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1. The idea behind A WOUNDED NAME is such an intriguing one. What made you want to retell HAMLET from Ophelia’s perspective?
HAMLET has always been one of my favorites- probably something to do with my always falling for dark and broody. But we never get to know Ophelia. She's there as a prop for her brother, father, and love to dance around, for Gertrude to occasionally pet, and we know nothing deeper about her. Except...except! We get these flashes through the play. She's intelligent, she's witty. She teases both her brother and Hamlet. We get these tantalizing hints of this incredible young woman surrounded by self-absorbed and belittling men, but then we get nothing more. I was lucky in having very good teachers who encouraged me and my good friends to question Shakespeare, to want to explore, and Ophelia was someone we always came back to. Between The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged and my best friend's play Remembrances: The Ophelia Project, Ophelia stayed in the periphery. I always knew I wanted to write her story- what I didn't know was HOW. Then one night I woke up with the first few lines written across my mind. They wouldn't let me go- SHE wouldn't let me go- and I once I let her have her voice, she didn't stop talking until she'd said everything she needed to say.
I'm so glad you delved deeper into the life of this fascinating character. You've captured the spirit of Ophelia perfectly!
2. In A WOUNDED NAME, you’ve managed to create a modern setting (with cell-phones and email) while still maintaining a Shakespearean feel. The school of Elsinore almost feels like it exists outside of time. How were you able to mix modern-day technology with an old-world feel so flawlessly? Was it something you planned out, or did it flow naturally?
Actually, the hybrid of technology is entirely due to Editor Andrew- I'd pretty much forgotten tech entirely. I think I was betraying my age, in a way. I didn't have cell phones or internet access or such up until second half of high school, so I tend to forget how much I rely on it now. I wanted the feeling of Elsinore being frozen in time, of it being anachronism after anachronism in such a way that most of its female students, not just Ophelia, never have a chance. The infusion of technology- reminders of the present world- came first from Agent Sandy Extraordinaire, and then in more detail from Editor Andrew.
You definitely gave Elsinore the feeling of being frozen in time, and yet everything felt very relevant to today's society.
3. If you could be any Shakespearean character, who would you be and why?
Oh, dear. Um...probably Beatrice, from Much Ado About Nothing. She's one of the few heroines to whom nothing too horrible happens. She's intelligent, she's witty, she's fiercely loyal, and despite a few comments from her uncles to curb her more outrageous behavior, she has a loving and supportive family with people who admire her specifically for those qualities she exhibits. Her uncles are willing to let her have her choice in marriage. Her relationship with her cousin Hero is amazing and solid, and Benedick...I love Benedick, especially watching the eternal little boy finally mature without losing any of his joy. And my boobs are too big to cross dress like Viola or Rosalind.
Haha! I love this answer. I admit to being quite the fan of Beatrice myself.
4. A WOUNDED NAME is such a wonderful (if heartbreaking) study in nature vs. nurture: was Ophelia destined for tragedy because she inherited her mother’s “madness” (i.e. ability to see faeries), or did the constant control and condescension by the men in her life act as a vise around her neck? Or was it something else entirely? Is there any scenario in which you can see Ophelia surviving, or even thriving in her own life?
I think, if born into a different family AND raised in a different environment, Ophelia could have led a healthy, albeit unusual, life. She's aware of what's healthy and what isn't, even if her current life has left her unable to actually act upon those distinctions. In a family that could have seen her sight as a wonder instead of a curse, who could have simply loved her without all the complications of guilt and fear, yes, I think she could have been happy and healthy. Sometimes I like to imagine her being adopted at an early age by Horatio's family. Not that it could have happened, but it would make great fanfic, right?
Yes, that would be an amazing read!!
5. Let’s talk about Horatio! It’s obvious that this character was created with a lot of detail and affection. How much of this Horatio was inspired by the play, and how much is your own creation? What do you think happens to Horatio after the story ends?
I LOVE Horatio...and I don't think that comes as a surprise to anyone who's read an early copy. I always felt bad for the Horatio of the play- he really does get the short end of the stick- but he also left me with some questions, namely: why does he help Hamlet as much as he does? Why is he so loyal? They talk to each other like friends, but some of the incidental conversation makes them seem little more than passing acquaintances who see each other in court and at university in Wittenburg. But Horatio does so much, sacrifices so much, that I needed to know more about this strange sidekick. What emerged from those questions was this blazingly good person surrounded by people who look down on him for all the wrong reasons. As for what happens after the play...I'm hoping to get to share that at some point, but in a nutshell, I think he has a very, very long road to recover from everything that happens, but that eventually he finds the kind of support Ophelia should have had.
I would LOVE to read more about Horatio's life--and see who he ends up with :)
6. Can you tell us about how you got your book deal?
I signed with Sandy Lu in February of last year, after six months of querying what was then called Elsinore Drowning. It was the third project I'd queried over the course of three years. She and I did a round of edits, small tweaks mostly, plus adjusting the play within a play scene, and then she sent it out, and I started biting my nails for the first time since early high school. It was so much worse than waiting to hear back from agents! But I'd steeled myself to endure that wait for months and months, and then barely six weeks later, she told me that Andrew wanted to talk to me. Holy crap! And then there was another editor who wanted to talk to me! We ended up with two offers on the table, and after a lot of consideration, we signed up with Andrew, and it's been amazing. We were really excited about the ideas he had for the book, plus he has a very collaborative style- he likes to have a push and pull on manuscripts, to tangle around an idea and explore all the options and, as often as not, discard it if the author comes up with something even better. Editing with him is a dialogue, and it's great.
That is such an exciting story! It sounds like Andrew is wonderful to work with.
7. One of the things I love about your writing is that it’s so lyrical and gorgeous. The rich, lush details draw me in and keep me hooked until the end. Can you talk a little bit about which authors have inspired you as a writer?
Oh, goodness. Weirdly enough, except for my sense of humor, most of the authors who inspired me the most in my writing don't have a visible influence there. It's in the way I approach the story, the characters, but rarely in the words themselves. That being said, I think there are some authors who, in a way, gave me permission to let Ophelia have her voice: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor; The Near Witch, by Victoria Schwab; and Invisible Girls, by Nova Ren Suma.
These books were so lyrical, as much poetry as prose, and it made me think maybe I could break all those invisible rules I'd always been told to obey. That sense of permission was immensely freeing.
This is such an interesting point: the way authors can influence our method but not necessarily our voice. Love it!
8. Throughout A WOUNDED NAME, Ophelia feels constantly pulled in different directions by the men in her life. These men, convinced Ophelia can’t survive without them, are hesitant to even let her out of their sight. Can you talk a little about the gender inequality at Elsinore Academy, and how much it affected the outcome of the story? How might things have been different if, for example, Gertrude had been raised to value her own agency?
Oh boy, this is going to be a long one.
A lot of the gender inequality at Elsinore came from watching my grandparents, both sets of them. Both sets were raised in the twenties and thirties, got married in the forties, and all four of them ascribed, in varying degrees, to the generally accepted gender roles. The first time my paternal grandmother realized that my mom required my dad to help with dishes and chores, she was HORRIFIED. That was WOMEN's work. She dropped out at fourteen so she could take care of her younger siblings. I think she was what Gertrude would have been if she'd been born into a poor coal mine town in Pennsylvania. The propagation of gender inequality- of female suppression- cannot occur solely through masculine determination. It continues because women- either by choice or by lack of action- allow it to continue.
I very much saw that in my grandparents, especially on my father's side. My grandmother wasn't just raised in the idea of women's work and a women's sacrifice- she had to suffer through the consequences of someone else fighting that system. Her mother was a firebrand. Miserably unhappy, she left and created something new for herself. She taught at school, she ran a store, she found her soul mate. But that new life came with leaving her old one behind, including her husband and children. My grandmother took on the role of mother within her family, and those hardships made her somehow embrace the gender roles. In her own way she defended those roles as fiercely as my mother (and her mother) insisted they had and needed to continue to change.
Most of the girls currently enrolled at Elsinore, raised within a fully tech generation, would be able to shrug off the limitations of their education and continue on to make names for themselves should they choose to do so. They'll be at a disadvantage, that's true, but they have the ability to forge a new path if they want it. Even Ophelia recognizes the option, even as she recognizes her lack of ability to follow it. Gertrude, however isn't part of the internet age. She doesn't have the wealth (or perhaps the maelstrom) of external influences the younger girls do. Her education came solely from her family and the atmosphere of the school. Gertrude doesn't feel trapped in the way Ophelia or her mother do because she genuinely believes in this outlook.
But if Gertrude was a women with her own sense of agency? If she genuinely believed in making her own choices? I think the initiating events would still have been the same, but everything that happened afterwards would have been radically, and perhaps wonderfully, different.
This is such a wonderful, descriptive answer! It's fascinating to consider the women who rage against an oppressive system, and those who cling to it because it's all they know.
9. If you had the power to turn any book into a movie (with any cast and director you wanted), which book would it be?
Probably Amy's Eyes, by Richard Kennedy. It's out of print, which makes me so sad, but it was such a grand adventure, with orphanages and high seas and treasure quests and family. I'd love to see the dolls come to life- and see how Amy, lonely and despairing, slowly turns to a doll. I'd love to see the intrigue and the swashbuckling and above all, would LOVE to see how thoroughly creepy sweet, loyal, sad-souled Skivvy can be. I mean, it's pirates and sock monkeys and rubber ducks and golden men and "Greensleeves". It would be an EPIC movie.
Thanks so much for having me, Chelsea!
Thank YOU for being here. These are some of the most thought-provoking, eloquent responses I've ever read!
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