Treading the Boards with Jamie Dare

Jamie Collage

Have you ever thought about what Macbeth would be like if it was written in the style of Dr. Seuss? Apparently, the answer is a play … and the start of an incredible literary partnership. Welcome Jamie Dare, the writing partner of our very own Christina Hamlett, as she tells us the story of how Hamlett & Dare originated, who her favourite literary characters are, and more!

Interviewer: Sophie Lin

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Q: What’s the story of how your partnership with Christina came to be?

A: I like to take writing classes whenever I can, and on a particularly auspicious day in 2012, I landed in one of Christina’s seminars. We got along well, and after the course had finished, she approached me about co-writing a play. It took me about two nanoseconds to say yes, and a few short weeks later, we’d completed Meet the Macbeths, the first of three “Seussspeare” plays we penned for Pioneer Drama Service. (Shakespearean tales told in Dr. Seuss rhyme).

Q: How do you come up with the ideas for your stories and plays?

A: In the most haphazard ways possible! Current events provide an endless stream of ideas. I’m also a big fan of incongruity (odd sentence, I know), and combining disparate elements is a favorite way to generate story ideas. What ifs are also helpful. ‘What if Dr. Jekyll crossed paths with—not Mr. Hyde, but the entire cast of Pride and Prejudice? And what if we added, say, a matchmaker into the mix?’ The answer, of course, is Hyde & Prejudice.

Q: How did you get into playwriting?

A: My background is in television writing, and playwriting is a natural extension of that. Both have a lean, economical approach to storytelling which I find appealing, and I like that plays are driven by character and dialogue.

Q: What do you have to say about the fact that drama and arts programs in schools are often some of the first victims of budget cuts?

A: I’ve seen this firsthand with my kids’ schools, and it drives me bonkers. Imagine a world with no movies, no TV shows, no music, no art. What a drab existence that would be. On the plus side, I’ve seen some wonderful arts programs at the secondary school level. Middle and elementary school as well. The talent and resources are definitely out there. We just need to keep fighting for these programs, keep being an advocate.

Q: Who or what inspires you to write?

A: Other artists. There is nothing more motivating than good writing—across all genres. I love reading a good book, or watching a good movie, and thinking, “Man, I wish I’d written that.” It inspires me to sit down and try to create. Thank goodness for other people.

Q: Who is your favourite character from one of your books or plays and why?

A: I didn’t create this character, of course, but Elinor Dashwood from Séance and Sensibility. I relate to her dry wit and quiet practicality. Stuff me into a muslin gown, and I’d be Elinor. For original characters, I’d have to say Serafina Moore, the pop star diva in Fandemonium (a play examining the pitfalls of celebrity worship). Serafina is most definitely a flawed character—those are the most fun to write—but she appeals to the frustrated performer in me.

Q: In Séance and Sensibility, you bring the paranormal into a Jane Austen classic. What prompted you to make this particular change for your spoof?

A: Christina and I were riffing one day on haunted hotels. She’s had some interesting supernatural encounters, whereas I barely have control of my five senses, let alone a sixth. Anyway, the paranormal was on our minds when we were brainstorming ideas for an Austen-esque spoof, and it seemed perfectly natural to give impulsive, passionate Marianne Dashwood a crystal ball.

Q: What do you hope your readers will take away or learn from your writing?

A: Christina and I have a lot of fun when we’re writing—it’s one of the perks to writing comedies—and I hope that energy translates to our readers and audiences. With our adaptations, I hope the audience is inspired to visit (or re-visit) the original source material.

Q: Who is one character from a play that you think you’d be good friends with in real life?

A: Ophelia. So I could talk some sense into her.

Q: Are there any other projects you’re working on right now?

A: I’m developing a pilot called Low End of Normal, a comedy about a dysfunctional family which bears no resemblance whatsoever to my own. Christina and I also just wrapped Price of Admission, a full-length play (a drama) about the ultra-competitive nature of college admissions. And of course, we always have ideas percolating for other pop culture/classic tale mash-ups. Stay tuned for details.

Q: Where can people find more information about you and your books?

A: Please check out hamlettanddare.wordpress.com and www.authorhamlett.com. And please visit the good folks at https://www.pioneerdrama.com (Pioneer Drama Service)  https://www.brookpub.com (Brooklyn Publishers), and https://heartlandplays.com (Heartland Plays).

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: It’s an honor to be included amongst these talented writers. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me!

 

 

 

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A Conversation with Jamie Dare

Jamie Dare headshot

As one half of the dynamic duo, Hamlett & Dare, Jamie Dare takes no backseat in her co-writing endeavours. An outstanding writer, she dives right into new projects with gusto, and loves exploring new opportunities to write “outside the box”. Funny, quixotic, and down-to-earth, Jamie takes her writing seriously, and isn’t afraid to tell us a bit about her own insecurities, writing processes, and give us a small, behind-the scenes look at what goes into co-writing a book and comedic play that’s currently in the works. Welcome Jamie!

Interviewer: Debbie A. McClure

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Q: What kind of research do you do when preparing for a new book project?

A: Read, read, Google like a maniac, read. I hadn’t read much chick lit before “While You Were Out” so to familiarize myself with the genre, I blazed through the entire Sophie Kinsella canon. I hadn’t planned on doing this, but after the first book, I couldn’t stop. Ms. Kinsella’s books are like rainbow Skittles. Can’t stop at one.

Q: What’s the most unusual thing you had to research online for your book?

A: Two words: stargazy pie. In “While You Were Out,” Henny’s mother isn’t known for her culinary prowess. So you can imagine what happens when she tries her hand at this rather unique dish. Someday I will work up the courage to make it myself.

Q: Do you work from an outline, or allow the plot to unfold as you go along?

A: The latter. I know you’re supposed to outline before writing. So I outline, but I never stick to it. I’m most definitely a pantser.

Q: Describe your writing process in five words or less.

A: Procrastinate, panic, write, rewrite, repeat. Were I allowed a sixth word, I’d probably put “procrastinate” in there twice.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the current project you’re working on?

A: Christina and I just wrapped up “Séance and Sensibility,” a comedic take on the Jane Austen classic. In the play, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood navigate Regency-era England’s stuffy social customs with assistance from a crystal ball. And some otherworldly friends, of course. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had writing a script. It’s also our third Austenesque spoof. “Cliffhanger Abbey” and “Hyde and Prejudice” can be found at Heartland Plays (https://heartlandplays.com/).

Q: Have you ever experienced “writer’s block”? If so, how do you overcome it?

A: I haven’t experienced writer’s block, I AM writer’s block. It should be my middle two names.

I have different methods for un-sticking myself. If I find myself staring at “At Rise” or “Chapter 1” for hours on end, I’ll force myself to write something. Anything. Even if it’s terrible. Even if it’s “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”. (Although, this technique made me want to put an axe through a door, so I’ve sort of stopped using it). The next day the deficiencies are so glaring, I can’t wait to dive in and rewrite.

If I’m stuck in the middle of a chapter or scene and the words aren’t coming, it means I’m out of gas. So I’ll do something else to give my mind a break. Run, walk, bike, line dance. I always fear the words won’t come back, but they do. Usually when I don’t have a pen handy, but that’s beside the point.

Q: What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

A: Strength would be dialogue. I love writing dialogue, which is odd because in real life I can’t stand talking. I’m also a decent first-drafter.

Weaknesses? Where to begin. I’ve given myself bald spots trying to plot out stories. While we’ve all heard that “Good writing is rewriting,” I sometimes overdo this to the point I’m writing and erasing at the same time.

Q: What was your elevator pitch for the While You Were Out book?

A: It’s one thing for Henny Tinker to think her handsome and charismatic new boss, Geoffrey Bond, is way out of her league. The more she reflects on his secret trips and his uncanny ability to acquire never-before-seen artworks, the more she suspects he’s – quite literally – out of her time-zone.

Could it have something to do with the Scottish railway clock in his office that runs perfectly…in reverse? Is it his penchant for period outfits that supposedly coincide with the themed costume parties he attends? Or has Henny simply been watching too many time-travel movies and now sees evidence of its existence everywhere she looks?

Set against the backdrop of modern-day London, While You Were Out is just the right mix of romantic comedy, mystery, and a dash of wicked competition in the world of high-end art acquisitions. My stellar writing partner is the genius behind this pitch, by the way.

WYWO front cover

Q: What was the most difficult scene for you to write in While You Were Out?

A: Honestly? The restaurant scenes! Geoffrey and Henny dine at the finest establishments in London. I don’t eat out unless I have a coupon, so I have no idea what a five-star restaurant would serve. I burned up the Internet researching words like “vacherin” and “fribourgeois”.  To me, these sound like an ailment and its prescription. Henny notes this in the book as well.

Q: Tell us an interesting, fun fact about your book.

A: I had no idea how it would end — until the very end! Christina and I write by dividing up chapters or scenes; she’ll write a couple, then I will, and so on. For “While You Were Out,” she had the final chapters and kept me in the dark about the big reveal. Like Henny, I was left to develop my own theory about Geoffrey’s comings and goings, and his odd disappearances. The finale was even better than I could have ever imagined.

Q: What have you learned about yourself since you began writing?

A: I’ve learned I can stay awake until 3am on a consistent basis. I wouldn’t say I recommend this as a writing schedule, but that’s the way my mind works. It doesn’t matter if I staple myself to a computer from 9am to 5pm. The words that “stick” to the page are the ones that come in the wee hours of the night. I’ve learned to accept it. Embrace who you are, kids.

Q: What is the most difficult and easiest part of co-writing a book with another writer?

A: The easiest part is having another writer as a sounding board. Instant feedback from someone you trust… it doesn’t get much better than that. It’s also invaluable having a co-writer who is adept at story structure. Christina has plotted out entire novels in her sleep, no joke. You know what I do in my sleep? Sleep!

The only difficult part is trying to keep up with Christina’s prolificity. I’m the type who agonizes over every word, so whenever I send off new pages, it’s a big deal. I’ll go make myself a celebratory sandwich or whatever and by the time I’ve finished eating, Christina has sent me her new pages. I have no idea how she does it.

Q: What’s next for you, Jamie?

A: Lots of fun stuff on the horizon! The response to “While You Were Out” has been so overwhelming, we’re planning another chick-lit novel, “Saving Captain Cupid.” We’ve also broken ground on a romantic suspense novel, “Silent Knight.” Watch this space for more details.

And look for a new play, “Last Flight to Ithaca,” from Brooklyn Publishers in August 2017 (https://www.brookpub.com). Christina and I love adding a contemporary spin to the classics, and this comedy finds Ulysses (yes, the Greek hero) stuck in an airport as he tries desperately to get home for the holidays. Talk about an odyssey. Wow, that’s a lot in the pipeline! Time to go clean the house.

 

For more information about Jamie’s work, please visit https://hamlettanddare.wordpress.com/.