Borrowing from the Bard
by Julia Williams
I have I think, just possibly, with any luck, written my first rom com. I am a big fan of those black and white movies starring people like Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn (The Philadelphia Story is a favourite), and have long wanted to write a sparkling romance, with witty dialogue and a warring couple sparking off one another. However, every time I’ve tried to write one, I’ve ended up with a domestic story about families, and love and keeping marriage together. Which is fine, obviously: write what you know and all that, and as a veteran of a nearly 24-year-old marriage, with four children and lots of experience of dealing with the elderly, I can certainly do that. But I’ve always had the hankering to go back to the beginning of the story, before the marriage, the children and the responsibility, and write about the fun of early courtship.
So when I was asked to write a summer romance, I thought I’d give it a go. Last time my editor asked me to write about summer weddings, I tried to write light and frothy. The result was The Bridesmaid Pact, a book I am very proud of, but which is the furthest from light and frothy you can imagine. To be fair, my personal life at the time wasn’t exactly conducive to writing light and frothy, so maybe it was that. But this time, I was in a much lighter place, so I thought it was worth a try.
As often is the case for me, the original inspiration for my new book was a song, called You’ll Be Mine by the Pierces, which made me think of magic and fairytales and falling in love. So the thought of writing a summery magical book lodged in my head and stuck there. It wasn’t too far to find my title: Midsummer Magic, which my editor liked. This is unusual for me, because nine times out of ten my titles aren’t commercial enough, but straight away I knew this one was.
So then I got to thinking about magic, and mystery, and straightaway I knew my story had to be set in Cornwall, possibly the most magical mysterious place on our small island. Then I started thinking about Standing Stones, and local legends of love, and wondering if I could have my characters somehow being enchanted to fall in love with one another on Midsummer’s Eve. From there, it was quite obvious, that I was simply going to have to borrow from the best. And thus I found myself looking to A Midsummer Night’s Dream for inspiration. (I know, I know, plagiarism, but Old Bill did it himself, so I’m sure he won’t mind too much). And as it turned out, it’s actually quite hard to adapt the story to a totally modern setting without making Puck and Oberon look totally manipulative (they drug everyone for heaven’s sake, and Oberon has his wife fall in love with a donkey – what’s that all about? And as for Titania and Oberon fighting over the little changeling boy, hmm…), so I had to do something completely different with it anyway.
Once I got going, I thought it would be fun to have my characters take part in a hypnotic experiment – so my Puck, Freddie by name, is a well-known TV hypnotist (Derren Brown was also a huge inspiration) who is planning a new TV series around local myths to see if people can be hypnotised to carry them out. Enter stage left my couples: Josie and Harry who are in love and getting married, and Di and Ant who have history and are very much not in love. Add to the mix, Freddie’s long-time partner, Auberon, a TV magician, Auberon’s, ex Tatiana, an aging soapstar, plus a local lothario, Mick Slowbotham, and I had myself the makings of a story…
Certainly, I drew from Shakespeare for my inspiration, and the plot is very similar, but I hope I’ve given an old story a new twist. It was the fastest book I’ve ever written too: there is something about letting your characters loose on top of a cliff at midnight, which makes for a frenetic and furious pace. To be honest, writing this book was a blast from start to finish, and I hope people have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.
So, I think, finally, like I say, I may have succeeded in my aim to write a rom com. To be fair if I have, it isn’t entirely my own doing. But, if you’re going to borrow, borrow from the best, which is why I’m proud to say I’ve borrowed from the Bard…
Julia Williams is a bestselling author of six books, her seventh, Midsummer Magic, is published on July 4, 2013. She lives in Surrey with her husband, Dave, and their four children. She is a lifelong fan of Shakespeare, and proud in this instance to have used him for inspiration!