Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we talked to William Gray, an author, attorney and retired Naval Reserve Officer, about his writing and his recently released book, Love’s Labour’s Won:The Secret Life of William Shakespeare (Read the review here)
William (“Bill”) Gray is an attorney and retired Naval Reserve Officer who resides in Orlando, Florida. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Florida’s Law School. Bill’s careers as a Naval Officer and a Civil Litigator have given him a broad range of life experiences to draw upon in his writing. His creative writing interests include poetry, novels, and essays. Writing Love’s Labour’s Won: The Secret Life of William Shakespeare allowed Bill to combine his love of history, poetry, novel and essay writing, into one integrated endeavor. Bill expects to publish a second novel in 2021.
BookView Review: What kind of research did you do for Love’s Labour’s Won?
William Gray: As this project was a fictional autobiography of the world’s most well-known and admired literary artist, the research required to write the novel was a multi-year effort. It involved reading dozens of books about Shakespeare and the historic eras in which he lived. I also travelled to England to visit Shakespeare-related sites in London and his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. Fortunately, I came to this task with a reasonably good foundation in the dramatic and poetic works of William Shakespeare. Living in Orlando for the last 20 years has given me the opportunity to see numerous excellent productions of Shakespearian plays at Orlando’s Lowndes Shakespeare Center. My initial exposure to Shakespeare came in high school. While there, I read Henry V and I attended a screening of Roman Polanski’s Macbeth that made a strong impression upon me. Also, during my undergraduate studies at the U. S. Naval Academy, I took a literature course in which we read and studied some of the plays. Over the years, I have read many more of his plays and poems. The road map of the extensive research I did for this book is shared with the reader in the book’s “All Things Shakespeare” afterword including the “Recommended Reading” and “Good and Great Shakespearian Movies” sections.
BookView Review: Can you tell us a little about how this story first came to be?
William Gray: In the early 2000’s I read a number of Shakespeare biographies and I became fascinated with those that theorized Shakespeare may have been a recusant Catholic. I realized, If this was true, it would mean Shakespeare was a member of a persecuted minority within later Elizabethan and early Jacobian society. As a closet Catholic or Catholic sympathizer, he would be a classic outsider looking in at society through a unique lens. Seeing his world from this perspective would be a story worth telling. This insight led to my decision to write the novel.
BookView Review: Which character in the novel was the most difficult to create?
William Gray: The protagonist – Shakespeare himself. As most of the novel is a first-person fictional memoir, creating a unique and believable narrative voice for Shakespeare was its greatest challenge. In my effort to meet that challenge I studied Shakespeare’s use of language within his plays and poetry and, where appropriate, incorporated many of his poems and play excerpts into the novel. When it was feasible, I allowed Shakespeare to speak directly to the reader through his own poems and play excerpts.
BookView Review: Which scene in the book was the most difficult to write?
William Gray: The first chapter of any novel, including this one, is always difficult because it needs to compellingly set the stage for everything that follows. In this novel, I eventually settled upon introducing Shakespeare’s first-person narrative, which begins in chapter II, through an omniscient-voiced introductory chapter featuring Shakespeare’s granddaughter, Lady Elizabeth Barnard. After Elizabeth finishes reading her grandfather’s memoir, we come back to Lady Elizabeth’s return to Stratford story in the concluding chapters of the novel. Setting Shakespeare’s first-person narrative as a story within the outer shell of Elizabeth’s later story allowed me to inform the reader of the important aspects of Shakespeare’s legacy and family history which occurred after his death.
BookView Review: What do you hope readers take away from their experience reading this book?
William Gray: After giving this question considerable thought, there are three things I hope readers will take away from this work. First, I hope it will give them a greater understanding of Shakespeare the man and his remarkable artistic achievements. Second, I hope the book in the aggregate illuminates and helps readers explore both the positive and negative aspects of later Elizabethan and early Jacobian society – and to discover that many of the issues the people of those eras grappled with remain relevant today. Lastly, I hope the reader will draw inspiration from the way I believe Shakespeare lived his life and come to the conclusion that, if we live life remaining true to our fundamental beliefs and principles, despite whatever “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” we encounter along the way, then our lives (like Shakespeare’s) will be a Love’s Labour’s Won rather than a Love’s Labour’s Lost.
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