Welcome to Week Twenty-Four of Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations. This week we're taking a look at Romeo and Juliet adaptations along with an author interview with Claudia Gabel.
Over the years, there have been many adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. Franco Zefferelli's 1968 version was the first to feature actual teenagers playing the roles of Romeo and Juliet. Baz Lurhman's Romeo + Juliet took a nontraditional view by setting the story in modern day Verona Beach California while keeping the traditional text. And who can forget the Jets and Sharks of West Side Story? Or the spin on how Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare in Love?
My first experience with Romeo and Juliet came when I read it 9th grade. I didn't quite have the best teacher that year, and she really didn't bring the text alive for me. The next time I came in contact with R & J was when my HS did the musical West Side Story, which I love until this day! Then R & J came calling again in college when I took a Shakespeare class for my undergrad. This time there was a greater appreciation for the story, the characters, and the figurative language. I also went to see Shakespeare in Love when it first came out. Fast forward about eight years later when I first began teaching 9th grade, and I got the opportunity to teach it.
Speaking of adaptations, did you know about the book Romeo and Juliet and Vampires? If you don't, then you totally need to pick up a copy. I would highly, highly recommend it to anyone who loves the R & J story or would maybe like to have a greater appreciation. And I'd totally recommend it to vampire story lovers!
Today to reflect on Romeo and Juliet adaptations, we have the lovely Claudia Gabel, Senior Editor of Katherine Tegan Books and author of Romeo and Juliet and Vampires, which is a Junior Libary Guild fall book pick!
*What would HS Claudia think of grown up Claudia?
I think HS Claudia would be pretty proud of GU Claudia. I wound up working in a field that pays me to read books and write stories about teen love—a dream come true for the girl often times preferred hanging out with fictional characters than making friends. HS Claudia would also be impressed with some of my celebrity encounters—Harry Connick Jr. once told me I was pretty! (A long but awesome story.) However, Middle School Claudia would probably be very disappointed. My ideal M.A.S.H. fantasy was living in a mansion with Johnny Depp and our four kids and driving a DeLorean (I really loved Back to the Future—and still do!)
*What led you to become a book editor?
I’ve been obsessed with books my entire life. I was an English major in college and got my Master’s degree in American and English Literature. Actually, I’d thought about pursuing a PhD and becoming a college professor, but I realized that although I loved school and books, I wasn’t a true academic at heart. Not too long after I came to this conclusion, I found out a friend of a friend worked in publishing and needed an editorial assistant. It seemed like the best path for me, especially because I loved to write and hoped that being in that environment would not only give me great contacts, but help me strengthen my craft.
*HOW do you manage to find time to write with your day job? (I'm amazed by this one!)
Well, it’s a sacrifice for sure. There was a period where I was working at an office until 5, grabbed something to eat, watched repeats of Scrubs on Comedy Central, and then wrote until almost midnight. It was a sad little life, but I don’t regret it at all because at the end of the day, I was so happy to have the opportunity to cultivate my own writing and other authors at the same time. Right now, I’m just writing on the weekends as much as possible, and on the subway, too, since I have a long commute from Washington Heights to…pretty much anywhere.
*How do you decide which "classics" deserve a good vampire spin?
Good question! I think it you just have to look at core of the story and see if it lends itself to the vampire conundrum, which is—how to I act on my insatiable desire? Honestly, that moral question is at the heart of a lot of classic literature, and that’s probably why these novels are ripe for supernatural reinterpretation.
*Tell us about the In or Out series.
The In or Out books tell the story of Nola and Marnie, two BFFS whose relationship takes a drastic turn when they enter high school. While there are mean girls and impossible crushes threaded throughout the series, the narrative is really about friendship and what it’s like to lose a friend for the first time. It’s such a painful experience and every one of us has gone through it, so I felt that it was important to address the subject and show young girls that you can recover when you lose your best friend. And that sometimes second chances are possible.
*What else do you have up your sleeve?
Right now I’m working on writing a story that hinges on things that happened during the American spiritualist movement. It’s quite a challenging project! But I’m very excited about it, because it’s something I’ve never tried before. My goal was to get a chunk to my agent by Thanksgiving, but I just looked at my manuscript reading schedule for the month and am not as confident anymore. Welcome to the life of a writer/editor!
Claudia does her own very creative Flashback Fridays over at her blog:
Thanks Claudia for stopping by and go out and get your copy of Romeo and Juliet and Vampires.