A Stagefright interview with Carole Wilkinson
by George Ivanoff - May 23rd, 2013
Many years ago there was a book called Stagefright. It was about a group of high school kids putting on a musical version of Shakespear’s Richard the Third. It was the first novel from a then unknown author named Carole Wilkinson. Carole has since gone on to find success with her Dragonkeeper and Ramose novels, as well as with lots of other books. Now Stagefright is back! And Carole is here to talk about it.
I remember reading, and loving, the original version of Stagefright back in the mid 1990s. Could you tell us how this novel came to be ‘reborn’?
It was the first book of mine to be published. The original book was for an educational series called the Rave series, aimed at young teen readers and published by Longman. The person who commissioned the original book and edited it was Maryann Ballantyne. Time passed, things happened, and now Maryann is my publisher at Walker Books. She was moving offices and came across a copy of Stagefright and started to reread it. She said she still liked the book, it still made her laugh. She said she would like to republish it, but it needed to be updated, would I like to do it.
I think every writer would like the chance to rewrite their first book once they have a bit more experience. So I said Yes!
How did you go about the process of revising Stagefright?
The main story hasn’t changed a great deal. It’s still about a bunch of unsporty kids who go to a very sporty school who have to put on a school musical. They decide on a musical version of Shakespeare’s tragedy Richard the Third. I certainly didn’t start all over again. But I did a lot of rewriting.
There are seven characters, and I found I still liked them all. So I didn’t change them, just tinkered with their ethnicity a bit as they go to a multicultural school and the mix of places that migrants and refugees come from has changed over the years.
I did work on the subplots for each of the characters. I didn’t think I’d done a very good job of that the first time round. I really enjoyed that.
What’s the biggest difference between the original version and the new one?
The new version is almost 10,000 words longer than the original!
I wrote the original book about 17 years ago. Technology has changed, but that didn’t impact the story as much as I thought it would. Because the school is all about sport, technology wasn’t a big part of school life for the characters. The big change from then to now is mobile phones. No one had one in the original book. So I had to decide whether to mention them or have a school that banned them. In the end, I decided that if my main character was going to have a mobile phone it had to serve a purpose to the plot, so Velvet’s phone ended up with its own subplot.
The most surprising thing was that, in my view, things are much more conservative now than back in 1996. I did a lot of self-censoring. I had to clean up the language! And I made the main characters a year older so that I was comfortable with the level of romance that happens between the characters.
Were there any changes that your publisher/editor specifically requested?
No. It was up to me what to change.
Are there any other books/stories from your past that you would like to have a crack at redoing?
No. I think that was a one off. It was out of print and had only ever been sold into schools. All my other books are still in print.
Assuming it’s not TOP SECRET, what are you working on now?
I am working on the 5th Dragonkeeper book. This is the one that follows on after Blood Brothers. It has a working title … I haven’t told anyone what it is yet … will I tell you? Why not. It’s called Shadow Sister. My publisher might want to change it. I hope not.
My thanks to Carole for answering my questions for today’s blog post. I can certainly understand her excitement about this release, as I went though a similar bookish rebirth last year with my YA short story collection, Life, Death and Detention (see “The long and winding road to a new edition”). And I can’t wait for her new Dragonkeeper novel.
Catch ya later, George
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