The Course of True Love by Kate Heartfield, the second of our Monstrous Little Voices novellas, is out today. Hooray!
To celebrate, we asked Dr John Lavagnino from King’s College, who has written an excellent afterword for our fantastical Shakespearean anthology, for a few questions for the authors.
Here are Kate’s answers for The Course of True Love…
JL: It looks hard to fit things from a lot of different plays together this way! Was it?
KH: That part of it was pure fun. Mashing up or bouncing around tends to be the way the creative mind works – or at least, the way mine does. But it works best when you give it some constraints. In an interview about Shakespeare, the late (argh) Alan Rickman spoke about the need for simultaneous discipline and freedom: “I always think it’s a bit like the last image of The Tempest, when Caliban is held tight at the same moment as Ariel is let go and it seems to me that in a way maybe that’s Shakespeare writing about being a creative person.”
When I tell the brain to think about Shakespeare, but to imagine whatever it can within that universe, the brain is happy. The brain can work with that. And in fact, what we discovered as we were brainstorming together is that many of Shakespeare’s plays could fit together, that the timelines and mechanics could be made to work. Our editor, David Thomas Moore, was really brilliant at figuring out how the backgrounds from several plays could be imagined as a single setting to be our common playground.
JL: What did you discover or notice about Shakespeare’s works in the course of doing this? And about your own?
KH: If you had asked me, before this project, whether I preferred Shakespeare’s tragedies to his comedies, I would have said “oh, the tragedies, definitely” without thinking too much about it. But the story I chose to tell is a fairly light-hearted romance, although it has a darkness looming behind it. I think I learned a greater appreciation not only for the comedies but for the aesthetic potential of delight in general.
JL: Which character was most rewarding to write about?
KH: My protagonist, Pomona. She’s a witch of advanced years – she’s basically one of the hags from Macbeth – and she’s the heroine of a love story. It was fun to just blow up the whole maiden/mother/crone paradigm. She’s like me in some ways – practical, private, stubborn. She is also driven in part by her friendships and sense of duty in a way that was foreign to me, and that was fun to explore. I also found it immensely satisfying to include one real historical person: Esperanza Malchi, who was an important figure during the so-called Sultanate of Women of the Ottoman Empire. One of my favourite things about Monstrous Little Voices, as a whole, is the book’s varied cast of female characters.
JL: What characters or places were you going to include but had to leave out?
KH: Queen Mab has a bit part in my story, and I had hoped to have her talk about Mercutio, to explain their history with each other from her perspective, but she never really got the chance.
JL: Do you think you’ll do more writing of this kind? building on Shakespeare or perhaps on other writing?
KH: See above! I’d love to write something about Mercutio sometime. I’ve been fascinated by him since I first saw John McEnery play him in the 1968 movie. I have some ideas about his past. In a broader sense, Shakespeare has always informed my writing and will continue to do so, I’m sure, and most of my writing tends to build on old stories, myths or histories in some way. In fact, the story I told is borrowed loosely from Ovid, although in the tradition of Shakespeare himself, I did what I wanted with it.