Shelby Elizabeth is an English teacher in Upstate New York. She's also a major geek. When she isn't writing about fantasy worlds or romance, she can be found reading, playing with her nephews and spending time with family, or watching just a bit too much television. She is the author of the Celestials trilogy and a standalone contemporary romance novel, Don't Hate the Player. Here, the author talks about a reamiginig of Shakespeare.
Reimagining with the Bard
Retellings are all the rage these days. We love taking stories we grew up with and reinventing some aspect of them—getting the comfort of an old favorite with the thrill of something new. Reimaginings are along the same vein, but to a greater extent, in my mind. They change more of the plot, more of the characters’ histories, while still retaining that familiarity we seek in a retelling.
My series of interconnected but mostly stand-alone fantasy romance books, All the World’s a Story, takes some of my favorite Shakespearean plays and reimagines them with fantasy elements. It takes characters I love and gives them deeper histories, with fantasy creatures I adore reading and writing about and puts them into new situations within their classic stories.
Why Shakespeare, you ask? Well, the lasting impact his works have had is one reason. The fact that so many students read his plays each year, that these works continue to be read so widely so long after the author’s death is a testament to their greatness. They have lasted so long as core texts in English classes because their characters and themes defy the passing of time.
Love conquering all, power corrupting, good triumphing over evil—these are all ideas we see in modern literature, and in our own lives. Not many teenagers reading Macbeth in high school can say they directly relate to a man plotting against his king to claim the throne. I would hope, anyway. They can, however, relate to the warring senses of honor and greed that Macbeth faces as he contemplates taking power, as they think of a time when they struggled with their own desire and sense of honor.
As amazing as I think Shakespeare’s plays are, I’m well aware that many don’t care for them. Many find the language too difficult to understand. I admit I need to use reference notes to follow some of it. But I see the beauty in the language Shakespeare used, the poignancy and subtle power of so many of his lines. It is in the language itself, and it is also in the characters and themes. I want others to see it too, which partially prompted my decision to use Shakespearean plays as the foundations for my series. One of my hopes is that readers will be intrigued enough by the similarities my books have with their inspirations that readers will look into the original plays. That is the inner English teacher motivation at least.
The other part of my motivation is my love of the characters. As a reader it has always been characters that make or break a book. I will read a book with very little plot and absolutely adore it if the characters are compelling, but a book with a massive plot and unrelatable characters will not stick with me. There are some characters in Shakespeare’s plays that resonated with me from the first time I read their stories. I wanted to give them new life. To help more people meet them, even if in a different form than I did. To expand their stories in a way I absolutely love—with magic—and guarantee them a happily-ever-after.
Lady Macbeth is one of my all-time favorite Shakespearean characters. She’s powerful, confident, intelligent, and ruthless, and I knew I had to revitalise her story first. I had so many questions about her when I first read Macbeth. Why did she become so cold and calculating? Was she truly a villainess, or could there be more to her decision to gain the power of a queen? What if . . . she was truly a hero?
And so, Lady of Dragons was born. The origin story of my Lady Macbeth—Finlay McDonough. Take a look at the blurb for Part One.
Finlay McDonough wants nothing more than to be a Dragon Knight: a warrior bound with a dragon partner, intent on ridding the kingdom of its dragon-killing monarchy. Well, she might want one thing just a bit more … Evander, her childhood friend, now keeper of the dragon sanctuary. Scouting with Evander one day, Finlay’s attempt to save a dragon goes horribly wrong, and she inadvertently ties her fate to the dragon’s—their souls bind, lending Finlay powers like those of the Mages the Knights are sworn to destroy.
After passing the trial to train as a Knight, Finlay discovers a devastating truth about a beloved dragon. To save them, she’ll need to risk her dream of becoming a true Knight, her chance at a happily-ever-after with Evander . . . and maybe her very identity.
Fantasy romance with a strong heroine, sweet love interest, sassy dragon companion, and more than a dash of adventure awaits.
From the blurb alone, you wouldn’t know it’s a reimagining of Macbeth, but within the story readers will find many parallels. I didn’t merely seek to give Lady Macbeth an origin story with dragons, though. I wanted to give her a better ending. So I altered parts of the original play’s structure. I added elements unique to my version. I took what I loved about the original and developed it in a way that fits current young adult fantasy books. Part Two releases early next year, and will conclude this dragon-filled reimagining of Macbeth—though it’s far from the conclusion of my series.
I love taking some of my favorite books and plays and imagining them in a new way. All the comfort of the old, with the excitement of the new. I’m sure I’ll write many more reimaginings as time goes on.
End Guest Post
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