Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Spotlight | Lisa Klein

After I read Lisa's newest book, Lady Macbeth's Daughter, I was ecstatic when she agreed to tell us a little more about her inspiration for her Shakespearian novels and what kinda of adventures historical fiction has in store. Here is what Lisa had to say:

One of the most common questions readers ask is “Where do you get the ideas for your books?”  Short answer: from Shakespeare, from the past.  From anyplace I want to go in my mind; better yet if I can get there in body.

When  I thought about retelling a famous Shakespeare play from the perspective of a female character, Hamlet was a natural choice. Hence Ophelia, my first book. But Shakespeare’s Macbeth? Lady Macbeth, who helps her husband commit murder and, like Ophelia, goes mad and dies, did not seem a promising protagonist for a YA novel. So I started work on another book idea, when one day it hit me: I could invent a character who was not in Shakespeare’s play, but whose existence would make sense of the evil chosen by Macbeth and his lady. And thus Albia was born—the unwanted daughter of Scotland’s murderous king and queen. Lover of Fleance. Gifted with second sight. Revenger of her parents’ wrong. Yes!

I get really wrapped up in the books I write. I’m a stickler for accurate details. When I was writing Two Girls of Gettysburg I went and walked the battlefield and the town streets, and mingled among thousands of costumed visitors during a reenactment weekend, read histories of the Civil War and letters and diaries from the time. 

With Lady Macbeth’s Daughter, I realized I had a great story, but it just didn’t feel alive and real to me. I had no sense of place. How does one write about Scotland a thousand years ago? There are no written records from that time.

But there are amazing ruins! Henges of stone and burial cairns everywhere on remote islands, and in pastures where cows graze, oblivious. Most of these sites are over a thousand years old.  I saw the pictures in books. But that’s not the same as seeing them with your own eyes. So I went to Scotland, dragging my good-natured son along—who only asked to play some golf in exchange for trekking with me to the far reaches of Scotland.

And what I saw there stirred my imagination! In particular, the standing stones of Callanish inspired Stravenock Henge, where Albia and the sisters meet and perform their mysterious rites. After my trip, I finally had a sense of place and a mood that I could bring to the events of my story. And my character Albia came alive, because now she had a stage, a setting where she could move and interact and fulfill her (and Scotland’s) destiny.

Wow, I want to go to Scotland someday. Doesn't that Stonehenge look neat up against the green grass? Thanks so much for sharing with us Lisa! We can't wait to see where you'll take us next with your stunning historical fiction.....



Madeline said...

I really love the books I've read of hers and can't wait to read Lady Macbeth's Daughter.
Thanks for putting her in the spotlight, great post!

The Library Lurker said...

Wow, she sounds awesome. Scotland is now on my list of Places To Go. I loved Ophelia and I really want to read Lady Macbeth's Daughter now, it sounds so good!

The Book Owl said...

I love hisorical fiction, so I really should pick up Ms. Klein's books one of these days.

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