By Molly Priddy, 6-07-12
||Caption: Alexa Schnee won the Mount Hermon Most Promising Writer Award. - Photo by Justin Franz/Flathead Beacon
When she was 16, Alexa Schnee decided to write a book. It’s an ambitious undertaking by most standards, and she admits now her age probably shielded her from being intimidated by her protagonist: William Shakespeare’s secret lover.
Schnee, who grew up in Kalispell and now attends college at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, held a book signing on May 30 for the end result of her teenage pursuit, the recently published "Shakespeare’s Lady," a novel based on Emilia Bassano and her relationship with the bard.
Historically speaking, Bassano was a wordsmith in her own right, being one of the first women in England to publish a book of poetry. But little else is known about her, and some have speculated that she is the "Dark Lady" of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Schnee found she was intrigued by the Dark Lady, but couldn’t find much literature about her.
"I felt I wanted to write about it, which was interesting," Schnee said in an interview last week. "I never tried writing a novel before."
"Shakespeare’s Lady" takes the view that Bassano was indeed Shakespeare’s lover, and builds on their intense relationship. It has been speculated that Bassano wrote "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," and this comes into play in Schnee’s book as well. The story covers forbidden love and its repercussions, and provides the reader with a new perspective on historical figures.
Before she decided to write a novel, Schnee had written mostly short stories.
"I just loved writing. I always have since I was a kid," Schnee said. "I would write stories for my dad when he would come home from work."
When she was 13, Schnee started a writing course with established author Tricia Goyer. The relationship ended up providing guidance as the younger author navigated the literary world, Schnee said.
Schnee was homeschooled until she was 17, and from there she took some courses at Flathead Valley Community College. After earning her Associate of Arts degree, Schnee took the leap and transferred across the country to Sarah Lawrence College, just north of New York City.
It took her a while to adjust to her new surroundings, Schnee said.
"It was definitely different, but I really liked it too because it is so different," Schnee said.
Now in her second year, Schnee has rediscovered her love for other famous authors, including Jane Austen, who was the focus of a course she recently took. New life experiences have provided new facets through which to view these classic works, Schnee said.
"It really got me thinking and going back and rereading those novels I read when I was young," she said.
Schnee said she’s noticed how differently she would treat her heroines compared to Austen’s treatment, noting that she feels she’s harder on them than Austen. Still, her main character has her faults, and makes choices at times that Schnee wouldn’t necessarily make herself.
"The great thing about writing is that even if you wouldn’t make those choices, your characters can," she said.
With her first book published through Guideposts Publishing, Schnee is showing no signs of slowing down. Her agent is shopping Schnee’s second book, which is based on Greek mythology, to publishers and Schnee is about 80 pages into her third novel, involving the world-famous lothario, Giacomo Casanova.
Schnee isn’t sure if she will always write about historical figures, but she knows she will keep writing. So far her books have been mostly targeted toward women, but she reported raving reviews on "Shakespeare’s Lady" from one of her earliest and biggest fans.
"My dad read my first book and he loved it," Schnee said.
"Shakespeare’s Lady" is available at Book Works in Kalispell and Whitefish, as well as the Book Shelf in Kalispell.
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