Pen friends! McKelle George, an editor and debut author of Speak Easy, Speak Love –a 1920’s retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, is here to share her writing life and editing tips with us!
SP: Hi McKelle! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?
Hi! I’m a young adult writer and my debut Speak Easy, Speak Love comes out this month. I’ve always done a little writing (mostly fanfic and RP), but I made the decision to seriously write the summer of 2011. (:
SP: So lets talk about your debut, Speak Easy, Speak Love. How did this idea develop? How long did it take for you to write it?
I was inspired to do a Shakespeare retelling after seeing some amazingly clever and intuitive adaptations at the RSC 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.
SP: What was your journey to finding an agent like–uphill? Luck of the draw?
I cold queried my agent, along with about 20 others before it was in the Brenda Drake’s Pitch Madness contest, and also got some requests from #PitMad. From first query to offer was only about two months, and I blame those two contests for propelling my querying process so quickly.
SP: What are some books that have inspired you along the way? Are you a Shakespeare junkie?
I love Shakespeare–but I prefer to see it performed than reading it (though I like that too); so I’m a play-junkie. There’s this great Grassroots troupe where I live that perform in parks for free and I love it. I also read a lot of P.G. Wodehouse for inspiration on casual but biting wit.
SP: What kind of a writer are you? Do you start with a scene? A big picture? Are you plotter? Gut feelings?
I’m a big picture and loose plotter. I have key scenes and core emotional moments I want to hit and then I try and feel my way through. I do use gut feelings–my inner-sensor for knowing when something is not working is almost never wrong–but it also means a lot of revision work. (I think SESL had nearly 11 drafts.)
SP: You are a PitchWars Mentor this year, how has that experience been? Did you ever submit to PW in the past?
I love being a PitchWars Mentor! I didn’t do PitchWars, but I did Pitch Madness and #PitMad. They’re great exposure to agents, but more than that, these contests are such a community and help you rally for your own writing, regardless of how you actually do.
SP: Any advice on getting a reader to empathize with a Character?
Oh wow, this is a tricky question–because I think there are lots of ways to go about it. And empathy and emotion are particularly hard, because you can’t account for the subjectivity of the reader. One reader will connect with something different than another, you know? I also believe any type of character can ultimately be empathetic if written well.
But an exercise I sometimes find helpful is to note when I’m reading a book or watching a movie or whatever, what moments am I emotionally invested? When do I suddenly care enough to forgo sleep so that I know what happens to this character? What has hooked me as a reader? Once you find that moment, then look for how it was successfully translated to you. Do this enough times and you’ll start to hone an instinct for how to make a character empathetic and your writing emotional.
SP: You can learn more about McKelle’s books and editing services here — Thanks for joining us and good luck with your debut!
Thanks for having me!