To celebrate the release of Perchance to Dream, I’m interviewing some of the authors featured in the anthology. Today’s interview is with Alex Irwin, who adapted Hamlet for her story. Hamlet is the only Shakespearean work that got two adaptations in the anthology, and the reason for that is because I was so blown away by how Alex and Megan Reynolds were able to come up with such drastically different takes on the same piece of literature. Not only were their premises polar opposites—one a quiet, family-centered modern fantasy, the other an action-packed sci-fi thriller—but, as you’ll see from their interviews, they both focused on vastly different themes from the play as well. That was one of my favorite aspects of this project: seeing the different ways Shakespeare’s works could be interpreted, even when two authors were working with the same material!

Tell us a little bit about your story, “Star Walker.”

My story is about a teenage girl called Letta who lives on an inter-generational space ship heading to New Earth. Her mother has recently passed and despite Letta being promised the role of Captain, it goes to Letta’s aunt instead. It’s based on Hamlet, so don’t expect a happy ending. I love stories set in space and I love Hamlet, so I don’t know why it never occurred to me to combine the two before now!

What drew you to write an adaptation of Hamlet?

Hamlet was the first Shakespearean play I studied in detail that I really connected with. There are a lot of conflicting views on Hamlet, but I ultimately see it as a story about people struggling with mental illness and that is something that I wish was more mainstream in books—particularly books for a YA audience. I was also in a production of Hamlet as a teenager where I played Ophelia. Ophelia is, and always will be, my favourite Shakespearean character. I remember vividly the skeleton we used for the body of Ophelia breaking and the skull rolling off the stage, much to the audience’s delight—though I didn’t include this in my story!

Image by Pauline Moss

How would you describe your writing process?

I write in energetic bursts. I’ll become overwhelmed with this fierce desire to write and write and write. During these times I can write nonstop for the whole day. Then there’s usually a long, long, long gap between when I next write. Although, I am trying to force myself to write on a schedule. I’d like to be the type of person that just gets up an hour earlier to write, but I’m usually the type of person who just doesn’t go to bed at all just so they can finish a chapter. I also need to listen to music when I write. I have playlists dedicated to each of my projects to get me into the right mood to write.

“Star Walker” is your first published work. Do you have any other YA projects you’re working on, or plans to write anything else?

Yes! I’m finishing a YA speculative fiction novel at the moment. I won’t reveal too much, but it’s about aliens and living with mental illness—which most of my work is about anyway! I’m incredibly passionate about diversity in fiction and my own work is no different. I like to take traditional themes and approach them in ways I believe mainstream media typically avoids. Mainstream publishing is getting better in terms of representation in books, but it is not enough, and it is my hope that I can be part of improving it.

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Alex Irwin! You can read her story, “Star Walker,” in Perchance to Dream, which is available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major retailers. If you’d like to connect with Alex, you can find her on Twitter at @IrwinWriting.

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