Q&A: Alexa Schnee
Emilia, a lovely Elizabethan courtesan, has just fallen in love with the most famous playwright in history... only he's not famous yet. He's still just an upstart named Shakespeare. Shakespeare's Lady is the first novel by Alexa Schnee.
WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS WRITING SHAKESPEARE'S LADY?
I wanted to explore the idea of Shakespeare's "dark lady." I thought it was so interesting how she is such an important poetical figure and yet no one knows who she is. I found a woman, Emilia Bassano Lanier, who lived during Shakespeare's time and who has been thought of as the "dark lady" by several scholars. I wanted to invite readers into a world where Emilia's story could be told.
THE SETTING FOR THIS BOOK IS THE ERA OF SHAKESPEARE. WHAT ABOUT THIS HISTORICAL PERIOD AND SETTING PIQUED YOUR INTEREST?
I had been reading a lot of literature set in the Elizabethan era at that point, and it's always been a time period that has fascinated me. I used to read Shakespeare as a kid, and so it seemed natural to want to write about that particular time period.
DID YOU DO ANY SPECIAL RESEARCH FOR THIS NOVEL? HOW FAMILIAR WERE YOU WITH THIS PERIOD BEFORE YOU WROTE THE BOOK?
As far as special research, I tried to see as many of Shakespeare's plays performed live as I possibly could. I also watched film interpretations of his work. Montana is very far away from England, but I tried to do as much research as I could without being there.
WHERE DO YOU DRAW THE LINE BETWEEN HISTORICAL ACCURACY AND TAKING DRAMATIC LICENSE?
I'm usually under the impression that if you can make it historically accurate, that's what you probably should do. I ran into problems with one major instance in Shakespeare's Lady, and that was the location of the Queen of Scot's beheading. I wanted Emilia to be there to witness it so she knew the full power of Queen Elizabeth, but the beheading did not take place near London or court. If it's important for character development or it adds needed tension, I might bend the actual events. Most times I will choose to make things as historically accurate as I possibly can.
WHAT ARE THE LESSONS OF THAT ERA THAT ARE STILL RELEVANT TO READERS TODAY?
I think we face very similar issues in our society today. I think all of the main characters struggle with the uncertainty of their futures. As humans, we fall in love with people we shouldn't all the time, and I think that's a universal theme we will never fully have the answer to.