Thursday 13 February 2020

Carol Anne Douglas is sharing what inspired her to write The Mercutio Problem (The Merlin's Shakespeare Series Book 2) #timetravel #fiction @CarolAnneDougl1

An Author’s Inspiration
By Carol Anne Douglas

Renaissance England means Shakespeare for me. Yes, the Tudors are interesting, but there are other interesting kings and queens and only one Shakespeare. Despite Henry VIII’s multiple wives and Elizabeth I’s talent for ruling, I doubt that the world would be so fascinated by the period if Shakespeare had not lived and wrote then.
For me, Shakespeare’s works are the perfect playground. I enjoy and study them as they are, but stealing his sharply drawn characters is irresistible.

William Shakespeare.

I have always loved Shakespeare’s plays in which women pretend to be men. But what if that pretense was carried further, and a girl was temporarily transformed into a man?
Teenage acting student, Beth Owens, is sympathetic to gender queer people, but she is certain that her gender is female. That’s fine with her. But to save a friend she must not only pretend to be a guy, but actually become one.
The immortal wizard Merlin sent Beth Owens to Shakespeare’s world and the world of Shakespeare’s characters in my young adult novel Merlin’s Shakespeare. She became close to Mercutio, but Shakespeare’s Richard III had him killed before her eyes. And Shakespeare, whom Beth idolized, never wanted to see her again because she had discovered his secret. Beth left Shakespeare’s world so shaken that she vowed never go back. Life as a high school acting student in Bethesda, Maryland, was all she wanted.
But in the sequel, The Mercutio Problem, Merlin appears to her again and tells her that Richard III is still trying to wreck Shakespeare’s plays. Beth refuses to fight the evil king again. But Merlin tells her that she can bring Mercutio back to life – if she lets the wizard turn her into Mercutio. Her fondness for the unruly Venetian youth outweighs her fear of Richard. She agrees, only to learn from Macbeth’s witches that she will have to die as Mercutio to bring the real Mercutio back to life.

The Mercutio Problem

(The Merlin's Shakespeare Series Book 2)
By Carol Anne Douglas

Richard III still menaces Shakespeare's world.

The immortal wizard Merlin again sends high school actor Beth Owens back to Shakespeare's London and the world of Shakespeare's characters. Beth faces danger from Richard III, who seeks to damage Shakespeare's plays. Now Merlin gives her a new challenge: bringing a character she loves back from the dead.

But she risks losing her own life...


She spun through frigid air. The wind forced her to close her eyes. She landed with a thunk, but upright.

Beth stood on a heath. Fog swirled around her. She could see thorny plants at her feet, but most of the heath was covered in a veil of gray. She smelled the foul aroma of a familiar cauldron. She gagged and remembered that she had never wanted to ask the witches whether the contents of the cauldron were really those that Shakespeare had enumerated, like a Turk's nose and the finger of a birth-strangled babe. She saw the cauldron's muddy liquid bubble and thought she would rather die than taste it. 

"All hail Beth!" three voices cried. And three beings she had come to know appeared to her. Their bodies were green, they were blue, they were gray. They were neither female nor male, but neither were they transgender. They were their own strange lumps of almost flesh, with almost hair and eyes that were not eyes but could see far too much.

Beth had learned not to fear the witches--too much. They seemed to mean well by her. But they knew too much about everyone and everything.
"Hail," she said in reply, hoping that was the right thing to say.
"All hail Mercutio!" they chanted.
Beth flinched. "You're right, of course. Merlin wants me to pretend to be Mercutio."
"Not pretend," the first witch said.
"To be Mercutio," chanted the second.
"You will be Mercutio," the third told her.
"That will be hard for a girl," Beth said.
"Not a girl," the first said.
"Mercutio," the second said.
"Truly Mercutio," said the third.
Beth felt as if she had fallen into a pit. She touched her chin. There was stubble.
Her body was a couple of inches taller than it had been and she had shoulder-length hair instead of her usual short light brown. She examined the ends of her hair and could see that it was dark. She wore a green doublet and hose that she had last seen on Mercutio, which was extra creepy. She even wore the boots had seen on him. And his rings were on her fingers, which looked like a man's fingers on a man's hands. One ring was emerald, another was topaz, and one was gold with the design of a falcon on it. She could hardly bear to look at the hands, which would have been fine if they weren't hers. She had calluses, probably from sword practice, on her right hand. She could feel Mercutio's sword hanging on her back. Her chest felt flat and hairy.
She thought that maybe--did she feel different down there? No, not that. She felt the same, but she intended to put her hand down there as soon as she was alone, just to make sure. But otherwise she was too much like a guy.
Beth gagged, and not just because of the cauldron's vapors. "Merlin turned me into Mercutio. Or almost." Her voice sounded like Mercutio's. Like a man's voice. "Merlin made me a guy. I have stubble. Too gross. I'll kill Merlin."

“Kill him? You sound like Mercutio already. But Merlin is immortal," the first witch said.

But I don't want to be a guy! I'm Beth Owens! I'm not a boy in a girl's body. I'm a girl. How can I get back to being myself?"

"In your world, you are Beth," the second witch said.

"In this world, you will be Mercutio," said the third.

Beth stared at her hairy hands. "I want to be with him, not to be him. Is it true that my being him can bring him back?"

"Bring him back," the witches chorused.

"But how, if I'm Mercutio, can he come back?"

The witches cackled. "You don't guess?"

"No. How can he come back?"

"When you die," chanted the first witch.

"You die," chanted the second.

"He will come back when you die," chanted the third.

"Die?" Beth gasped. She fell backwards, tearing her velvet sleeve on a gorse bush. "No, that's too much." Her voice cracked. "I don’t want to die."

"In this world," the first witch said.

"Die in this world? But not in mine?" Beth asked. She tried to stand up even though her legs felt weak.

"Die as Mercutio, not as Beth," the second witch said.

So, probably not in her own world. But it would be scary enough to die in this world. "I don't want to."

"He died for you," the third witch reminded her.

"Oh." Beth stood there in shock. Yes, Mercutio had died trying to defend her from Richard. But Mercutio was a character, and could live again. She was human, and could die only once. Maybe. 

Beth shook her head. "It's too much."

"Too much," the witches echoed. "Too much." 
"Tell Merlin," the first witch said.

"That you won't save Mercutio," the second witch said.
"Let Mercutio stay dead," the third witch chanted.

  "No!" Beth exclaimed. "I'll do it." 
"Beth will do it," the witches chanted. "Beth will die. In this world."

The witches vanished. Even though she saw no one else on the foggy heath, Beth went behind a large gorse bush. She pulled down her breeches. Even though the rest of her looked male, she was still female down there. What a relief! She pulled her breeches up again. She imagined being Mercutio even when she had her period. That thought made her smile.
Beth spun away, choking in the fog. She landed on her bed.

I'm crazy, she thought. She leapt up and looked in her mirror. Her face was Beth's face. Her hands were Beth's hands. She was female again. She had never thought of herself as super-feminine, but she combed her hair and changed her slacks to a skirt just to reassure herself that in her own world she was a girl.

Pick up your copy of
The Mercutio Problem

Carol Anne Douglas

Carol Anne Douglas enjoys living in previous centuries as well as her own. She has spent many years studying the Arthurian legends and Shakespeare’s plays. Her previous novels include Lancelot: Her Story, in which Lancelot is a woman in disguise (Hermione Books, 2016), Lancelot and Guinevere, the sequel (Hermione Books, 2016), and Merlin’s Shakespeare (Hermione Books, 2018), the predecessor to The Mercutio Problem. Her profession is editing. When she isn’t writing or reading, she is hiking in national parks and watching birds.

Connect with Carol Anne: WebsiteTwitter.

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