Traveling to find the Other Shakespeare

I'm delighted to welcome Lea Rachel to my blog today. She's the author of a new novel about Shakespeare's little-known older sister, The Other Shakespeare. Just the title has me intrigued, so I jumped at the chance when the Cadence group said she might be willing to visit my blog. Welcome Lea, and please tell me how someone from US manages to write so convincingly about the UK.

Guest Post by Lea Rachel:
Traveling for your Writing

When I first read about the character of Judith Shakespeare – older sister to William, born with as much talent and ambition as the Shakespeare we now revere, invented by Virginia Woolf in her novella A Room of One’s Own – I was enthralled.  I simply had to write a fiction novel around the character of Judith Shakespeare, and the path her life might have taken.

But I live in St. Louis, Missouri, heartland of the United States.  Some would say it is in the Midwest, some would locate it firmly in the South (please let’s not get into Civil War allegiances here), but either way it is over 4,000 miles from where my novel had to take place - that’s over 6,000 kilometers for you Brits out there.  What do I know about London, let alone 16th century London?  I could guess that they didn’t have indoor plumbing, or electric lighting for that matter, but…

So I went to my writing desk and opened my latest bank statement.  Did I have enough money to travel to London?  To visit the (remade) Globe Theatre, the British Museum, and Stratford-upon-Avon?  I knew I could do basic research with texts and tomes published in the United States and available in my local library, but I wanted to do a bit of archival research – I needed to smell London, to touch the waters of the Avon, to see, in their natural environment, the flowers that had populated the Forest of Arden.

So I thought about how I could phrase it to my husband.  What do you say I empty our bank account on a trip to London while you stay behind and take care of our one year old baby?  What if I leave you alone and you don’t have to make the bed or do any dishes for an entire week?  How about I owe you big time?

Luckily, I needn’t have worried.  My husband has always supported my writing, and in this, he did not hesitate.  I travelled to London over the Thanksgiving Day break (when I had time off work, but nothing in England would be closed as it wasn’t their holiday), and spent twelve hours every day walking my feet off.  I took so many pictures of Shakespeare’s birthplace the docent looked at me with concern and asked if I had any particular questions.  I pilgrimaged to Shakespeare’s grave - twice.

The 16th century is so long ago that there are many things about it we will never really know.  Like how often servants washed their hands, what bedtime stories were favorites of the kids, if people bothered to clip their toenails regularly.  Heck, we don’t even know the date on which the great bard was born, let alone the minutiae of much of his daily life!  But there is nothing like hands-on research, with its sights, smells, and tastes, to stimulate creativity, excitement, and authorial motivation to actually finish your book.

That, and a truly supportive husband.

It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. My husband and I are both from England, so we try to get back on a regular basis. But somehow we never seem to pack half as much into our visits as you did.

About the Author:

Lea Rachel possesses a strong literary background firmly planted in her roots, education, and experiences. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, she hails from a bloodline of writers, including her grandmother Beki Bahar, an internationally published Turkish author and poet, and her uncle Anthony Kosnik, coauthor of a well-respected liturgical book that circulated circa the 1970s.

Rachel attended the University of Michigan, where she had two short stories published in the competitive literary publications Prism and The Write Stuff. She has attended writing workshops at the University of Michigan, University of California, and University of Iowa—and placed fifth, out of 18,000 entries, in the personal essay category of the 72nd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition.

Rachel makes her home in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and son. The Other Shakespeare is her first novel, released subsequent to her debut work, a personal memoir entitled I Promise.

About the Book:

Judith Shakespeare is the fictional older sister of William Shakespeare and in the novel she is born with as much talent, as much creativity, and as much drive as her younger brother William.  But in 16th century England, as a woman, Judith never has much of a chance to develop her talent.  As Virginia Woolf imagines in her sketch, Judith could have been as productive and famous as William, except for the fact that she is never sent to school, is pressured into marriage, and is consistently denied her independence and a room of her own.  Her stifled literary talent, in such circumstances, becomes more of a burden than a gift as it drives Judith to run away from Stratford and engage in extreme measures to try and have her talent recognized.

A must-read for Woolf and Shakespeare fans alike, The Other Shakespeare combines history, social issues, and drama in a compelling story that will thoroughly entertain and enlighten.  Pay attention as you read and you will find that every chapter in the book has at least one Shakespeare quote embedded in the text. Some of them are easy to recognize ­ and some aren't!

So, can you resist it? Here are some links, so you can buy it and read it straight away.

Find Lea Rachel at:


sharelle said…
Sounds like a promising story!

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