Ian Doescher Interview – William Shakespeare, Star Wars, and Iambic Pentameter

How does he think William Shakespeare would react to his book? What made him decide to combine Shakespeare and Star Wars? What is iambic pentameter? What kind of books does he like to read? Who has been his greatest inspiration?

Shakespeare, wikipedia

Shakespeare, wikipedia

What do you think William Shakespeare’s reaction would be to your book?
He would probably find it amusing, and would pat me on the shoulder and say, “Well, you’re no Shakespeare.”  I think he would love Star Wars—his plays were the popular entertainment of his time, just like Star Wars is for us today.

Never have I thought of Star Wars being connected in any way with Shakespeare.  What made you decide to take on such a project?
I had the idea after I watched the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time in a few years, read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (one of the first books in the mash-up genre), and then went to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  All of this happened in about three months’ time last year, so I had Star Wars, Shakespeare and mash-ups swirling around in my head, and the idea just came to me.  Once I had the idea, I was off and running.

Ian DoescherDid you surround yourself with items that reminded you of the Bard as you wrote this book?  If so, what were they?
Not too much.  Occasionally I pull out my big Riverside Complete Works of Shakespeare if I’m looking for a particular line or idea.  Mostly, though, I just refer to the Shakespeare that lives in my head from years of reading and watching his plays.

Did you watch or read plays that Shakespeare wrote to get a feel for how the characters should talk?  Did you practice talking this way yourself?
I’ve been practicing speaking in iambic pentameter for years!  The summer after my sophomore year of high school, I spent time memorizing some of the most famous Shakespearean soliloquies just for fun (yep, big geek!).  I would perform them at the drop of a hat—in public, at home, with my friends, wherever.  I also loved Kenneth Branagh’s films, which were popular right around that time, particularly Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V.

Could you explain exactly what iambic pentameter is?
Iambic pentameter is a line of poetry with a very specific syllabic pattern.  An “iamb” has two syllables—the first is unstressed (or soft) and the second is stressed (or emphasized).  “Pentameter” means there are five iambs in a line, so iambic pentameter is a line of ten syllables: da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM.  Or, in the classic line from Simon and Garfunkel, “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail.”

Jabba the Hutt, flickr

Jabba the Hutt, flickr

Putting English words into iambic pentameter would be challenging (at least for me), but you also did the same with the dialogue of Jabba the Hutt and the Jawas.  Which character’s dialogue presented you with the most challenge?
I don’t know if it was a single character so much as specific scenes or moments in the movie.  The hardest dialogue was probably the bits that are most famous—whether or not Han shot first, how Leia says “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Luke talking about Tosche Station and so on.  Those moments were difficult because I knew people would want to see how I handled them, so I felt like I had to be extra careful.

I spotted lines that reminded me of parts of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar.  How many lines from Shakespeare’s other works did you borrow and make fit Star Wars?
All told, I reference eight plays: As You Like It, Hamlet, Henry V, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Macbeth, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet.  From those plays, there are about 28 lines from Shakespeare that are referenced, whether directly or indirectly.

William Shakespeare's Star WarsHow long did it take you to complete this book?
I spent about four months writing the book, working late in the evening after my children were asleep.

When did you first have a desire to write?  How did this desire manifest itself?
Ever since I was a kid I’ve enjoyed writing stories, but it wasn’t until after college that I got serious about it.  My second job after college was with the San Francisco Symphony, and I had a mentor there named Larry Rothe who taught me the fundamentals of really good writing.  Since then, I’ve had the writing bug.

Do you ever become bored with what you are writing?  If you do, how do you get past that point?
I never really got bored while writing William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.  I would say, if anything, there were moments where it felt like I was just going along, doing a basic translation of the dialogue in the movie without interjecting anything particularly fun, and usually one of three things helped me through it: (1) stop writing for a while and come back to it, (2) intentionally throw in something out of left field to break up the ordinary, or (3) make sure that when I reviewed that part of the manuscript later, I revisited what I had done.

What is your favorite genre in which to write?
For years, I have written things in verse for fun.  Just about any kind of creative writing is good, but I especially love writing things that will make people laugh.  I also—strangely—love academic writing.  I always thought that if I ever had something published, it would be an academic book.  Imagine my surprise…

A Song of Ice and Fire seriesWhat kind of books do you like to read?
Probably everyone says they are an eclectic reader, and I’m no different.  I read heavy academic books—theology, philosophy, sometimes math and science—and love just about any accessibly-written nonfiction.  You could write a book about bananas, and if it were well written I would enjoy it.  I also love a good novel—Tana French is a recent favorite of mine.  Stephen King is always a good standby.  George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is on my bookshelf, to be tackled next.

How do you manage to balance your time between family, friends, and writing?
My spouse Jennifer has been incredibly supportive through this whole process because my writing time comes late in the evening after our children are asleep.  That’s normally the only time of the day Jennifer and I have together, so she’s taken to watching movies on her own while I sit and write.  But that’s the reality of our lives right now—if I want to write, something else has to give.  It also means that when I’m on a deadline, there are far fewer outings with friends or family.  It’s a sacrifice, to be sure, but one we’re all willing to make.

Star Wars fandom, pinterest

Star Wars fandom, Pinterest

Have any new opportunities come your way because of your writing?
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars has opened up all kinds of great opportunities to meet new people, learn about the Star Wars subculture, the publishing process, and have some fun media and theater contacts.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Wow, big question.  If we’re talking generally, I might say my dad, who overcame huge odds from his childhood to grow up to become a really loving and kind man.  Malcolm X, the music group Take 6, Jesus—those are a few other random choices.

If you could spend one hour with just one person, dead or alive, whom would you choose?  Why?
Probably Kevin Kline—I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid and would love to sit and chat with him about theater, movies, the roles he should or shouldn’t still play.

Do you have any advice for writers who are striving to be published?
Keep at it, and don’t be afraid to put what you’ve written in front of a publisher or an agent.  They really do read things!  Also, people will be far more impressed by your responsibility and your ability to finish what you start on time than they will by your ego or artistic sensibility.

Where can your fans find you on the Internet?
My website is iandoescher.com and I’m on Twitter @iandoescher.  Thanks!

Recommended Article: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – a Review

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