Breaking News - From the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Tomas appears to be strengthening south of Cuba. For more details, stay tuned to http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
When I scheduled today's guest, historical fiction author Kathryn Johnson, I reminded her that Hurricane Season remains in effect until November 30. I did not realize that we would have an actual tropical storm brewing in the Caribbean - because a storm sets the stage for her latest release, The Gentleman Poet: A Novel of Love, Danger, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest
From Kathryn's website for The Gentlemen Poet, http://www.gentlemanpoet.com/index.html
Kathryn Johnson lives in Maryland with her husband. She has published more than 40 novels for both young and adult readers, under several pennames, with major U.S. and international publishers. She is the founder of Write by You (www.writebyyou.com), a professional mentoring service for fiction writers from novice to multi-published, who seek editorial and critical support in reaching their publication goals. Her popular course—The Extreme Novelist—is offered at The Writer’s Center, in Bethesda, Maryland.
She has taught creative writing at Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, the Long Ridge Writers Group, and is an inspirational speaker at major writing conferences and for other organizations across the country. Ms. Johnson is a member of the Author’s Guild, American Independent Writers, Historical Novel Society, Novelists Inc., and Romance Writers of America, and is currently serving on the board of the Mystery Writers of America/Mid-Atlantic Region.
Kim: Welcome, Kathryn, to SOS Aloha! We also have strong storm surges on Oahu's North Shore, preventing surfers from riding the waves. What inspired you to consider an "alternative history" for Shakespeare and The Tempest?
Kathryn: Well, you know how writers' minds are always churning away, even when we aren't trying to think about books? That's how I was on my honeymoon. LOL! One part of me kept thinking what a wonderful setting for a story Bermuda would be--this gorgeous tropical atmosphere, pink sands, blue skies and bluer water. Then I learned about the legend that Shakespeare had based his famous storm play, TheTempest, on a real shipwreck off the Bermuda coast. One thing led to another, and somehow the idea that he'd read an account of the wreck and survival of the passengers turned into an intriguing question: What if he didn't just read about it? What if Shakespeare, late in his career, yearning for one last great adventure, was actually on board the ill-fated Sea Venture?
Kim: Did you have any concern that this will be compared to the Academy award winning movie, Shakespeare in Love? Any concern that you are meddling with Shakespeare's legacy?
Kathryn: Concern? Oh, I'd love that! Shakespeare in Love was such a great movie; it made the Bard human and fun, and that was one of my goals for writing this novel. And as to Shakespeare's legacy, so many scholars have come up with conflicting theories as to who he was, where he was at any given time, and what sort of man he really was--there really is no one image of the man. I'm just adding another version of him and, I think, one that's believable and entertaining, and still respectful.
|The Tempest by Hervé S. Flament|
Kim: Where did you start to research this book? Can you share some interesting facts, maybe little known or quirky, about 17th century sea faring, the Bermudas, and/or Shakespeare?
Kathryn: Well, as I've said, I began in Bermuda, walking on the beach where the survivors of a terrible hurricane, all 150 of them, struggled to shore in 1609. They had been the third contingent of settlers headed for Jamestown, Virginia, and their ship, the Sea Venture, was one of 9 that had started out that summer. The ship was totally destroyed, so it couldn't be repaired, but the captain was able to calculate that they were only a few days short of their destination, less than a week at any rate. So he and the new governor, who was on board, determined they would salvage material from the wreck then use the native cedar trees to build a new ship and continue their journey. Only problem was, it would take months to build the new ship and set sail, so they'd be in the middle of the winter storm season. They'd have to wait until spring when the waters settled to make the journey. Because of that, and the many issues that arose while they were on Bermuda (an uninhabited cluster of islands at the time) they ended up spending 9 months there. Shakespeare's opening of his play The Tempest actually mimics very closely the written description of the storm that I found in the account written by one of the passengers, William Strachey. So the connection between the real event and Shakespeare's work is quite clear. I was able to read a copy of the original journal kept by Strachey at the wonderful Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., where I did a lot of the research. The journal gave detailed descriptions of the plant life, foods available, dramatic incidents that occurred during those months--lots of material I could use to build my story.
Kim: I noticed pictures of you sailing on the Avon blog,
Can you share a special place you visited? What have you learned from sailing that you can apply to writing?
Kathryn: Oh, yes, I love sailing. But I'm what you'd call a "fair-weather sailor". Sweet breezes and gentle winds are fine. I've been caught in a few sudden summer storms on the Chesapeake Bay and that's no fun at all! One of the most amazing sailing adventures I've ever had was a week around Christmas time when my husband and I signed on for sailing instruction in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The sailing school had a 45-foot Island Packet yacht, and we were supposed to sail with another couple and the instructor. The other couple backed out so we had the boat to ourselves with our personal sailing coach. For seven days, we never docked. We sailed from island to island, dropping anchor each afternoon so that we could swim and explore whatever cove we were in. We cooked our meals on board, snorkled, watched the sea turtles and tropical fish and birds. It was heaven. I think that's how my heroine, Elizabeth, must have felt on Bermuda after the storm had passed. She must have just wanted to stay there. It was a kind of place she'd never dreamt existed, a safe harbor for her after having suffered such a stormy life...in so many ways.
Kim: You share the knowledge and expertise you gained on your road to publishing with other writers through Write for You, http://www.writebyyou.com/. What's the most rewarding part of being a mentor? What's the toughest part? What was some of the best feedback you received as a novice writer? What was some of the harshest criticism?
Kathryn: Oh, wow, these are all such good questions! Well, the most rewarding thing about mentoring other writers is seeing them bloom. I have a motto: "Respect the writing; respect the writer." In other words, I see value in other writers' visions of their novels, so I don't try to change that. And I don't want to tamper with the writer's natural "voice" which is so important to their being fresh, unique, and interesting. But I do work hard on helping them polish their craft, to make their writing clear and easy to understand, to create a story that makes sense to the reader while holding his/her interest. Many of us develop bad habits over the years, with regard to grammar, spelling, the basics. I help writers fine tune their basic skills to bring their writing up to a professional level. The toughest part is guiding my writers through the maze that is today's publishing jungle. It's hard to read the market, to know what editors really want and what will sell--but we do a lot of talking about the market as it impacts on their novels. And since I've been able to sell over 40 of my own novels over the years, I've developed a pretty good sense of what might work or not work. The best feedback I received as a novice was to simply write the very best book I could at wherever I happened to be in my career. I never just write something that I think is "good enough". You have to hold nothing back. The harshest criticism? Oh, that always hurts. I've had editors or contest judges tell me they hated my heroine or couldn't identify with her (ouch!), and yet another editor loved the story (and presumably the heroine) enough to buy the book. Some editors love my writing; others find fault with it. That's part of the business. It's all so subjective.
Kim: I know from my time around authors at chapter meetings, regional conferences, and national conventions that a writer's manuscript is a work of art. Unlike art, manuscripts are edited, revised, and rewritten. Book titles, covers, and marketing are generally made by someone else - a non artiste! How do you as a writer reconcile that market trends dictate your artistic vision? How do you explain this as a mentor to a mentee?
Kathryn: I'm glad you asked about this. The thing is, artists of all types--painters, sculptors, choreographers, playwrights--have always been influenced to a certain extent by the demands of the public and the market. They know that certain things are received well and others are not. So a successful artist often makes compromises and may choose to use one style over another to keep from starving. Writing short stories and novels is no different. But we don't need to sell our souls. I have always felt that I could "write one for them, one for me"--that is, one novel to appeal to what I believe editors are looking for, and then write a book I want to write no matter what others are saying is safe and popular. That keeps me balanced and less frustrated. The funny thing is, the books I've taken the most chances on, like The Gentleman Poet, are the ones that ultimately have done the best. But yes, sometimes we're faced with a cover we don't like or editorial demands that seem unreasonable, and these can be problems. However, as in any business, we sometimes don't get everything we want. There's always someone over us with the authority to alter our creative product. My best advice as a mentor is to "pick your fights". Often, editors are willing to give in to a rational appeal if they see that you're listening to them on other points.
|Stratford upon Avon|
Kim: What's next for Kathryn Johnson?
Kathryn: Another historical novel about a well-loved literary figure. (It's a secret for now!) I'm very excited about it and hope my readers of The Gentleman Poet will look forward to another reimagining of a familiar figure from the past.
Mahalo, Kathryn, for joining us at SOS Aloha! Kathryn has generously donated a copy of her newest release, The Gentleman Poet, for one randomly selected commenter.
To enter the book giveaway,
1. Contact Kelley at Columbussos@gmail.com to join Operation Holiday Card. It is our goal to ensure that 1000 deployed airmen, marines, sailors, soldiers, and Coast Guardsmen receive a holiday card.
I am promoting Operation Holiday Card through November 12 - if you have signed up, thank you!
2. Leave a comment about Kathryn, Shakespeare, hurricanes, and mentoring.
3. Keep your house stocked with emergency supplies for hurricanes, snow storms, and power outages this coming winter.
The book giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only. Comments will be open through November 7 for the book giveaway.
Join us tomorrow as we welcome TWRP's Marguerite Arotin, http://www.ohioromance.net/.
Kim in Hawaii
1. Speaking of The Tempest, Helen Mirren stars in a gender switching version of Shakespeare's play. From http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1274300/
In Julie Taymor's version of 'The Tempest,' the main character is now a woman named Prospera. Going back to the 16th or 17th century, women practicing the magical arts of alchemy were often convicted of witchcraft. In Taymor's version, Prospera is usurped by her brother and sent off with her four-year daughter on a ship. She ends up on an island; it's a tabula rasa: no society, so the mother figure becomes a father figure to Miranda. This leads to the power struggle and balance between Caliban and Prospera; a struggle not about brawn, but about intellect.
The movie co-stars Russell Brand and Djimon Hounsou (interesting selection of cast members). The film received rave reviews at Hawaii International Film Festival - Hawaii? Because the film was shot on the island of Kauai. So go see this film when it is released on December 10!
2. The "first blogger flight in the history of the Airforce” records his experience at http://www.qando.net/?p=2659
I had a unique experience this week. That was the opportunity to fly with a very unique military unit. Unique in the sense that they’re the only one like it in the US military. I’m speaking of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, known as the “Hurricane Hunters”, based at Keesler AFB in Biloxi MS.
3. The tropical storms in the Atlantic are called Hurricanes and in the Pacific Typhoons. Weather forecasts began naming the Atlantic storms in 1950 to avoid confusion of multiple storms brewing at once. At first they used the phonetic alphabet - Able, Baker, Charlie, etc. In 1953, they because to use English language female names. In 1979, hurricanes became politically correct. The pre-published list included both female and male names in English, French, and Spanish. Some names have been retired for their record setting performance, er, damage.
4. The Atlantic's predetermined names do not start with Q, U, X, Y, and Z. If a hurricane season exhausts the list, forecasters will assign names from the Greek alphabet, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc.
5. The naming structure for the storms in the Pacific is determined by the region. And Australia has its own set of names.