Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Welcome to the FFBC: SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE by McKelle George

Speak Easy, Speak Love

by McKelle George
Publisher: Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Retellings, Historical
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Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer.

Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother, John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.

Hi McKelle!!  We’re so excited to have your book in our FFBC Tours, and can’t wait to ask you a couple of questions about SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE!!


Favorite Book?

Can I pick more than one? Lol. Howl’s Moving Castle, The Little Prince, Song of Achilles, Prince of Persia, A Monster Calls

Favorite TV show?

Parks & Rec, Peaky Blinders, Poldark, 30 Rock, Avatar: The Last Airbender

Favorite movie?

Godfather I, Godfather II, Singing in the Rain, You’ve Got Mail, Frozen, Gangs of New York

Favorite Song?

Bring Him Home, Les Mis; Dust and Ashes, Great Comet of 1812; Wait For It, Hamilton

Favorite Food?

Can bread be a favorite food? Ha ha. I seriously know all the best most authentic artisan bakeries in my city and I buy fresh loaves and eat them with butter and cheese.

Name 3 fictional places you would move to in a heartbeat.

Crimson Peak; Ketterdam; Halloweentown 

What were your favorite books growing up?

My favorite was Matilda, by Roald Dahl, and the Secret Garden. I read them multiple times and pretended I was in them.

 Favorite Quote? 

“Do not come lightly to the blank page.”

What are your fandoms?

I’m a fickle fangirl. I do fangirl, but I have new ones every six months or so. But I hardcore fan over Broadway and comics (recent obsessions: Monstress, Saga, and the new Archie reboot).

Name a recent book you read that you would recommend to our YA readers.

I just finished Enchantment of Ravens and The Art of Starving in YA (and Pachinko for adult); all three were wonderful.


Could you tell our Book Addicts a little bit about SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE?

SPEAK EASY SPEAK LOVE is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set in a dying speakeasy on Long Island. Hijinks ensue. Basically it’s a romantic comedy set in the 1920s.

How did you come up with the story? Did you find inspiration in any other story/movie/show and how has this affected your writing?

I was inspired to do a Shakespeare retelling after seeing some amazingly clever and intuitive adaptations at the RSC and the Globe in England. When I sat down to think of ways I could tackle my favorite play, Much Ado About Nothing, I thought instantly of the 1920s. The play is feminist in subtle ways and it offers two different kinds of womanhood in Hero and Beatrice, and the 1920s is a uniquely feminist decade. Women had just gotten the vote and the emergence of the flapper in the time after the Great War had all the right soil to explore those themes.

What are your some of your favorite movie retellings?

West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet), The Lion King (Hamlet), The Hollow Crown series (with Tom Hiddleston)

What 3 hashtags would you most associate with your book? (Could be a word or phrase or anything that would instantly make you think of SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE.) 

#HeyNonnyNonny, maybe?
Also: #jazzconquersvirtue and #shutupben

Besides reading, writing, and blogging, I love fashion!!  Can you tell us what Beatrice’s style is like?

Of no fashion at all, as Benedick would say. Our girl is function before form. She’s in trousers for half the book, and when she gets dressed up it’s almost entirely Hero’s doing. Because she’s not quite with the times, it can border on Gibson schoolgirl: smart, tough, and indifferent to the approval of others. 

Tell us your favorite quote from SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE.

Oh gosh. Hard to pick one! But I’ve always liked this exchange:

“You’re quite strong, you know,” said Benedick, still on her shoulder, as they made their way into the house. “You shoot things and don’t fear spiders and are about as sweet as a lemon. What would a man even do with you?”
“The better question, Mr. Scott, is what would I do with a man?”
“Nothing?” He said it like an uncertain child in a classroom.

Is there a specific scene that you had the most fun to write?  Or which part was the most difficult to get through?

Any scene with Beatrice and Benedick. Mostly I’d just throw them together and let them interact and we always had a good time. 

The hardest was Hero’s birthday party, which I won’t describe because spoilers, but I had to write it multiple (like 17 times) before landing on something I was satisfied with.

If you had to pick one song to be the Theme Song for SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE– Which one would you pick?

I like this rendition of Crazy in Love:

But also “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” from Annie Get Your Gun

Are there any recommendations you could give your readers to be in the “perfect mood” to read SPEAK EASY SPEAK LOVE (specific music, snacks…)?

A nice cocktail (or mocktail for YA readers!), some jazz, and anywhere you feel comfortable laughing. (:

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a magical realism retelling of The Tempest, as well as a dieslpunk reimagining of the Arthurian legend. (:

Thanks so much McKelle!!

McKelle George is a reader, writer of clumsy rebels, perpetual doodler, and associate librarian at the best library in the world. She mentors with Salt Lake Teen Writes and plays judge for the Poetry Out Loud teen competitions (but has no poetic talent herself). Her debut young adult novel Speak Easy, Speak Love comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2017, and she currently lives in Salt Lake City with an enormous white german shepherd and way, way too many books.

  • 1 ARC of SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE by McKelle George
  • Pre-Order Swag Including:
  • SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE bookmark, signed bookplate, signed postcard, full set of character cards
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  1. Ooh I'm so excited about this one. Much Ado About Nothing is my favorite Shakespeare comedy. :)


  2. I really enjoyed this book and I loved reading McKelle's answers! Can't wait for the rest of the tour.