About missprint

Librarian. Writer. Blogger at Miss Print since 2007. Reader. Feminist. SLJ reviewer. YALSA Hub Blogger. PPYA 2015/16. Amateur spy. Zen. 🦄

Author Interview: McKelle George on Speak Easy, Speak Love

Speak Easy, Speak Love is a delightful retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing set in 1920s New York. As soon as I heard about this witty retelling, I knew I wanted to read it. I’m happy to report that Speak Easy, Speak Love far exceeded by expectations and has turned into one of my favorite books of the year. Today McKelle George is to talk a little bit more about her writing and this book.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell me a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

McKelle George (MG): I wrote a little in high school and my freshman year in college–but primarily fanfiction and roleplaying. I went to school on an art scholarship, actually, and had planned to study illustration. But then I went to live in Europe for a few years, and I knew I wanted to be a writer. I got home the summer of 2011 and I switched my major to English. I wrote four novels–and the fourth was Speak Easy, Speak Love–and otherwise my story was kind of typical, if a bit long. It took 9 months of actively trying to find an agent, we signed in 2014, then we revised my book, and about eleven months on submission to find my editor (December 2015). It was more stressful as it was actually happening, ha–but now here we are!

MP: What was the inspiration for Speak Easy, Speak Love? What made Shakespeare and the 1920s the thing you had to write?

MG: I was inspired to do a Shakespeare retelling after seeing some amazingly clever and innovative adaptations at the RSC [Royal Shakespeare Company] and the Globe in England. When I sat down to think of ways I could tackle my favorite play, Much Ado About Nothing, I thought instantly of the 1920s. The play is feminist in subtle ways and it offers two different kinds of womanhood in Hero and Beatrice, and the 1920s is a uniquely feminist decade. Women had just gotten the vote and the emergence of the flapper in the time after the Great War had all the right soil to explore those themes.

MP: As a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, you started with a framework for a story going into this novel. How did you decide which original elements to keep and how did you decide what you wanted to change?

MG: This is a YA adaptation, so I knew they wouldn’t all end up married. I also had to consider the time period I was working in–what would be historically accurate and what wouldn’t. But honestly I kept as much as I could. I love the play. My book even keeps all the character names and everything. But I also had questions for Shakespeare, like: why on earth would Hero take Claudio back after all that? And what is Don John’s deal, why is he causing so many problems? And I tried to answer them in my own way.

MP: What is one thing you would go back in time to experience in the 1600s? What’s one thing you would love to see or do in the 1920s? What kind of person do you think you would have been in those times?

MG: A Shakespeare play, obviously–in the original globe theater. That would be awesome. And I would attend Texas Guinan’s 300 Club speakeasy in Manhattan. If I’d lived in the 1920s, I think I would have been a conglomeration of Benedick and Beatrice. Ben got all my writing ambitions, but I’d have to deal with being a girl and poor the same way Beatrice does.

MP: Did you have a favorite character to write in this novel? Who do you think you most resemble (or wish you resembled)? Anyone you’re especially excited for readers to meet?

MG: I answered this a little in the last question–I’m probably half-and-half of Beatrice and Benedick–but I actually very much enjoyed writing Maggie and John. There’s a lot less to go on as far as character goes in Much Ado, so I got to make up a lot. And I love the world they occupy: jazz and mobsters. I’m especially fond of John, and I hope readers like him (though I get why they might not, ha).

MP: Working off the last question, what was it like taking characters written in the 1600s and translating them to the 1900s? How did you drill down to the key personalities of your core characters?

MG: Many, many drafts. Unfortunately this is just how I write. I need lots of words and pages to discover who they are. Of course, I had a few markers to work off: Beatrice had to be wicked smart and unafraid to say what she felt. Benedick had to be able to go toe-to-toe with her. Prince had to be someone others trusted and relied on. But a lot of that was superficial, and it was through writing them that I discovered their motivations and fears.

MP: What is your favorite scene or a scene you are excited for readers to discover?

MG: There are three kissing scenes, and I am very fond of all of them.

MP: Can you tell me anything about your next project?

MG: I’m working on a spooky, magical realism book that’s a retelling of The Tempest–as well as a dieselpunk reimagining of the Arthurian legend. They’re both very slowly killing me.

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

MG: Don’t give up, first of all. Settle in for the long haul. But also be gentle with yourself. At some point, your writing is going to disappoint you, or your work ethic might disappoint you. Whatever. Forgive yourself for the gap between the kind of writer you want to be and the kind of writer you are and keep going.

Thanks again to McKelle for this great interview!

You can see more about McKelle and her books on her website.

You can also check out my review of Speak Easy, Speak Love.

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Speak Easy, Speak Love: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Beatrice knows that if she leaves New York when she’s kicked out of boarding school, she’ll never be able to come back and realize her dream of becoming a doctor. She refuses to accept that future and determines to stay on course at all costs. Even if it means relying on an uncle she barely knows to take her in. Her uncle’s ramshackle mansion, Hey Nonny Nonny, holds quite a few unexpected boarders and hides a big secret: it’s a speakeasy offering entertainment and illegal spirits.

Hero, Beatrice’s cousin, loves the old house more than almost anything and she’s been doing everything she can to keep the eccentric speakeasy afloat. But with prohibition agents watching, limited supplies of liquor, and the pesky problem of needing to pay the staff, Hero isn’t sure if they can make it through one more party let alone the entire summer season.

Hero has always been able to rely on Prince, her steadfast friend who sees the speakeasy as his home and as a chance to prove himself to John, the half-brother who has never accepted Prince enough to let him in on his dealings as a member of the local mob.

Singing at Hey Nonny Nonny could be Maggie’s ticket to something bigger. But only if she’s willing to leave her friends there behind. And only if talent agents are willing to see beyond her brown skin to her big talent.

Then there’s Benedick who is determined to avoid the stuffed shirt life his father has laid out for him. No prep school graduation. No college. No banking job. Definitely no trust fund. Benedick is a writer and he’s sure that if he has the chance he can make it without his father’s backing–or his approval.

It’s dislike at first sight for Beatrice and Benedick–a feeling that only grows stronger in the face of repeated misunderstandings and arguments. Everyone else can see that Beatrice and Benedick are perfect for each other, but they both might be too stubborn to realize it without a lot of help in Speak Easy, Speak Love (2017) by McKelle George.

Speak Easy, Speak Love is George’s debut novel and a retelling of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Written in the third person this novel shifts perspective primarily between Beatrice and Benedick as they arrive at Hey Nonny Nonny. Their story also overlaps with arcs for Hero, Prince, Maggie, and John over the course of an eventful summer that will change their lives forever.

Winsome characters, perfect pacing, and a plot that is simultaneously unique and true to the source material make Speak Easy, Speak Love a delight to read. Set primarily in Long Island, New York, this novel offers a quieter side of the Prohibition in the 1920s that isn’t often seen in historical fiction. Careful researching of the time period and an obvious familiarity with Shakespeare help to make this story vibrant and evocative.

Although they are living in the past, George handles this plot through the responsible lens of modern ideals. Benedick, often in discussion with Beatrice, contemplates his privilege as a young white man from a wealthy family and the knowledge that even during his rebellious flight to Long Island his family acts as a safety net. In contrast, Beatrice is used to having no one and has to learn how to both build and trust a support system as she finds true friends and family for the first time in years. Of course, Beatrice is also a classic feminist as she chases her dream to become a doctor. Side plots following Maggie and Prince explore the idea notion of belonging as well as barriers put in place by racism and discrimination at this time.

Speak Easy, Speak Love is a witty and droll story about six teens, an unlikely speakeasy, and the connections that will change their lives forever. A must read for fans of the 1920s, Shakespeare buffs, and anyone looking for a bright diversion. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Diviners by Libba Bray, The Game of Love and Death by Martha E. Brockenbrough, These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel, Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross, Snow White by Matt Phelan, Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

You can also check out my interview with McKelle starting tomorrow.

Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy: A Review

Whether it’s secretly cheering them on or not-so-secretly waiting for them to meet a bad end, readers love villains. Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy capitalizes on that fascination while failing to explore the reasoning behind it in this unwieldy collection edited by Youtube sensation Ameriie.

Each author’s short story is inspired by a Booktuber-provided prompt ranging from vague like “A young Moriarty” for Susan Dennard’s “Shirley and Jim” which presents a modern (and female) Holmes meeting Moriarty for the first time at boarding school to bizarrely specific. Renée Ahdieh’s sci-fi story “The Blood of Imuriv” is inspired by the prompt “The grandson of an evil, matriarchal dictator who tried to rule over the universe wants to follow in her footsteps and accidentally loses his temper, killing his sibling in a game of chess.”

This wide range of prompts leads to stories of varying quality and makes this cross-genre collection less than cohesive. BookTuber contributions range from personality quizzes and literary criticism about the stories to personal essays related to the prompts.

Standout stories include Soman Chainani’s “Gwen and Art and Lance” (“A modern-day mash-up of the King Arthur legend and Persephone-Hades myth”) which is written entirely in texts and emails between the titular characters as Gwen tries to manipulate Art into taking her to prom amidst unwanted overtures from Lance and “Death Knell” by Victoria Schwab (“Hades wakes up after being unconscious at the bottom of a well in Ireland”) which offers a nuanced meditation on what it means to be Death–and what it means to try to run from it.

There are no redeeming qualities for most of the villains here and, for the most part, a lot of superficiality. One notable exception is Cindy Pon’s poignant story “Beautiful Venom” (prompt: “Medusa, go!”) which makes the Greek myth relevant to modern readers as they watch Mei Feng become Mei Du in Pon’s tragic retelling with a Chinese setting. Because You Love to Hate Me is a marketable if not entirely serviceable collection that will appeal to fans of the contributing authors.

*A more condensed version of this review appeared as a review in the July 1, 2017 issue of School Library Journal*

Week in Review: November 4

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

Obviously there was a fair bit of bad news this week with the attack in lower Manhattan. I’m really glad that it wasn’t worse but am incredibly saddened that it happened at all.

On a personal level this week was pretty draining. I’m not sure I want to get into it here at least in part because I don’t want to get angry again but basically my mom did not get the best possible prognosis at the doctor this week. It’s nothing life threatening but it’s going to be harder and scarier than either of us expected or hoped.

I’ve been trying to read a lot of books in anticipation of the Mock Printz program my committee does at work. I’m feeling good about my preparation as we get ready to pick out shortlist titles. If you are at all interested in the Printz Award I’d also recommend checking out the Someday My Printz Will Come blog.

I’m still trying to figure out details but I think this year I am going to try to bring some of the Mock Printz stuff from work onto the blog so details to come!

 

Here’s my latest from Instagram:

“The Nowhere Girls are here. They are everywhere.” 📚 GIVEAWAY because some books are so good you have to share them. TO ENTER: 1. Follow @missprint_ on here. 2. Like this post. 3. Rage a friend or two in the comments. (US only. Ends 12:00pm EST on November 9.) 📚 Grace, Rosina, and Erin are used to being outsiders—nobodies. But as they get to know each other they realize they aren’t alone. Outraged by the lack of sympathy and subsequent fallout for Lucy Moynihan after she accuses three popular guys at school of gang rape, Grace encourages Rosina and Erin to help her try to get justice for Lucy and for so many other girls. 📚 It starts with just the three of them but soon the Nowhere Girls are everywhere because they are everygirl.

A post shared by Emma (@missprint_) on

If you you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my November reading tracker.

How was your week? What are you reading?

Let’s talk in the comments.

Top Fives: Simon and Schuster Spring 2018 Preview #sskidspreview

Last month Simon and Schuster hosted their Spring 2018 preview to talk about upcoming titles.

If you want to see all of the tweets from the preview, you can check out of the #sskidspreview tag on twitter. (You can also find all of my tweets from the preview too!)

Here are the top five titles I’m excited about from the preview:

Picture Books

  1. People Don’t Bite People by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Molly Idle: This might by the number one picture book from the entire preview. There aren’t enough books for kids about model behavior (no biting, no hitting) and this one looks like a big winner. Publishing April 2018.
  2. Teddy’s Favorite Toy by Christian Trimmer, illustrated by Madeline Valentine: I can count on one hand the number of picture books that show boys playing with dolls (and in that even fewer where it’s not a Big Thing). Add this book to the list! When Teddy’s favorite doll is accidentally thrown away it’s up to Mama to rescue it in this delightful read-a-like to Knuffle Bunny. Publishing February 2018.
  3. Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima: I have been lucky enough to read a few of the upcoming S&S arcs and this one is hands down my favorite. Harriet has a costume for everything but when she wears a penguin costume to go with her dads to get supplies for a party she gets carried away by a group of actual penguins. Oops. Watch for this one in March 2018.
  4. Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Ebony Glenn: I am so excited for this delightful picture book from Salaam Reads. This is a classic dress up story but about a little girl playing with her mother’s khimar (also known as a hijab head scarf). I haven’t seen this book yet but it looks so cute and centers the African Muslim experience. Coming in April 2018!
  5. I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Ashley Bryan: New poems and gorgeous illustrations all meant to remind children that they are loved. Publishing January 2018.

Middle Grade

  1. Craftily Ever After #1: The Unfriendship Bracelet by Martha Maker, illustrated by Xindi Yan: Klutz books. But with a story. This series follows four friends and includes craft project instructions in the back. Book one hits shelves in March 2018.
  2. R Is For Rebel by J. Anderson Coats: Honestly I don’t remember a lot about this because I stopped listening and started internally screaming when I realized 1. that it’s a new J. Anderson Coats and 2. that it’s being marketed as Princess Academy meets Megan Whalen Turner. I mean what?! Take my money now! Releasing February 2018.
  3. Running Through Sprinklers by Michelle Kim: A familiar story from a new perspective in this debut about two friends growing up and growing apart. Think of this as a middle grade version of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (ie a tried and true contemporary with Asian MCs). Hitting shelves April 2018.
  4. The Art of the Swap by Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone: Freaky Friday meets Downton Abbey. I don’t think I need to say anything else. Publishing February 2018.
  5. Fly Girls by P. O’Connell Pearson: This non-fiction book is all about the female pilots of World War II. Publishing in February 2018.

Young Adult

  1. Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi: A novel for fans of Eliza and Her Monsters and Fangirl this story follows a girl who just started college. When she’s the only one around when a fellow freshman she ends up becoming his emergency contact leading to an online/text relationship that starts to blossom. But are either of them ready to take it into real life?
  2. The Place Between Breaths by An Na: I can’t tell you much about this one except that it deals with Schizophrenia. Na is one of the YA authors I read as an actual teen and baby blogger so it’s just very surreal to hear that she has a new title coming out as a librarian. Coming March 2018
  3. The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw: This book sounds like all of my favorite things. Salem meets The Haunting. YA Practical Magic and Hocus Pocus. The shiniest cover ever. On shelves in March 2018.
  4. American Panda by Gloria Chao: A Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer has to balance her germophobia with her parents’ dreams that she become a doctor. Then there’s her crush on a Japanese classmate. Coming February 2018.
  5. Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett: This is a love to hate to love story about a girl stranded in the wilderness–with the boy who broke her heart. This sex positive YA contemporary even has maps that the author made of the neighborhood. Publishing April 2018.

 

Girls Made of Snow and Glass: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“If you’re delicate, it means no one has tried to break you.”

Mina is sixteen years old when she comes to Whitespring. Her mother is dead and she sees few options for a future. When Mina learns that her father, a dangerous magician, has replaced her own weak heart with one made of glass she realizes that even the prospect of love is impossible. What Mina does have is beauty. And a secret. She hopes to be able to use both to stay clear of her father and win the king. For if the king and his kingdom fall for her beauty, surely they will be able to love her even if her glass heart makes her incapable of returning the feeling.

Lynet has always looked like her mother–a resemblance that is even more striking now that her sixteenth birthday is approaching–but her personality could not be more different. Lynet does not want to be beautiful or delicate like her dead mother. She wants to be strong and fearless like her stepmother Mina. When Lynet learns the truth, that a magician made her out of snow in her mother’s image, it feels like her destiny will never be hers to control.

When the king names Lynet queen of the southern territories instead of Mina, a rivalry forms between them. As previously unbreakable bonds are tested and friends threaten to become enemies both Mina and Lynet will have to decide if they are capable of transcending their beginnings to forge a new future in Girls Made of Snow and Glass (2017) by Melissa Bashardoust.

In her debut novel Bashardoust offers a feminist retelling of the fairy tale of Snow White with a focus, of course, on the relationship between daughter and step-daughter. The novel alternates between close third person chapters detailing Lynet’s present struggles to claim her own fate as her birthday approaches with Mina’s past and her early days in Whitespring.

Bashardoust’s writing is methodical with a slow start to draw readers into the story and introduce both Lynet and Mina. Instead of relying on familiar tropes and stereotypes, both Lynet and Mina are well-developed characters with complicated motivations and conflicting feelings. Both women are ambitious and see the crown as a way to take control of their own lives. But what does that ambition mean compared to years spent as a family? After all, there can only be one queen.

This fledgling rivalry forms the majority of the plot while explorations of magic, their own strange beginnings, and what it means to love help to flesh out the story. Lynet’s infatuation and eventual relationship with the new palace surgeon–a woman named Nadia–adds another dimension to the story.

While the characters and plot are handled well, the overall world building is lackluster. While readers see much of the palace, the rest of Whitespring is unexplored within the text. The magic system is poorly explained with only vague explanations for how Mina and Lynet can live. The curse that shrouds Whitespring in winter year round is equally vague.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass is a thoughtful and thoroughly feminist fairy tale. Recommended for fans of retellings and readers who prefer character-driven novels.

Possible Pairings: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, Frostblood by Elly Blake, Roar by Cora Carmack, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Ash by Malinda Lo, The Young Elites by Marie Lu, The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch, Maleficent

November 2017 Reading Tracker

You can also see what I read in October.

Books Read:

  1. Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
  2. Frau Faust volume 1
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  4. Berserker by Emmy Laybourne
  5. Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali
  6. Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman
  7. The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano
  8. Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

Books On Deck: 0!

Books Bought: 0!

ARCs Received:

  1. The Witch Boy by Molly Osterag (not requested)
  2. The Radical Element edited by Jessica Spotswood (requested from publisher)
  3. The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton (requested from publisher)
  4. Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren (requested from publisher)
  5. The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange (not requested)

November 1: I have like a mental block with these posts now so I’m wondering how accurate they even are but whatever. I’m a little overwhelmed by books right now. Shocking, I know.

November 2: Far From the Tree is interesting so far. I think it’s going to be deeper than expected.