Teens no longer have to moan when they’re assigned Shakespeare and Dickens, thanks in part to a group of YA authors who’ve revamped and modernized works by such classic authors, making them far more accessible to students than ever before.
Gareth Hinds, Marissa Meyer, and Sean Michael Wilson were among the speakers participating on the “Classic Twists” panel during SLJ’s SummerTeen virtual conference on August 9, sharing their views on writing adaptations for young adults.
Hinds, a 2011 participant in SLJ’s Battle of the Books, uses graphic novels to retell classics such as Beowulf (2007) and The Odyssey (2010, both Candlewick), as well as adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. “Gods were the ancient Greeks’ superheroes,” says Hinds. “What better way to read about them than through the comic book medium?” His versions of the classics allow “the page to be a stage that characters walk around on.” During his presentation, Hinds shared a sneak peek of his next project: an adaptation of Romeo & Juliet with a multiracial cast.
Meyer shared the experience of her long road to finally getting published and how her fascination for anime and the popular ‘90s Japanese TV show, Sailor Moon, inspired her to write fanfiction that would later plant the seed for her debut, Cinder (Feiwel & Friends, 2012). The first book in her the “Lunar Chronicles” sci-fi/romance updates the classic rags-to-riches tale of Cinderella and is set in the future. Complete with spaceships and hover cars, the novel reinterprets the classic tale with a mechanic and cyborg as the main character.
Influenced by Jane Yolen’s and Anna Sheehan’s fairy tale reworkings, Meyer will follow up with Scarlet, based on Little Red Riding Hood, which is coming out in 2013. It will be followed by Crest, about Rapunzel, and Winter, about Snow White. Meyer says the theme of good conquering evil is one that attracts teens, and she sees a resurgence of teen interest in fairy tales as seen in the films Snow White and the Huntsman and Once Upon a Time.
Based in Scotland, but speaking from Japan, Wilson spoke about his range of graphic novels, from manga to American/British style comics, some bilingual and others in English and later translated to Japanese. Wilson’s “Classical Comics” series offers readers titles such as A Christmas Carol and Wuthering Heights in unabridged and “Quick Text” editions. His texts stay true to the originals and have been designed to be used in classrooms as a companion to the original text. Wilson has also adapted well-known Japanese stories, including The 47 Ronin, which follows the fate of former samurais wanting revenge for their master’s death. His dream adaptation? Franz Kafka’s short stories.
Although the three authors have distinct styles and approaches to their books, they did have one thing in common: they were all active storytellers long before they published their first books. Meyer spent years as a managing editor and then as a Seattle-based proofreader, while Hinds drew the characters and backgrounds for video games. Wilson stated simply: “Before becoming a writer, I was a reader.”
SLJ SummerTeen Interviews