“… Never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo…”
Ocelot Press author Sue Barnard writes:
It’s almost forty years since I first saw Franco Zeffirelli’s wonderful 1968 film of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. There wasn’t a dry eye in the cinema at the end, and I came away thinking: This is the world’s greatest love story – so why does it have to end so badly?
That question haunted me for decades – until a few years ago, when I chanced across one of those lists of Things You Must Do Before You Die. Most of them held little or no appeal (and in any case I’m not planning on dying any time soon), but one which did catch my attention was Write The Book You Want To Read. The book I’ve always wanted to read is the alternative version of Romeo & Juliet – the one in which the famous star-crossed lovers don’t fall victim to a maddeningly preventable catastrophe.
Why, I asked myself, should there not be such a book? And the answer came straight back: Why not indeed? And if it doesn’t exist, then go ahead and write it.
Even so, it was a while before anything definite happened. I’d dabbled with Creative Writing in the past, and had taken a few courses on the subject, but I’d never attempted to write anything longer or more complicated than poems, short stories, articles for the parish magazine, non-fiction copywriting assignments, or the occasional stroppy letter to The Times. The thought of tackling a full-length novel, even one on a subject about which I felt so strongly, was a daunting prospect. Clichéd as it sounds, I simply didn’t know where to start.
Then, a few weeks later, I had one of those serendipitous moments which really make one believe in Guardian Angels. I was on holiday in France, and was browsing in a bookshop when I came across a novel which took the form of the lost diary of a woman who had been the secret lover of Count Dracula. A voice in my mind whispered, “A lost diary? You could do something like this…”
The eventual result was The Ghostly Father, first published in 2014 by Crooked Cat Books, and now re-issued (with a few editorial revisions) through Ocelot Press.
The book’s title is based on a quotation from the play (it’s how Romeo addresses the character of Friar Lawrence), and the story, which is part-prequel, part-sequel to the original tale, is told from the Friar’s point of view. I’ve always been fascinated by the Friar, and have often wondered why he behaved as he did. By giving him his own backstory, I’ve tried to offer some possible explanations. Plus, of course, I wanted to reduce the overall body-count, and give the young lovers a rather less tragic dénouement.
I originally wrote The Ghostly Father just for myself, to give Romeo & Juliet the outcome I’ve always wanted. But in the four years since the book’s original release, the number of people who have bought it, read it, and been kind enough to say they’ve enjoyed it, suggests that I’m not by any means the only person who prefers the alternative ending.
The Ghostly Father is currently available in Kindle format. To order a copy, click here. The paperback edition will follow shortly.
You can find out more about Sue Barnard and her writing – and our other authors – on our Author Page.
Copyright © Sue Barnard, Ocelot Press 2018 all rights reserved.