Saturday, September 23, 2017

0 McKelle George, author of SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE, on knowing a project was THE ONE

We are delighted to have McKelle George swing by to chat about her debut novel, SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE.

McKelle, what was your inspiration for writing SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE?

I hated Shakespeare when I was a teen, but when I was in college, I was required to take a Shakespeare course if I wanted to do a study abroad in the UK. I had a really great professor who emphasized the various ways Shakespeare can be interpreted . . . and then when I went to the UK, I got splattered with stage blood from the RSC production of Titus Andronicus and had Sebastian wring out his codpiece right by my head at a Globe production of The Tempest. We saw about seven plays and I was in love—both with the source material, but also the way people were experimenting with it.

Much Ado About Nothing is my favorite Shakespeare play, and was the only one I liked even when I hated Shakespeare. It’s a sneakily feminist play, and I wanted to set it in the 1920s because it’s such a uniquely feminist time.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I think The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a great example of how historical fiction can be fun and clever and lighthearted, and I also think people who like books like Anna and the French Kiss, which are quieter action-wise but have a lot of romance and character focus, would like Speak Easy, Speak Love. There’s also another hilarious Much Ado About Nothing retelling called “The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You.”

How long did you work on SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE?

I wrote the first draft in a month, but I spent a long time revising. By myself and with my agent it was at least a year and a half of revision work. It was really hard to nail down exactly how I wanted to tell my interpretation of the story.

What do you hope readers will take away from SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE?

Speak Easy, Speak Love is filled with characters who are, in various ways, trying to find a way to get their dreams. They’re also adjusting to reality—and in turn adjusting those dreams and what really brings happiness and what doesn’t. When I look back and read it now, I can see my own yearning to have this impossible thing I want so badly—and also learning to keep my sanity when some things are just outside of your control.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Funnily, I thought this before I even started. Don’t get me wrong—it was a lot of work getting the novel to a level where it was actually presentable to the public. But I remember as the idea started to unfold in my head and all the details started to sketch themselves out, I had the very clear thought: This is it. This is the one that gets me through the door.

I had no feeling like it would be the greatest novel ever written, or even that it would be successful or well-received . . . but I did feel, before I’d written a word, that it would be my first published book. And here we are!


Speak Easy, Speak Love
by McKelle George
Greenwillow Books
Released 9/19/2017

Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer.

Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother, John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.

Purchase Speak Easy, Speak Love at Amazon
Purchase Speak Easy, Speak Love at IndieBound
View Speak Easy, Speak Love on Goodreads


McKelle George is a reader, writer of clumsy rebels, perpetual doodler, and reference librarian at the best library in the world. She mentors with Salt Lake Teen Writes and plays judge for the Poetry Out Loud teen competitions (but has no poetic talent herself). Her debut young adult novel Speak Easy, Speak Love comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2017, and she currently lives in Salt Lake City with an enormous white german shepherd and way, way too many books.


Have you had a chance to read SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE yet? One month for a first draft is pretty impressive -- what's the quickest you've written a new project? What's the longest?

Happy reading,

Charlotte, Jocelyn, Anisaa, Erin, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

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