Friday we brought you our review of Emily Selleck’s novel Doubt the Stars and now we present you with our interview with the author! We absolutely loved the concept and execution of this piece and were excited to be able to dig a bit deeper with the creator. Read on to find out more!
Other than an apparent love of Shakespeare, what else inspired you for the creation of Doubt the Stars?
I’ve always been a big fan of mashups and reimaginings in literature, especially taking stories that were originally very male-centric and giving the women more power and agency. I loved the idea of switching the genders of nearly every character in a very testosterone-heavy story and seeing what might happen. Putting it in space mostly came from my writing group: we were doing a themed writing month, in which everyone tried to write a story in space, and Doubt The Stars just grew from that.
What led you to a reimagining of Hamlet as opposed to another Shakespearean tragedy?
I had actually never read or seen Hamlet until just a few years ago! It was one of those plays that everyone always talks about, so I thought I knew the plot pretty well, and I just never got around to it. Then I saw the BBC production starring David Tennant and Sir Patrick Stewart, and my life was changed. I couldn’t believe how much I loved it. It just felt so rich and alive, and while several of the plot points didn’t make perfect sense, it all just felt very human. I spent the next few months watching every version I could get my hands on and realized very quickly that I was hooked, that I wanted to write a story like this someday. There are other tragedies I’m looking forward to exploring in the future (and comedies as well!), but Hamlet really felt like the perfect place to start.
Henley and Laersa’s clandestine relationship seemed so to be tastefully touched upon but also just out of reach as well for the reader. Was it a purposeful decision to make it this way?
It was partly intentional and partly not. In the play, Laertes (the character Laersa is based upon) does spend most of his time offstage. But I think the distance between Laersa and Henley is made of far more than just physical space. Henley is a dreamer, a big-thinker, and she truly believes that “love conquers all”. Laersa is much more practical. She can see the difficulties that they face and understands that no matter how much they love each other, it still might not be enough. Henley doesn’t want to see that, she’s all about living in the moment. But Laersa has other things that are important to her–her brother, her mother, her career–and caring about those things makes her more cautious and keeps her distant. So Laersa feels out of reach to us, because of all the ways she is out of reach to Henley.
If Doubt the Stars was adapted into film whom would you cast in the roles of your main characters? Why?
Oh, I love these questions! Henley: Amber Heard, Tensie: Katie Leung, Ophestes: Hugo Fairbanks Weston, Laersa: the closest I can get is a young Odessa Rae. Also, I’ve always imagined Persephone as Julianne Moore, and Queen Judith as Charlize Theron.
What was the most difficult aspect of the process for you when bringing this story into fruition?
Adapting a story meant for the stage into a novel was far more difficult than I imagined it would be. There are jumps in time that can be made on stage that you just can’t make on paper. And describing the settings and technology was especially difficult. It was all very clear in my head, but getting it down on paper was a challenge.
What did you learn along the way that could assist other up and coming authors?
My writing method for this book was completely different from any other story I’ve attempted. My best advice is to let that happen, don’t be afraid to try new things. I had never considered myself an outliner before, but I discovered that creating an outline (first for the original play, and then transferring that into an outline for the story I wanted to tell) was extremely helpful and kept me moving forward when I might have gotten bogged down. That might not work for you, and that’s okay. But don’t tie yourself to one way of writing, just because that’s how you’ve always done it. Each book is unique and should be treated as such.
The ghost of King Henley, how did you come up with the idea of his “phantom” being what it was?
“Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet.” ~Arthur C. Clarke. I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want this to be a fantasy story, but one of the first scenes I had in my head was this vision of a ghostly figure wandering the technologically advanced halls of a space station. I just knew I had to make that work, and the answer came to me very quickly. In fact, a lot of King Henley’s (and subsequently Henley the Younger’s) personality and background grew from that vision and what it became.
As a reader, Tensie’s love for Henley made me wonder if this was just loyalty or was she in love with Henley in the way that Laersa was?
I don’t think Tensie even knows that for sure. I intentionally left their relationship a little vague, because Tensie is a little naive and still discovering herself in a lot of ways. She hasn’t been away from the farm for long, and kind of fell into this relationship with someone who has very different boundaries than she’s used to. And Tensie does love Henley. But I don’t think she’s allowed herself to be in love with Henley, or even allowed herself to consider that possibility. Tensie has a lot to discover still, I’m excited to take that journey with her in future books.
Language was also a question for me. Modern English versus Shakespearean English. What was the idea as it was set in the future but some of the “thou” and “thee” was resurrected and/or intertwined?
Ah, yes, the “endearment tense”! I love a lot of the language of Shakespeare, and I wanted a way to incorporate that into the story, but just throwing it in randomly seemed like the wrong way. So I made it a tense all on its own, a tense specifically used as an endearment, used with people you care about. And just like endearments in modern language, the way you use them varies from person to person. Henley is very free with her affections, much more so than Tensie, so her use of endearments with her friend is the way she shows that she cares about her. Compared that to the interactions between Henley and her uncle, who still loves her very deeply, but her absence of ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s is a chill contrast that speaks volumes with very few words. It was meant as a fun, subtle way to add a bit of unique flare, while still keeping the flavor of Shakespeare, and I hope people can enjoy it even more on second, or even third readings.
What is next for you on your path as an author?
The million dollar question! Right now, I’m working on the second book in the Shakespeare In Space series, a retelling of “The Tempest”, featuring a crashed spaceship on a “seemingly” abandoned asteroid/space station. It should be a good time! I’ve always meant for this series to be a collection of stand-alone novels set in an interconnected world, making it easy to jump in wherever you like. So there will be a few recurring characters, mixed in with some interesting new faces, exploring more of this rapidly expanding universe. I also have some ideas for a few short stories based on the sonnets of Shakespeare, featuring some of the more minor characters in the universe that might not otherwise get a chance to shine. Check out my blog (fogisbeautiful.com) to keep up-to-date on what’s going on with me, and sign up for my newsletter there to be the first to know about sales and new stuff coming out. Thanks so much for having me!