Q&A with Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

1. Please tell us a little about your upcoming books.
Kim: Tempestuous: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a lighthearted adventure that finds our heroine, Miranda, trapped in a mall overnight with her friend and coworker, Ariel, a sullen boy named Caleb, and the arch-enemies responsible for her recent banishment from her school’s popular clique. In Exposure: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, wallflower Skye Kingston has a huge crush on the star hockey player, Craig MacKenzie, but his psycho cheerleader girlfriend and the sudden death (or was it murder?) of one of his teammates could spell trouble for their potential romance.

2. Why did you choose Shakespeare?
Amy: Kim and I are both former English majors and big classic literature geeks. Because Shakespeare’s themes are so universal, we thought they’d be a perfect fit for the YA genre, especially if we could find a way to make his stories more relatable for the modern era. We knew that we’d personally have a blast reinterpreting the plays, and we loved the fact that he wrote so many plays for us to work with.

3. Do you have a favorite play by Shakespeare?
Kim: Hamlet is my very favorite Shakespeare play. I just can’t get enough of those brooding loner types!
Amy: It’s kind of like asking us to choose a favorite child! I really love Macbeth, which might be why it’s the first book we tackled. It’s just so intense, and leaves such an indelible impression on your brain. Even with its supernatural elements, that kind of horrific saga is, sadly, still very believable.

4. How many books are you planning for this series?
Kim: Shakespeare wrote 38 plays, and we’d love the opportunity to tackle all of them (and maybe even a sonnet or two?). For the moment, we’re working on our modern-day spin on Romeo and Juliet.

5. What do you hope to say to people through these books?
Amy: As Ben Jonson said, “Shakespeare is not of an age, but for all time.” I think people have this notion that Shakespeare is some “sacred cow” best paid strict homage to in the dusty pages of English textbooks or on-stage with extremely stodgy thespians. We don’t think that’s what Shakespeare intended for his plays at all. His works can and should be made uniquely relevant to every new generation that discovers them, and that’s exactly what we endeavored to do. Sure, we took some liberties, but we had a lot of fun in the process, and we think the Bard would wholeheartedly approve!

6. What was the most challenging aspect of writing Tempestuous and Exposure?
Kim: There’s always that writer’s fear that the ideas won’t come, but fortunately they almost always do! So I guess it would be fear of the blank page.

7.What was the last book you've read?
Amy: Kim lent me her copy of Tinkers by Paul Harding. I kept putting off reading it because I didn’t think it was the sort of book I could get into, but I once I dove in, I was absolutely blown away by his writing style. I can see a book like this being taught in schools.
Kim: I just finished Antoine Wilson’s wonderfully written Panorama City. It’s a heartwarming novel narrated by Oppen Porter, a guy whose outside naiveté belies his clever insights on the people around him. Guaranteed to make you laugh, and think! (Paul Harding actually recommends Panorama City, so there’s a connection there, too.)

8. What do you do when not writing?
Kim: I’m the Content Director at a fashion college where I manage a team of copywriters. I spend a lot of my time reading books; going to lectures, concerts, and museum exhibitions; playing chess; watching Doctor Who and Masterpiece Theater; seeing movies (I like costume dramas, sci-fi, indie, and foreign flicks--and the Lord of the Rings trilogy); and walking my super-cute puppy, Macbeth.
Amy: In addition to my “day job” as an editor at a nationally-published soap opera magazine (yes, I write about evil twins and bizarre love triangles), I’m a mother to two children under the age of three. In what little extra spare time I have, I love to watch costume dramas and am totally geeked-out about the latest season of “Downton Abbey.”

9. What are you working on right now?
Amy: The next novel in our Twisted Lit series will be our take on Romeo and Juliet. It’s set in Chicago and spans two different generations. We’re very excited about it!

10. What's your favorite Christmas movie?
Amy: A Christmas Story is pure genius and utterly charming. I will never cease to find it hilarious, no matter how many times I see it. “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
Kim: You can’t beat A Christmas Story--I quote from it all year ‘round. But, I LOVE Christmas movies so runners up would be It’s A Wonderful Life, all of the Christmas Carol adaptations, and White Christmas with Bing Crosby.

*To find out more information on these books, visit http://twistedlitbooks.com/