Australian writer, Goldie Alexander, recently featured in Wish Upon a Southern Star with her fairy tale retelling, “Jacqui and the GM Beanstalk”. Goldie is no stranger to retellings. She has written a number of Shakespeare retellings - a YA series called SHAKESPEARE NOW! These novels take the original Shakespeare plays and characters and place them in modern settings using young protagonists.
· THE TRYTTH CHRONICLES: a science fantasy based on THE TEMPEST
· GAP YEAR NANNY: a contemporary version of MACBETH, set in Melbourne today and told by the nanny Macbeth employs
· CHANGING HISTORY? A ROMEO AND JULIET time warp set in Melbourne 2016 and Berlin 1928 (during the Weimar Republic).
These radical retellings sound amazing. Goldie, what inspired you to write them?
I had several motivations. Because I used to teach English to secondary students before settling into a full time career as an author, I usually found that our time was taken up with translating the poetry into language kids understand. I wanted to show how relevant his characters and plots still are. Social media has taken up such a large portion of youngsters’ lives, I worry that too much of our literary background can be lost. I had already tackled the magical elements of Homer’s Odyssey in both a middle grade novel called NEPTUNIA and a YA verse novel IN HADES, shortlisted as an Aurealis award. I was aware that retellings of Shakespeare’s plays abounded, but few versions used contemporary settings youngsters could relate to. And in the end I couldn’t resist the intellectual challenge.
The settings of the stories are all very different. How did you choose your settings for each of these retellings?
This was done very much on purpose, my aim being that Shakespeare’s characters and plots are still relevant today and can be transposed to many different settings. It just takes imagination. For example, a magic island can easily become a spaceship. Ariel and Caliban lend themselves to be turned into aliens. As ‘The Tempest’, the original play, is very short, I extended the story into a sci fi fantasy and called it THE TRYTTH CHRONICLES.
When it came to ‘Macbeth’… we know that there are people who use power ruthlessly to gratify their own wishes. Hence my contemporary Melbourne setting in GAP YEAR NANNY. My problem here was to find a third person who observes Stuart Macbeth’s descent into evil triggered by Lorna, his ambitious wife, and turn the witches into Internet Gurus who promise you the world. So Macbeth becomes a big time CEO, and Merri, the children’s nanny, tells her personal story alongside her account of the Macbeth family she works for. The title, GAP YEAR NANNY hints that this is Merri’s gap year.
CHANGING HISTORY? is a time-warp that evolved from finding a wonderful setting in a derelict building in East Berlin. Here, Melbourne-based Taylor, angry with her ‘best friends’, holidays in Berlin with her grandfather, only to be knocked out and returned to 1928. The Romeo/Juliet theme is picked up by the couple that rescue her as Rom is Jewish, Julie isn’t, and both mothers refuse to let them marry. But can one really change history? Hence the question mark.
How true are these stories to the Shakespeare originals? How have the original themes and messages held true or changed?
The original themes are there and so are the characters. However, this time the story is told through very different perspectives. I hope these novels will stand on their own, but also make the reader curious enough to return to the original plays.
How did you approach Shakespeare’s language in your retellings?
Interesting question, as I think this is the greatest difficulty for a young reader. My aim was to show that in spite of ‘having to translate’ that the essence of the play is still there. Very occasionally I slipped in a quote, but they are rare. There is no way a contemporary author can write like that great master. Nor should we try.
When will the novels be released and how can readers get their hands on a copy?
They are planned to appear sometime in October. The publisher is
Copies can also be purchased through my website www.goldiealexander.com
They have already published several of my middle grade novels. The last, CYBERTRICKS, won a 2016 CBCA Notable.
Do you have any other retellings in the pipeline? What is your next writing project?
I am presently mining early 20th Century Berlin as I have done so much research on this era and it bears so many similarities to the present day. This time it is about an English girl who goes to stay with her Berlin cousins. A rough title is AN INNOCENT IN BERLIN.
Thanks for telling us about your projects, Goldie. I look forward to reading these upcoming works!
It is my pleasure to share a Highly Commended poem from the Fairy Tale Poetry competition for local high school students -
15 year old Helena Dray's "Many a Time Over." Well done, Helena.
Many a time over
Many a time over, the world is filled with such ruthless despair,
flooding children’s dreams and filling minds with fear.
But when stories speak of strength, all so profound,
The certain, plaguing evil will no longer rain down,
We learn to fly through our lives without a single care.
As people’s newly found glee begins to fill the air.
Many a time over, tales of terror are told with hope cracking through.
Legends of lies with hints of tender virtue,
fables of fear with destiny underlying.
They tell us how to see, how to reach the silver lining.
In the books given to us, there are stories to pursue,
with lessons to be learned that we could never undo.
Many a time over, a sleepy child’s mind gets filled with such urgency,
a desire of good, of kindness and of certainty.
The thoughts they pursued throughout the day,
dance around in their heads as they get filed away.
As sleepy heads are laid to rest, ready to regain the strength they lack,
from out of the shelf, Mum pulls a paperback.
And as they become tired, their dreams become strong.
And as they go to sleep, their imaginations awake, all night long.
Congratulations to 16 year old Rebecca Harris of Rangi Ruru High School who won the Fairy Tale Poetry Competition for local high school students with her poem, "Goldilocks".
Well done, Rebecca!
His creeping shadows trace the wall
With soft and tender caresses
Prowling through his own halls
Snarling in displeasure.
Heavy, padding footsteps
Steal down the hall in near silence
Snooping through doorways
Finding the intruder.
The intruder seems innocent
Young and carefree and so very stupid
Sleeping in his son’s own bed
Never caring for consequences
The shadows are long and dark
Streaking across the intruder’s face
Until she awakes, framed by golden hair
And she screams until she doesn’t.
They might not have had their porridge,
May have had their beds unmade,
But, in the very least, they have a new meal
Little girl goes very well with carrots.
Wish Upon a Southern Star has its first book review! A big thanks to Bob Docherty of Bobs Books Blog for reading and reviewing the anthology. Check out his review here.