Tuesday 29 January 2019

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Once Upon a Retelling: The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin

Once Upon a Retelling

Welcome to Once Upon a Retelling! I'm a huge fan of retellings, and I'm really interested in hearing about authors' own love of the original stories, and what inspired them to retell those stories. And so Once Upon a Retelling was born, a feature in which I interview authors about their versions of well-loved tales.

Today, I'm excited to have Hannah Capin stopping by the blog to discuss her retelling of Henry VIII's wives, The Dead Queens Club.

The Dead Queens Club by Hannah CapinCan you tell us a little about The Dead Queens Club? What kind of a retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives is it?

THE DEAD QUEENS CLUB reimagines Henry and his wives in the 21 st century...in high school. It’s a dark comedy with lots of drama—it’s basically MEAN GIRLS meets THE TUDORS!

Why the story of Henry VIII and his wives? What drew you to these historical people? And what inspired you to retell their story?

Henry VIII is such a larger-than-life figure, and his reign reads like a script—it’s a story that still holds our attention 500 years later! For me, though, it’s always been the six wives who deserved a retelling. They were all smart, fascinating women, and the narrative so often pits them against each other when that doesn't need to be the case.

What do you bring to the story of Henry VIII and his wives with The Dead Queens Club?

DQC is very much a feminist story. So much of what played out in the court of Henry VIII is still relevant today, in terms of social dynamics, and in DQC we see that unfold on the high school stage. Thematically, DQC talks about slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and girl hate: all things we often see both in historical dramas about the six wives and in contemporary YA.

How does The Dead Queens Club differ from other retellings of Henry VIII and his wives out there?

I don't want to spoil anything, but the ending is unexpected! And more importantly, the story unites the six instead of pitting then against each other. Ultimately, it's not about Henry—it’s about them. We also get to see Anne Cleves as a narrator, which doesn't often happen. Also, I’m fairly sure no other Tudor retellings involve a stolen jet ski...

The Dead Queens Club by Hannah CapinWere there any difficulties in tackling a retelling of a story already known, over writing an original story? Anything that was easier?

The biggest challenge was translating some of the religious and political motivations into a high school context: teenage Henry wasn't going to be concerned about an heir or fighting with the Pope! And in any retelling, there's the challenge of balancing source material with new material, and making the pacing fit a narrative arc, which real life rarely does. The easiest thing, for me, was envisioning the six wives as modern teenagers. All of the women had such distinct personalities—gifts and flaws and fascinating details about their lives. Placing them in an American high school felt absolutely natural.

What do you hope readers get from The Dead Queens Club?

Honestly, I hope DQC makes readers reexamine the way we tend to reduce girls and women to one aspect of their personalities, whether in a historical or contemporary context. When we talk about the Tudor era, Henry gets to be this complex, multifaceted personality while his wives each get one tacked-on trait: Anne Boleyn was a homewrecker, Katharine of Aragon was religious, Katheryn Howard [sic] was—and I’m quoting a respected biographer here—a “wanton floozy.” We see this in teen films and shows, too: there are the bitchy mean girls, the “sluts,” the manic pixie dream girls. I want readers to see the girls as three-dimensional and real, with their own wants and needs and worries. And I wanted to subvert some of the usual teen archetypes, like the social climber and the popular cheerleader and the quirky alt-girl.

What do you think makes a good retelling?

I think there needs to be a reason for it—why this story, and why now? For me, the source material really lends itself to the current conversation about consent, power, and double standards. It’s a retelling, and it’s fun, but there are also thematic elements that go beyond the comedy-thriller-retelling mashup.

Are there any retellings you would recommend, either of Henry VIII and his wives, or in general?

I adored PRIDE, by Ibi Zoboi. It’s a retelling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE with a fantastic cast of characters and a rich and creative reimagining of Austen’s story in a very different world.

Anything you would like to add?

Katheryn Howard deserved better. Well, all of the wives deserved better, obviously, if we’re talking about Henry—but while the other five have gotten their due from historical and popular writers by now, Katheryn Howard STILL gets reduced to “the guilty one” who “deserved it.” She was a teenager thrown into a marriage doomed from the start, and she was a kind and generous young woman who took her role as queen very seriously. She was executed for hurting a powerful man’s ego, and he obliterated her legacy so thoroughly that we’re still falling for his PR today. It’s more than time for us to respect her for who she was, rather than dismissing her for who Henry wanted us to think she was.

Thank you, Hannah, for such a fantastic interview! I am so intrigued by this novel! I have always been fascinated by Henry VIII's wives, and this sounds right up my alley!

Be sure to visit Hannah's website, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and check out The Dead Queens Club, which is published today!

The Dead Queens Club by Hannah CapinThe Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin

Mean Girls meets The Tudors in Hannah Capin’s The Dead Queens Club, a clever contemporary YA retelling of Henry VIII and his wives (or, in this case, his high school girlfriends). Told from the perspective of Annie Marck (“Cleves”), a 17-year-old aspiring journalist from Cleveland who meets Henry at summer camp, The Dead Queens Club is a fun, snarky read that provides great historical detail in an accessible way for teens while giving the infamous tale of Henry VIII its own unique spin.

What do a future ambassador, an overly ambitious Francophile, a hospital-volunteering Girl Scout, the new girl from Cleveland, the junior cheer captain, and the vice president of the debate club have in common? It sounds like the ridiculously long lead-up to an astoundingly absurd punchline, right? Except it’s not. Well, unless my life is the joke, which is kind of starting to look like a possibility given how beyond soap opera it’s been since I moved to Lancaster. But anyway, here’s your answer: we’ve all had the questionable privilege of going out with Lancaster High School’s de facto king. Otherwise known as my best friend. Otherwise known as the reason I’ve already helped steal a car, a jet ski, and one hundred spray-painted water bottles when it’s not even Christmas break yet. Otherwise known as Henry. Jersey number 8.

Meet Cleves. Girlfriend number four and the narrator of The Dead Queens Club, a young adult retelling of Henry VIII and his six wives. Cleves is the only girlfriend to come out of her relationship with Henry unscathed—but most breakups are messy, right? And sometimes tragic accidents happen... twice...
From Goodreads.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the other interviews in the Once Upon a Retelling series.

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