‘I quake before it.’
That’s what Howard Jacobson said, earlier this year, about the challenge of writing a novel retelling Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. That’s Howard Jacobson the 2010 winner of the Man Booker Prize. Howard Jacobson, two times winner of the Wodehouse Prize for comic literature, and that Howard Jacobson is quaking before the challenge of adapting a Shakespeare play.
As you can imagine, hearing that is a tiny bit disheartening if you’re a wee little insignificant newbie writer, about to publish their first novel, based, entirely coincidentally, on a Shakespeare play. Much Ado About Sweet Nothing, out now with Choc Lit’s digital Choc Lit Lite imprint, is inspired, not surprisingly, by Much Ado About Nothing, which is a play I’ve loved since I watched Kenneth Branagh’s film version when I was a teenager, and fell a little bit in love with Emma Thompson’s sunkissed, titian-curled Beatrice, and quite a lot in love with Denzel Washington’s Don Pedro.
But why try to turn a play into a novel? There’s all sorts of reasons that that’s a stupid idea, especially with a writer like Shakespeare who has a propensity for comic confusions between twins and ladies dressing up as men. There’s really only so much of that you can get away with in a contemporary, and supposedly realistic, novel.
For me Much Ado About Nothing is the story that made me fall in love with romantic comedy. I was never an Austen girl, and I’ve always had a deep seated urge to give Bridget Jones a sandwich and tell her to stop whining. But Beatrice is a proper romantic heroine – grown-up, bad-tempered, stubborn, intelligent, more than equal to Benedick in thought, word and deed. And their relationship is the template for every bicker-flirty rom-com couple you’ve ever seen (or read). They’re Harry and Sally, Lorelai and Luke, Spike and Linda, the Doctor and River Song and so very many more.
And I’m not the only one who thinks that Shakespeare’s comedies are worth a revisit and retelling. As well as Howard Jacobson, Margaret Attwood, Jeanette Winterson, and Anne Tyler have also signed up to write Shakespeare adaptations for the Hogarth Shakespeare series, which all sounds terribly impressive and interesting. I just hope they won’t be too disappointed when hear that me and Choc Lit got there first.
About Alison May
Alison May was born and raised in North Yorkshire, but now lives in Worcester with one husband, no kids and no pets. There were goldfish once. That ended badly.
Alison has studied History at the University of York, and worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a learning adviser, an advice centre manager, and a freelance trainer, before settling on ‘making up stories’ as an entirely acceptable grown-up career plan.
Alison has been a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association since 2011, and won the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy in 2012. She has a degree in Creative Writing, and now writes contemporary romantic comedies. Her debut novel, Much Ado About Sweet Nothing, is published by Choc Lit, in November 2013.
You can follow Alison on Twitter @MsAlisonMay, and find out more about her at www.alison-may.co.uk
About Much Ado About Sweet Nothing
Is something always better than nothing?
Ben Messina is a maths genius and romance sceptic. He and Trix met at university and have been quarrelling and quibbling ever since, not least because of Ben’s decision to abandon their relationship in favour of … more maths! Can Trix forget past hurt and help Ben see a life beyond numbers, or is their long history in danger of ending in nothing?
Charming and sensitive, Claudio Messina, is as different from his brother as it is possible to be and Trix’s best friend, Henrietta, cannot believe her luck when the Italian model of her dreams chooses her. But will Claudio and Henrietta’s pursuit for perfection end in a disaster that will see both of them starting from zero once again?
This is a fresh and funny retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set in the present day.
Much Ado About Sweet Nothing is available as an Amazon kindle ebook here