Jamie Lackey is joining us today to talk about her novelette, A Rose by Any Other Name. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Juliet is the perfect daughter to her cold parents. She’s devoted to her magic studies, studious and serious, and she even spends her weekends at home.
If she’s a little lonely, well, that hardly matters.
Romeo writes poems, collects fancy pens, makes wine, and is, according to everyone who cares about him, a romantic disaster. He does his best to ignore their knowing looks and disregard their entirely-too-practical advice.
Juliet hates the upstart, uncivilized Montagues because they’re her family’s enemies. Romeo does his best not to think about the wretched and pompous Capulets because he doesn’t need that kind of negativity in his life.
But then one morning they wake up in each other’s bodies, and everything changes.
What’s Juliet’s favorite bit?
My favorite bit about A Rose By Any Other Name is just how fun it is. Which feels sort of like a smug, self-satisfied answer to the question, but it’s really the core of this story for me. I wanted to remind myself that writing can be fun. That not everything has to be serious or sad or ambitious to be valid. I’ve written a lot (really a lot) of stories, and this one was hands down the most fun I’ve had at the keyboard. I really hope that it’s half as fun to read as it was to write.
The pandemic hasn’t been a great time for most of us, and I’ve had some other sad family drama lurking in the background, so it was nice to put on my headphones, listen to the Julie and the Phantoms soundtrack, and work on my Romeo and Juliet bodyswap comedy novelette. (It’s also fun to tell people that I wrote a Romeo and Juliet bodywap comedy novelette and see what face they’re making by the time I come to the end of that description.)
The first choice I made with this story is that it was going to be a bodyswap story. Bodyswap stories are absurdly fun, but I feel part of what makes them fun is watching actors switch roles–the example that always springs to my mind is the bodyswap episode of Red Dwarf, but there are tons of other examples out there. So to capture that feeling of familiar-yet-different in prose, I decided I wanted to do my bodyswap story as a retelling.
I love retellings. There’s something so satisfying about taking a familiar story, especially one that everyone knows, and breaking it down into its component bits, adding and changing elements, and then building it back up, like some kind of Frankenstein’s Lego Castle. I think that’s part of what makes fanfiction such a joyful thing.
I knew instantly that I wanted to do something Shakespearean. What’s more fun than Shakespeare? I considered my favorites, Much Ado about Nothing, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or The Tempest, but none felt quite right. As You Like It was too obvious. When I thought about using Romeo and Juliet, I literally giggled to myself like some kind of madwoman. So it was the clear winner.
And then I sat down to write it, and it was just so much fun to actually write. Every scene was a joy, and I was almost sad to get to the happily ever after. (Spoiler, no one dies, and they do all, in fact, live happily ever after.)
Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cats. She has had over 160 short stories published in places like Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex Magazine, and Escape Pod. She has a novella and two short story collections available from Air and Nothingness Press and has self-published two novellas, two flash fiction collections, and a novelette. In addition to writing, she spends her time reading, playing tabletop RPGs, baking, foraging, and hiking.