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Episode 30: Interview with Bestselling Author Ian Doescher

Ian Doescher is an author out of Portland Oregon, whose William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, Verily a New Hope was a smash bestseller (we’re talking that NYT list!). There are currently eight—going on nine—books in the series plus Get Thee Back to the Future and Much Ado About Mean Girls, all from Quirk Books.

Ian’s latest Shakespearean political satire book, MacTrump, is a collaboration with Jacopo Della Quercia, pen name for a former Obama aide and author of License to Quill. Ian has a B.A. in Music from Yale University, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary.

Buy a copy of Mactrump here or enter to win our giveaway October 2–9, 2019!

Minute By Minute

1:00—

We introduce our guest Ian Doescher right away, and tease at the terrible acting to come. On our part, not his.

2:14—

We talk about Ian’s music degree and his regular gig singing at a Catholic church, the dearth of jobs in German art music, and Corinne’s philosophy of what should—and should not!—be sung at karaoke night. What’s your go-to karaoke song?

4:49—

Ian introduces his newest book, MacTrump, which covers the first two years of the Trump administration in Shakespearean language. It’s heavily fictionalized, so if you’ve been listening to the president and trying to track his language in iambic pentameter…stop. And also, why?

6:00—

Way to go us for burying the lede! Ian’s claim to fame is his William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series, and he tells us about when he got the call from his editor to let him know that his first book was on the New York Times bestseller list. He also shares the sound of his internal scream with us. Screaming at the playground while your small kids play is generally frowned upon.

8:08—

The seed of Ian’s idea to write a book first came to him in grad school, when he still believed his writing career would be strictly academic. After leaving academia, he really caught the reading bug (for non-school subjects!), and simultaneously felt the pull to write more strongly.

9:44—

Why did Ian decide to commit to Shakespeare? It all started with a used bookstore and a paperback copy of Hamlet, then snowballed into a desire to perform Shakespeare’s speeches in high school, amplified by Kenneth Branaugh’s Much Ado About Nothing and the cultural environment of Portland itself. He also ties his appreciation for poetic meter all the way to a childhood love of Dr. Seuss.

12:17—

Every year, Oregon holds its legendary Shakespeare Festival. There, in Ashland, the idea to recreate Star Wars as a Shakespeare play. This lone idea led to a growing series of what is currently eight books. Corinne also tells us about her first crush on one of the most evil characters in high school cinema.

14:43—

Emily outs Corinne’s Star Wars secret. But at least we had a great Wicker Man theme party, and we can all bond over our interest in horror movies. Ian recommends Matt Gourley’s horror podcasts and we all agree that the first viewing of Texas Chainsaw Massacre subverts all slasher expectations.

19:16—

His new book is newly released! Go out and get it! Ian talks about how he contacted License to Quill author, Jacopo Della Quercia, and that led to an idea to collaborate on a play about Trump. He discusses how the two of them used their respective talents and knowledge to put a book together in 5–6 weeks of break-neck writing. And with this *exciting* news cycle, the one upside is for this book’s sales potential.

24:27—

If there’s one thing that publishers should be able to help with, it’s titles. And sometimes a fun title is a fun title. Each of Ian’s books tend to borrow bits from multiple different Shakespeare plays, but the cores are the movies and—in this case—fictionalized history.

27:50—

This is an author’s—and a publisher’s—dream: a great idea, a responsive editor, and a press with the right connections and a willingness to help a LOT with marketing. Quirk Books contacted Lucasfilm, and both were thrilled to collaborate on the Shakespearean Star Wars series. Eleven books later, with four more on the way, he’s still going strong with Quirk.

Here’s the article we were talking about regarding authors who have trouble with the publishing process.

33:25—

Lucasfilm approved all the drafts of the Star Wars books, which is interesting for Ian as a fan. Sometimes that means he has to alter Darth Vader’s motivations, other times it means he gets to add depth to a supporting character.

39:03—

And then begins the Jar Jar Binks apologia. Here’s the article about the poor actor who played Jar Jar Binks and was incessantly bullied. Our discussion of backlash in the Star Wars universe segues into a discussion of political backlash against MacTrump.

41:23—

After studying Ivanka’s drawl and destroying Emily’s Youtube algorithm, we embark upon a reading from MacTrump. Roles are:

  • Desdivanka: Emily
  • Donnison: Corinne
  • Ericson: Ian

48:57—

It doesn’t get much better for a Star Wars fan than this: Emperor Palpatine doing a dramatic reading from your book. And yes, we have the video.

51:08—

And before we go—a nod to the Shakespeare’s Star Wars illustrator, Nicolas Delort, is in order!

Don’t forget to buy the book, leave reviews, and join the HPS community!

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