reader, have just read Shakespeare Now! and are writing a review of one of the books. What would you say in that review?
‘A brave attempt to make Shakespeare relevant to both young readers and adults using past, present and future settings and recognisable characters.’
- 6. How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations?
Far more than I have ever been. These covers were illustrated by the extraordinarily gifted Paul Taplin. When a friend hinted that these covers were ‘too different from the usual,’ I replied ‘Exactly!’ Otherwise I am dependent on my publishers for outlay and design. I wouldn’t be any good at those.
Q 7. What’s the best aspect of your writing life?
The process of creation and finally ending up with something that might work after a million re-edits. Though the process can be unbelievably frustrating, I wouldn’t spend my life any other way (except maybe as a film critic?)
- 8. —the worst?
That blank screen. And rejection letters. Even the most experienced writers get those, though they usually remain quiet about receiving them. But I always mention this to ‘newies’ as I think it motivates them to keep writing. I also run Writing Memoir workshops for seniors. Watching their delight at something they have written gives me enormous pleasure.
- 9.What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author?
I was told but didn’t really believe it. That writing can be heartbreaking and I soon found that it certainly can be. I discovered that I needed an alligator’s skin to take the knocks and rebounds and a soft heart to empathise with other people and characters enough to write about them.
Q.10.What’s the best advice you were ever given?
Edit, edit, edit and re edit. LIVE a little and READ!!! I read about 100 books a year and still that’s not enough. Lots of young writers write thinly disguised semi autobiography, and then get stuck. It’s never the first book that counts, rather the second!
Q.11 What’s your top tip for aspiring authors?
One word: PERSEVERANCE. And try and write every day, if only a sentence. Practice makes perfect.
Shakespeare Now! will be launched on the 22nd September 2018 at Readings Kids at 2.00 315 Lygon Street,Carlton, Vic