Friday, August 2, 2013

Q and A Interview with Ian Doescher, Author of Shakespeare's Star Wars

Author Ian Doescher
I’d like to introduce local author Ian Doescher, a Portland, Ore. native and Creative Director at Portland’s Pivot Group LLC. He’s a musician, too, with a degree in music from Yale as well as a Master of Divinity from Yale. His new book Shakespeare’s STAR WARS is a delightful mash-up.

Q: Ian, I spent some time this year at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore. And saw a couple of the Bard’s plays at the Portland Shakespeare Project (which were wonderful). You’re a huge Shakespeare fan; tell us about it. Do you have a background in theater?

A: In high school (Grant High School in Portland),
I did a lot of theater, but my love of Shakespeare really came out studying the plays in English classes and then just reading his works for pleasure on my own. I spent the summer after my sophomore year in high school learning various soliloquies, and then after college I accomplished my goal to finish reading the complete works. So Shakespeare has been a passion for a long time.

Q: But you’re also a Star Wars aficionado, right? How many times have you seen the series? What gave you the idea to re-write the space-western in theatrical iambic pentameter?

A: At a guess, I would say I’ve seen the Star Wars movies fifty or sixty times each. The idea actually came out of watching the trilogy, visiting the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies all within about a two-month period. So I had Star Wars, Shakespeare and mash-ups swirling around in my subconscious, and the idea for William Shakespeare’s Star Wars came out of that.

Q: How on earth were you able to get permission from Lucas/Disney and sell the odd idea to Quirk Books?

A: Selling the idea to Quirk came first. I looked them up online and emailed one of their editors out of the blue with the idea. He responded and said he would be happy to read something if I actually wrote some of it, which was enough for me to start writing. A few weeks later I had a draft of the first act, sent it to him and he said he wanted to do it. I recognize how lucky I am, because this isn’t the way the publishing industry normally works! Quirk then handled the communication and the contract with Lucasfilm.

Q: Congratulations, by the way, on becoming a new author. Is this something you’ve wanted to do for some time and will you do it again?

A: Thanks. I’ve loved writing for years, but I always thought I would write academic books (I have a background in academia). But now that I’ve published a mainstream book, yes, I hope I’ll do it again!

Q: Many of my readers are other authors or aspiring authors. Tell us about the writing and marketing process. Was Quirk the first publisher you approached? Did you use an agent?

A: Quirk was the first publisher I approached. After it was clear they were interested and they were contacting Lucasfilm, I had several friends urge me to find an agent. If nothing else, they said, it helps to have someone who understands the language in your corner. So through a friend who is also a writer, I found my agent (who is with Wolf Literary Services in New York).

Q: We're all jealous and we hate you (lol). Okay, so tell us about yourself. Oh, and your thing with music.

A: I majored in music in college and still love to write music and sing. I worked for a couple of different symphony orchestras in college (doing administrative work) before going to graduate school in religion. After a Master’s of Divinity and a Ph.D. in theology and ethics, I was a pastor for a while before moving to a marketing agency. I’m now the creative director of a marketing agency with a background in religion and music and a book out on Shakespeare and Star Wars. Yeah, kind of all over the place.

Q: I loved the book. I was attracted to it by the video trailer, which I got such a kick out of. I just HAD to read it, even though I had labored with the archaic language when I studied Shakespeare in college. I found your work most enjoyable (as well as the presentations by PSP); I’m a new fan of the Bard of Avon. Was it your intention to open up Shakespeare to an apprehensive audience?

A: That’s my biggest hope for the book, actually. There’s an aura of elitism around Shakespeare in our culture—when students start to study his plays, there’s a lot of fear alongside an assumption that they won’t be able to understand it. I hope William Shakespeare’s Star Wars might be a bridge that helps students approach Shakespeare. Maybe if they start with my book and are introduced to iambic pentameter and the structure and literary devices Shakespeare used—all within the safe context of Star Wars—they’ll be more likely to find Shakespeare less intimidating once they open up Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet.

Q: In seeing the trailer and reading the book, as a theater designer and director, I was instantly taken with visions of staging the play. It is, in essence, a five act play and cries out to be performed. You’ve already answered this question privately, but for the rest of my readers, can this or when will this be performed? What is your (new) hope on the matter?

 A: At this point, Lucasfilm isn’t allowing full performances. But we’re keeping a record of the requests that have come in, because we’re hoping they might change their mind after seeing how much interest there has been. I would love to see it on the stage—that wasn’t my original intention, but what fun!

Q: Will the Jedi Return or the Empire Strike Back?

A: Time will tell. I certainly hope so.

Q: The book is now widely available at Amazon and bookstores everywhere (list price $14.99). [Readers: This IS the book you are looking for.] Are you appearing at any signing events? Can fans meet you?

A: Right now most of the events are already behind me. But I’m around and I always enjoy meeting readers. I will be at the Wordstock Festival in Portland on October 5th (which is, coincidentally, Star Wars Reads Day).

Q: Anything you’d like to add?

A: Nope, thanks for having me on the blog!

Thanks, Ian, it’s been a pleasure. May the Force be with you.

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