Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to a blowout event here on Emusdebuts. We are launching our FIRST BOOK (cue rejoicing!) and let me tell you—we aren’t talking `bout one launch day—we’re talking FIVE epic launch *party* days—complete with signed book give-aways, Bard trivia, downloadable party favors, and karaoke-singing writers (be grateful there is no audio). The book, FALLING FOR HAMLET, belongs to Michelle “The Bard” Ray, but, hey. Soon, it can belong to all of us!
And, let me take a moment to personally thank Michelle. My copy of FALLING FOR HAMLET arrived shortly before leaving for Cape Cod with my children. My daughter began reading it before we were on the highway. She remained so engrossed for three hours that I had complete control of the radio. This. Never. Happens.
Of course, my daughter raves about the book! (like mother, like daughter) This book is a serious page turner–even if you know the story of Hamlet. Here is what the buzz is all about:
Meet Ophelia: a blonde, beautiful high-school senior and long-time girlfriend of Prince Hamlet of Denmark. Her life is dominated, not only by her boyfriend’s fame and his overbearing family but, also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go. As the devastatingly handsome Hamlet spirals into madness after the mysterious death of his father, the King, Ophelia rides out his crazy roller coaster life, and lives to tell about it. In live television interviews, of course.
Passion, romance, drama, humor, and tragedy intertwine in this compulsively readable debut novel, told by a strong-willed, modern-day Ophelia. What more could you want?
Okay, party-goers, here is the itinerary. Be sure to pick up your name tag at the door…
Today: Intro to Launch Week–Hamlet style (Oooh. Better check on that life insurance policy) We Emus gave Michelle some questions to answer. See below how she answers them with panache and humor! Not a single loggerheaded, fish-mongering answer in the bunch!
Tuesday: Mike Jung fills us in on reviews and congratulatory comments about Michelle’s book. Good thing this is online; printed congratulatory comments would take a forest of paper! (Note: Mike has declined the offer to model the mini-skirt from the cover. Never fear! That’s what Photoshop is for; although to commit to such treachery would, undoubtedly, label me a mammering hasty-witted scullian.)
Wednesday: Natalie and Cynthia provide us with fascinating interviews from the team that brought this all together! Our own Michelle, along with interviews from her agent, the incomparable Ammi-Joan Paquette, and her Little, Brown editor, Alvina Ling. Wow! I, for one, am already drumming my fingers, waiting to read these.
Thursday: J. brings us Shakespearean fun and games! Because, you know, that Willy Shakespeare knows how to write comedic endings. Wow. Possible title: “It’s all fun and games until someone loses…” Hey! This would be the feel-good Madlib of the year, eh?
Friday: Jeannie gives us the big wrap-up. Don’t want to give anything away, but if I were you, I’d clear the schedule. Lock down for the day. Forget about showering, grooming, eating, anything. This, of course, will make you very unpopular with the family…Blame Michelle. Or, possibly, Jeannie.
Without further ado (Much ado about something!) let’s see how Michelle answered our questions here on Emusdebuts:
J. Anderson Coats: If Shakespeare could read your book, what do you think he’d say about it?
I would hope he’d get a kick out of it. Though I think he might have some questions about the comportment and clothing choices of today’s young ladies.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt: At what point of the process did you suffer the most slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?
The hardest part was finding an agent. I got rejected twenty-something times, and it stung every time. It was so hard to convince myself to keep trying and not to think my book was unpublishable crap. But once Joan Paquette took me on as a client, she sold it at auction in less than two months, which blew me away.
L.B. Schulman: What was your plotting strategy/technique in creating Falling for Hamlet?
I actually started with the “Get thee to a nunnery” scene. In it, Ophelia’s father and the king want to eavesdrop while Ophelia asks Hamlet why he’s so upset. I figured if I could make that one work in a modern context, I could make a go of the rest. First, I had to figure out how to translate Shakespeare’s words into plainer language because no teen boy would tell his girlfriend, “Get thee to a nunnery.” It was a challenge, but it was possible. Next, I had to consider what location might make sense. Hiding in a closet and behind a curtain are usually done, but I wanted something fresh. These people are rich and famous and live today, so I chose a limo. Once I felt confident that the transfer could be done, I started at the beginning of the play and used the original as a basic framework. But so much of what I wrote ended up being outside of the text. At times it reminded me of creating a painting where you begin by sketching the big picture, then fill in color layer by layer, then go back with highlights and shadows.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt: Which of your characters would you most like to go out to dinner with? Why? What would he/she order?
Any of the boys would be great dinner companions because in my mind they’re gorgeous and fun – when they’re not trying to kill people. Horatio would order a bacon cheeseburger, Hamlet would order coffee (or maybe skewered meat), and Sebastian would order a veggie burger. If I had to pick a female, Stormy Somerville would be so empty-headed and self-centered that it might be entertaining for an hour. She’d order a green salad with no dressing and bottled water.
Natalie Lorenzi: Which was the most difficult scene to write? Which was the most fun?
One of the most fun scenes to write was when Ophelia goes to visit Hamlet at Wittenberg University. This is a completely fabricated scenario, so I had even more freedom than in other places where I was using scenes from the play. I modeled the location after the coed fraternity house I lived in at Tufts, and the great dance parties we had there. When I first wrote the scene (before I dreamed that being published was possible), I sent the pages to my old housemates and they got a kick out of familiar details like the rickety banister, the sticky floors, and black lights in the basement. Bringing back happy memories for my friends was really rewarding, and the feedback spurred me to keep writing.
Jeannie Mobley: How much did the book change from the first draft to the one that was acquired by the editor? How much did it change between acquisition and the final product? (I wonder about how this varies between a story based on a classic vs. a new story too, but that may not be part of this question.)
There weren’t many huge changes. I had to change a poker game I’d written to something athletic, and it became lacrosse. (This is more fully explained in Lynda’s interview.) A few scenes were added to flesh out back-story. A lot of dialogue needed to be made more conversational and less Shakespearean. I was asked to add some of the more famous lines back in. But the basic style and setup remain the same.
L.B. Schulman: You’ve now read a few reviews of your book. Are there any comments you disagree with?
I get upset when reviewers complain about my not being Shakespeare. I know! Not only would that be impossible but it’s not what I was setting out to do. The language is intentionally vernacular, and if someone doesn’t like teens talking like modern teens, then I guess this isn’t the book for them. I think my book is fun, comprehensible and might inspire people to seek out the original. In fact, one of my Shakespeare-phobic friends watched Hamlet for the first time after reading my book, so I consider that a victory.
Cynthia: Could you imagine doing another spin-off–Edgar Allan Poe? Jack Kerouac?
Well, I’m not dark and goth enough to take on the likes of The Raven, or cool enough to handle Kerouac, but more spin-offs are in the works. I love retellings as a reader and as a writer. As a reader, I find it fun to revisit stories I know and love, and enjoy the mystery of what the writer will do to change it up. As a writer, I love the puzzle of how to make it work for contemporary audiences, and the choices of when to maintain and when to alter bits of the original.
Well, that does it for today. However, before you go, thou shall step forward to claim thy FREE PRIZE!!! Please don’t make me feel like an impertinent, fat-kidneyed pigeon egg kind of hostess (I hate it when that happens.); click for the BEST party favor ever!! A Shakespeare doll!!!! With an army of these and a typewriter, perhaps there could be a Hamlet sequel. (Of course, it’s hard to have a sequel when…oh, never mind.)
So that concludes our first party event!!! Join us tomorrow as the celebration continues for our fellow emusdebuter, Michelle Ray, and her wonderful book, FALLING FOR HAMLET. (Ophelia is falling for Hamlet. I’m falling for Hamlet. You’ll be falling for Hamlet. Where will the madness end?)
Go forth to ye book store, ye giddy geese!