Thursday, January 10, 2013
An Accidental Novelist
In September of 2012, my first book -- SECRETS OF SHAKESPEARE'S GRAVE -- was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children. It is a middle-grade mystery novel -- the first in a series. At the heart of the book is a mystery that involves William Shakespeare.
I could pretend to be sophisticated and claim that I was instantly drawn to the Bard and his works. I could tell you that as teenager I would sit under a large oak tree for hours and read Shakespeare's sonnets. I could explain how I begged my mother to take me to performances of Shakespeare’s works. I could claim to have memorized some obscure monologue from TROILUS AND CRESSIDA by the time I was nine years of age.
But I would be lying.
The truth is that Shakespeare scared me. I found his works difficult to read and downright impossible to understand.
I vividly remember my ninth grade literature class. It was my first real exposure to William Shakespeare -- ROMEO AND JULIET, as I recall. It was extremely painful. Elizabethan English absolutely confounded me. From that point forward, I avoided Shakespeare as much as possible. As far as I was concerned, it was the poison ivy of literature -- if you don’t touch it, it can’t hurt you.
So how the heck did I end up writing a middle-grade mystery novel about Shakespeare?
I blame Bill Bryson.
Several years ago I ran across Bryson’s book SHAKESPEARE: THE WORLD AS STAGE. I wasn’t looking to read a book about Shakespeare, but I enjoy reading works by Bill Bryson. He has a way of making any subject interesting. Maybe he could do the same for Shakespeare. So I picked up the book and read it.
And that’s when it started.
I became fascinated by Shakespeare and the world in which he lived. I was still not ready to pick up HENRY VI and read it in my spare time, but it was a start. I followed with books by James Shapiro (CONTESTED WILL), Frank Kermode (THE AGE OF SHAKESPEARE), Eric Rasmussen (THE SHAKESPEARE THEFTS), and Stephen Greenblatt (WILL IN THE WORLD). I then, somewhat reluctantly, moved on to actual works by Shakespeare. Visits to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. and Stratford-upon-Avon sealed my fate.
But again, how did all of this lead to a middle-grade mystery novel about Shakespeare? Simple. The world of Shakespeare, as I quickly learned, was full of mysteries. One of those mysteries spoke to me in a loud and clear voice. I could not resist it, and it became the central theme of my novel (and its sequel, TOWER OF THE FIVE ORDERS, which is set for publication in 2013).
So perhaps I am best described as an accidental mystery novelist. I did not set out to write a book. I simply became obsessed with a subject full of mystery, nuance and intrigue. The book just happened.
As I said, I blame Bill Bryson.
Deron Hicks lives in Warm Springs, Georgia with his wife Angela, daughter Meg and son Parker. His first book - SECRETS OF SHAKESPEARE'S GRAVE -- was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children in September 2012. The second book in the series -- TOWER OF THE FIVE ORDERS -- is scheduled for publication in October 2013. You can find Deron at his website or you can follow him on Facebook.
Posted by Deron Hicks at 8:08 PM