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"Shaking Up" Shakespeare with Kim Askew & Amy Helmes

Sunday, December 2, 2012
Top 10 Ways We’re “Shaking Up” Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and “Macbeth” inspired our first two Twisted Lit novels, Tempestuous and Exposure, but in dusting off the Bard’s classic works, we wanted our re-tellings to be fresh, fun, and thoroughly modern. There are plenty of good reasons our books have been called “compulsively readable,” and here are 10:

1. No stupid collars.

What is it with Elizabethan ruffs, those frilly collars that look like the plastic cones dogs wear after a trip to the vet? You’ll find no ridiculous costumes in our novels. Well, unless you count the standard-issue Hot Dog Kabob uniform worn by Miranda and Ariel in Tempestuous, which features a hat with a fake plastic hot dog propeller on top. That’s really the epitome of ridiculous. But no codpieces — we promise.

2. Our “Macbeth” is not a homicidal maniac.

While it’s true that our version of “Lady Macbeth” in Exposure is more than a little bitchy (and bordering on mentally unhinged), her boyfriend, Craig, isn’t as categorically evil as the social-climbing Scotsman in Shakespeare’s version. Yes, Craig is responsible for a fellow student’s death, but as you’ll see in our spin on the tale, good and evil aren’t always so cut-and-dry.

3. Our “Caliban” is hot.

Shakespeare described this character in “The Tempest” as “hag-seed,” “strange fish,” “poor credulous monster,” and “demi devil”... not a fox, in other words. But our version of the character, Caleb, most definitely is. It’s not immediately apparent thanks to his surly disposition and mop of dark hair, which hangs over his oft-glowering eyes — but he’ll grow on you. Trust us.

4. We’ve traded kilts for winter parkas.

We wanted a modern-day setting for Exposure that also felt remote and a little unworldly. Alaska perfectly suited our purposes: Days with limited sunlight, the eeriness of the Northern Lights, and a native culture keyed in to the supernatural — these are some of the elements that helped us reinterpret Shakespeare’s macabre tale for today’s audience.

5. We made our “island” a shopping mall.

In “The Tempest,” sorcerer (and deposed king) Prospero and his teenage daughter, Miranda, are stranded on a deserted island with only a fairy and a savage brute for company. In our version, former “cool kid” Miranda Prospero has been exiled to minimum-wage labor at the food court of her local mall with only geeks for company. When the blizzard of the year strands her and her cohorts in the building overnight, mayhem and magic ensue.

6. Spontaneous rock concerts.

Shakespeare’s plays often feature ditties on lute and fife, with fairies and humans frolicking around Maypoles and such. The characters in Tempestuous break into song, too — only it’s a pretty epic (and totally unplanned) rock concert. ’Cause that’s just how we roll.

7. To pee or not to pee? That is our question.

Without giving too much away, our heroine in Tempestuous finds herself having to answer the call of nature in a very, shall we say unorthodox fashion. You’ll be cringing — and laughing.

8. No stage directions; no iambic pentameter.

Unlike Shakespeare, which is meant to be staged and experienced as an audience member, our novels provide a less-taxing reading experience, without that oft-indecipherable Elizabethan mumbo-jumbo. If Shakespeare is “homework,” we’re the equivalent of a “beach read.”

9. Inside jokes. (Or not.)

If you love Shakespeare, you’re bound to find plenty of the little “Easter eggs” we’ve hidden throughout the text — subtle nods and humorous references to the Bard. But we never beat you over the head with it, so if you hate Shakespeare, pay no attention. The riveting story’s enough to keep you thoroughly entertained.

10. Strong female characters.

We set out to write characters we would want to read about. That includes girls who are clever, funny, and imperfect — best friend material. They aren’t the sort of chicks who’d plunge a dagger in their heart over a boy, nor are they certain that “all’s well that ends well.” They’re just seemingly real girls with seemingly real problems.

Intrigued? Then we invite you to check out our books and see for yourself what they’re all about!

Warmest regards,
Kim and Amy

Kim Askew and Amy Helmes are the authors of Tempestuous (pub. Dec. 18/Merit Press) and Exposure (pub. Jan. 18/Merit Press). For more information about their Shakespeare-inspired Twisted Lit series, check out

1 comment:

  1. This is such a fun post. Their re-imaginings of Shakespeare sound really well done, and I like the idea of "inside jokes" about the original writer scattered throughout the books. "To pee or not to pee" seems to have much potential for hilarity as well.


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