Author: Jeffery S. Williams
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc
ISBN: 978-0-595-52979-7


Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest once again Jeffery S. Williams author of Pirate Spirit: The Adventures of Anne Booney and his most recent endeavor Who’s To Blame?

Good day Jeffery and thanks once again for participating in our interview.

Norm:

Why have you been drawn to writing a parody of two of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet?

Jeffery:

Because all the world’s a parody…and all the writers merely contributors. We have our submissions and our published works…. That’s as I like it, but I digress.

As a high school and community college English instructor for 22 years, I have taught a number of Shakespeare’s plays — Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet most frequently. I’ve studied the plays carefully, and in an effort to keep students engaged I found myself looking for contemporary approaches and comical takes on classic scenes and lines. Out of those teaching experiences I’ve come to love the stories, and inadvertently I’ve memorized many of the lines. Who’s To Blame? bloomed from the fertile soil of pedagogy and research. I also have a love for intelligent comedies, satires and parodies. I suppose it was natural that some day I would gravitate to writing one. The plays are rich in some of the best-known one-liners and soliloquies in the world of literature, affording terrific opportunities for parody.

Norm:

Are there aesthetic advantages and disadvantages peculiar to the parody? What would you consider to be the fundamental elements of a well-written parody?

Jeffery:

The aesthetic advantage to writing a parody is that the author is already working with literary material. The challenge is making the parody worthy of the original. While I would never compare the quality of my writing to Shakespeare’s, I do hope he is truly not turning over in his grave over my attempt to parody his classic plays. A well-written parody has to respect the original and interact with it in a complementary and amusing manner. A parody is not merely imitation and comical flattery, but also takes on a life of its own. One of the better parody/pastiches of Hamlet with Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Stoppard’s masterpiece obviously interacts with Hamlet, but also creates a completely new take on particular characters.

Norm:

As you are a high school English teacher, how have you used parody to teach the appreciation of literature?

Jeffery:

To foster a greater appreciation and understanding of classical literature, such as Shakespeare, for teenagers, I’ve found it a necessity to utilize wit, hi jinx, satire, slapstick, repartee and parody. As a learning tool, humour has proven invaluable to create an educational atmosphere, engage students and lure them into the world Shakespeare created even though it is more than 400 years old. After we have finished a play such as Hamlet, I often assign video or live parodies of scenes as well as written parodies of soliloquies or colloquies. After viewing or reading a particularly well-done parody that is well received, I remind my students that their appreciation for it would not be possible without solid background knowledge of the original. A developed sense of humour is predicated upon a foundational knowledge of the most famous works of literature, such as Greek epics/plays, Biblical stories, and Shakespeare’s works.

Norm:

As a follow up to the last question, I notice in your Acknowledgements you thank your former students of Clovis West High School for permitting you to bounce quirky ideas “in my minds eye” and giving you terrific feedback. Could you elaborate on this?

Jeffery:

Similar to what I did with Pirate Spirit, I pitched the plot to my students — a kind of test audience. Any fresh idea I had went through a kind of “to be or not to be” process. When I received enthusiastic responses I would pursue those angles. When certain plot arcs failed to draw interest, I would alter or abandon them. During class discussions I might offer a turn of phrase or a contemporary take on a classic Shakespearean line. If all I heard were chirping crickets I jettisoned it; if I the comment drew chuckles and chortles, I kept it. I almost never did this in any formal manner, but I frequently tucked amusing observations in the back of my mind for future use in the class and, most recently, for the manuscript of Who’s To Blame? So my student became my unwitting editors and muses, which is why I acknowledge them.

Norm:

In general, how do you make Shakespeare come alive in the classroom? How can teachers foster a love for Shakespeare, rather than a fear of it, in their students?

Jeffery:

Shakespeare likely never intended to have his plays published and sold for the purpose of study. His focus revolved entirely around dramatizing his literature. So I lean heavily on a variety of films and acting opportunities; however, because the language is so rich and the concepts so profound, they are worthy of focused study. So I try to combine various mediums to enhance students’ understanding and appreciation.

Norm:

In writing Who’s To Blame, was it improvisational or did you have a set plan?

Jeffery:

While I had a clear sense of the primary plot from beginning to end, much of the process involved in reaching the conclusion was unplanned. Part of the pleasure of writing for me is to see what paths my creative impulses will take me down. I am always pleasantly surprised by the unexpected directions a scene will take — and in the case of this novel — often with comical results. Once I had created SherChristispeare and his sidekick Pancho, the possibilities abounded in so many cool channels and fun and avenues. If Who’s To Blame? finds an audience, I have already planned adventures/sequels from MacBeth, Othello, and King Lear.

Norm:

Where did all of your comical dialogue come from in Who’s To Blame?

Jeffery:

Although I opted to write the novel in prose, I wanted to retain some of the feel of a play. I decided to include a character cast at the beginning of each book and make dialogue prominent in most of the scenes. I do love witty banter so my reading and viewing habits often gravitate that direction. Intelligent British and American series — Seinfeld, Arrested Development, Spaced — and too many films to name certainly served as inspiration.

Norm:

What did you enjoy most about writing Who’s To Blame and did you learn anything from its writing?

Jeffery:

My first novel Pirate Spirit: The Adventures of Anne Bonney was a work of historical fiction, a classical kind of story. While it had its humorous moments, the story was much more dramatic and tragic. Writing a comedy was obviously a very different experience — full of wordplay, plot twists, reversals and innuendo. While I enjoyed writing both books, Who’s To Blame? was definitely a lot of fun. More recently, it has been a pleasure to be making contact with various Shakespearean societies around the country. I have found myself doing a little more acting than usual during my book presentations and signings. All good fun.

Norm:

What are the preponderant influences on your writing?

Jeffery:

My classical loves are Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dante. In the Enlightenment and Romantic eras, I am a fan of Voltaire, Dickens, Hugo, Austen, Zola and Eliot. Modern era? Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Hemingway, Fitzgerald. I always have to express the influence of Steve Yarbrough and Liza Weiland, my creative writing masters program advisors/professors at the Fresno State Writing program.

Norm:

Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?

Jeffery:

There are several interviews and reviews on the Internet revolving around Pirate Spirit. Hopefully more will surface about Who’s To Blame? soon. I have a facebook page too. I welcome emails and I promise to write back.

Norm:

What is next for Jeffrey S. Williams?

Jeffery:

I am bouncing between three projects. A psychological crime thriller, another historical fiction based on the War of 1812 and a sequel to Who’s To Blame? Time will tell which way my muse and daemon leads.

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.

Click Here To Purchase Who's to Blame?: A Literary Comedy

Click Here To Read Norm's Review of Who's To Blame?