Between the Lines: The Tempest Re-imagined

Apr 7, 2017

Jacqueline Carey
Credit Julie Abel

New York Times bestselling writer Jacqueline Carey, who lives in West Michigan, is the author of the critically acclaimed Kushiel’s Legacy series of historical fantasy novels. She's also written The Sundering epic fantasy duology, the postmodern fables Santa Olivia and Saints Astray, and the Agent of Hel contemporary fantasy series. Her newest novel is Miranda and Caliban (Tor Books, 2017), a retelling of Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest.

“My youthful memories of Shakespeare’s The Tempest were that it was this frothy little fantasy,” Carey says. “The bad people got their comeuppance, and justice and love triumphed. Then I reread it a few years ago, and there are a lot of really dark themes underlying it. I thought, "Wow, that’s not at all like I remember it!'”

Carey's story told from the perspective of Miranda and Caliban isn't just about the single night featured in play. She goes back in time to when Miranda was six and she and Caliban both lived an isolated island life on an island. The play's main character, Prospero, lives for revenge. But young Miranda suffers from her loneliness — until Prospero forces the feral boy Caliban to live in their house as a slave. In Carey's retelling, the two youngsters bond in companionship and mutual comfort.

“There’s nothing in The Tempest that tells us that Caliban is an adult when they arrive on the island, and I thought, well, maybe he wasn’t,” Carey says. “Maybe he was this lonely, abandoned child. So it starts out as a story of a friendship between two young, lonely and isolated people and takes on a different aspect as they reach adolescence.”

Carey has traveled across the world and often finds inspiration in art and history during her travels.

Kushiel’s Legacy, which is the historical fantasy series I’m known best for, covers a lot of territory,” Carey says. “When I’ve been able to travel to places I’ve written about, it really informs the work on a visceral level: when you know what the air feels like, what it smells like, what the ground feels like under your feet. And I draw on a lot of history as well. And art is wonderfully inspirational on a visual level, and I tend to be a very visual storyteller.”

In southwest Michigan, Carey is known for things other than being a bestselling author. For years, she was one of the organizers for Michigan’s oldest Mardi Gras Festival.

“The first year, there was one float,” Carey says. “Ours. It was in downtown Douglas. And people looked very surprised when we threw beads at them. It grew and grew, and at its height was pretty spectacular.”

But, putting on the festival year after year was too much work, and eventually the organizing group disbanded. That means Carey can again focus on her writing. Her books have been highlighted by the Michigan Writers Series.

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