Faye reimagines Hamlet set in modern New York City in The King of Infinite Space (Putnam, Aug.).
Where did the idea for this book come from?
I have been a bit obsessed with Shakespeare since I was 10 years old, so the idea came from my personal interest. I’ve probably seen different versions of Hamlet about a dozen times. I worked at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival back in the day as a dramaturge, and have barely missed a Shakespeare in the Park production since moving to New York City.
What was the hardest part of crafting a book inspired by such a well-known work of literature?
Well, having the hubris to do it in the first place was terrible, but I’d already done Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charlotte Brontë, so I’ve had a bit of practice at being too big for my britches. I’m always rather fearless if I truly love something.
Was it challenging to come up with plausible modern variants of the characters or the plot?
I always have a much harder time with plot. I can write characters faffing back and forth at each other for pages and pages, but never know what’s happening next. Plot is a giant mess. There’s a saying, plotter versus pantser, referring to writers who plot things out as opposed to writing by the seat of their pants. I am decidedly in the latter category.
How did you approach altering characters’ ethnicity and race, such as Horatio becoming Horatio Patel?
I feel deeply uncomfortable writing books that are only about white people. It’s not the experience of most people and it is not my experience, so I can’t do it that way. For a long time, I have made a point of never writing books without queer or nonwhite people.
Do you feel that there’s evidence in the original play for the friendship between Hamlet and Horatio being or becoming more than platonic?
Yes, I definitely do. Even apart from Horatio wanting to kill himself when Hamlet is dying, Hamlet refers to Horatio as being held in his “heart of hearts,” as a man who is “not passion’s slave.” He repeatedly tells him he’s the only one he can talk to, and Horatio is never anything but patient and kind. I think it’s a very beautiful love story. Shakespeare just didn’t write the sexy bits. I believe this to have a canonical basis in the way my Jane Eyre–inspired novel, Jane Steele, did—it’s a riff. A loving, deeply felt riff from the heart. When I deeply appreciate a work, I have an odd urge to riff off of it in my own way.