Romeo and Juliet Adaptation #2 (1968)

Almost thirty years after the awful MGM adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, we get a beautiful telling of the story by director Franco Zeffirelli with Olivia Hussey as Juliet and Leonard Whiting as Romeo. This adaptation is by far my favorite and it really sets the bar for all other adaptations for Romeo and Juliet.

The first correction that Franco Zeffirelli did in this classic film was to cast a young Juliet and a young Romeo even more so that when the film debuted Olivia Hussey could not even go the premiere of the movie. The other standard that is in this film is not only the costuming one of the best but the music.

Aw, the music was gorgeous and it is used quite often when pairs skaters skate the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. This soundtrack does not even come close to the other soundtracks for the other adaptations for Romeo and Juliet.

Above all this adaptation came out during a crucial time in American Culture for it during the rise of the youth. The youth during 1968 was front and center of pop culture, political upheaval and of course can we forget that this was during the sexual revolution that was taking place as well.

Most times when an adaptation comes out the question needs to be asked, why now? Well back then the answer would have been that basically while Romeo and Juliet as a tragic love story it is also about the young. The young in the conflict of their parents’ quarrels and the conflict of trying to appease of them while wanting to strike out on their own. These things that make this adaptation stand the test of time.

Furthermore, during this time in pop-culture, we get another great Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, which I will save for tomorrow.

Romeo and Juliet Adaptation in 1936

I started this past weekend reading Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and I’m like almost done with it. I can remember vividly getting my first copy of the play, when I was about 14 (that was 16 years ago this month), getting home taking it out of my backpack and reading the full play from start to finish in one sitting and feeling pretty awesome about it. Granted, at the time I didn’t know that during the class that we would be reading and studying the play and West Side Story for a full semester which was like for four months. Let me tell you that there is nothing quite like that and I would never do that again.

This week I thought that it would be fun to look at Romeo and Juliet in context of the play and not only what we can learn from the play but also the many variations/adaptations of the play.

Granted there is nothing light about the tragedy that is Romeo and Juliet but some of the adaptations that came out over the years can be kind of funny to look at. The first adaptation that was sort of a sinking ship in my book of adaptations was the one that was one by MGM in 1936.

This adaptation started Norma Shearer as Juliet and Leslie Howard as Romeo. The first failing with this adaptation is the ages of the stars versus the ages of the characters. In the play Juliet is about 13-14 years old Norma Shearer at the time was about 34 years old and as for Romeo, he was about 40, so the stars were not young by any means. The second fall out with this adaptation was that at the time MGM was doing the big production movies that you see with The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. The biggest production scene out of Romeo and Juliet is the party scene.

Yes, the costumes were fabulous and the music was grand for the time, however, when you’re actors are old enough not be starry-eyed school girls it just doesn’t work. Sorry, it just doesn’t. Furthermore, because of this production, it was the only film in Norma Shearer’s film career that took a big loss. I will give this for the 1936 adaptation and that is it is the only one to have Juliet’s only speech where she takes out the vile of and the dagger after she meets with Friar Lawrence [Act 4, scene 3], and that is about it.

Tomorrow, we will talk about one of my favorite adaptations of Romeo and Juliet.

Bookstore Finds #2

Today I went to 2nd and Charles in Broomfield and I found four romance novels as part of my bookstore finds, so I thought that I would share my finds with all of you.

WIN_20180211_183728Book #1 – Wicked Fantasy by Nina Bangs (Paranormal Romance): The first novel that I saw when I came across the bookshelves was Wicked Fantasy by Nina Bangs. I must admit at this point that when I normally wonder the romance shelves, I’m drawn to the paranormal romance and this one is no exception. The cover is stunning and the man on the cover is a real looker with those dark eyes.  I have never read anything before by Nina Bangs and I’m looking forward to reading this novel and her work.

WIN_20180211_185448Book #2 – Prisoner of Desire by Jennifer Blake (Historical Romance): The second novel that I came home with was Prisoner of Desire. As I have mentioned before, historical romance is not one of my favorites but for some reason, this book kept speaking to me and so for that reason, it came home with me. This book based on the back covered is set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. This is another one that I can’t wait to sink into.

WIN_20180211_190718Book #3 – Lyon: The Lords of Satyr by Elizabeth Amber (Erotic/Paranormal Romance): The third novel that I found was Lyon. The reason why I picked up this book is that this is one is another paranormal romance and it is about a weir wolf which is sort of different from the vampire novels that I normally pick up. So I wanted something a little different.

Book #4 – A Witch’s Beauty by Joey W. Hill (Erotic/Paranormal Romance)The fourth WIN_20180211_191458and final book that I brought up home was A Witch’s Beauty. This novel is about angels and there is a new take on the angel type story. I also have other novels written by Joey W. Hill and normally she has written novels that deal with mermaids, vampires, and angels. For me finding a novel by Joey W. Hill is a score and the covers of all of Joey’s books are so beautiful.


Special Promotion: Right now 2nd and Charles is having a special dealing going on that when you buy 3 used romance novels, you get the 4th one free.

Movie Review: The Age of Innocence (1993)

I thought that I would finish the discussion of Age of Innocence by talking about the film adaptation of the novel. The film adaptation I found to be enjoyable and an enchanting take on the book. Granted nowadays when we talk about film adaptations, they do not normally follow the book or there are things either added to the film or things that were in the book that were not shown the film. However, with this adaptation, I found that it is a direct and true version to the book.

The casting of the film is about as perfect as it is going to get to the book; however, I feel that the character of Granny could have been played by Diana Rigg (Lady Olena, Game of Thrones) instead of the casted actress of Miriam Margolyes. The reason why I am calling this casting call out is that when you read the novel, the tempo of Granny’s voice sounds like the same deliverance as Diana Rigg when she played Lady Olena. As for the rest of the cast, I take no issue with for Winona Ryder has a tendency to either play really plain characters like May, or to play really strong characters like Jo March in Little Women, and therefore, I feel that she is the only one that could have given May the justice that she deserves.

The other lovely part of this film adaptation is the soundtrack, for it gave a strong representation of the times and showing the true feelings that Archer was going through. and that truly played out when Archer and the Countess were together.

I would recommend this film to anyone that enjoyed the novel or to anyone that would like a true adaptation of a book going to film.


Romance Subgenre #5 – Erotic Romance

We end this week looking at the final popular subgenre that hit the mainstream a couple of years ago thanks to Fifty Shades of Gray. Here is the truth about this subgenre, you could only buy this subgenre in your bigger bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders and also they use to also hold these behind a glass case and at some retailers, you would be carded if you wanted to look at them before you purchased them. Fifty Shades of Grey changed all of that for this subgenre.

The other fact about this subgenre was that on the back cover there used to be a disclaimer that read something like this:


Well, if you look at the erotic romances that come out today there is no more disclaimer and they can now be found at your local grocery stores.

The subgenre has come under the criticism of whether these types of book are porn or is it the details that are in the books that make them so racy. I would argue that the details in the sex scenes and their details in a regular romance novel and turns up the heat like to the really hot scale but I would not necessarily call them porn books.

Also, the love or attraction that are in a regular romance novel is somewhat thrown out the window is used to instead of focusing on the romance of a couple you are more focused on the sex that is in your novel and your character may have one or more partner. The biggest take away with erotic romance novels is that sex sells and the steamier the better, and just like any other romance novel can fall into a subgenre so can erotic romances for I have one that is fantasy-based.

This is a fun genre to read and sometimes fun to write if you are ever bored with writing regular romance novels and want to try something new write a few of these pages turners to see what you can achieve. But as always before diving head into this subgenre, I would suggest that you study the genre and then find a few test readers to see where they would the details in your book and if they would read it. The reason why I say test it out before publishing is that you want to find out if your book really falls into the subgenre. The last thing that you want is for your novel to be smacked with a porn label and that you take things too far. Granted, it will get the label anyway but you want it by critics not by the readers of your genre.

Romance Subgenre #4 – Young Adult Romances

I touched on this a bit with yesterday’s subgenre, Paranormal, but actually, in reality, there is quite a bit too young adult romances. Now when we are writing young adult romances you are going to go for writing to older teens like somewhere between the 15-18 range, which means that your characters should be somewhere between 16-19 maybe even 20 but don’t push the bracket on placing them to be older than that. Basically, when looking at writing for teens/young adults the rules still apply and one of the biggest ones for teens is that the like to read about some teens that are bit older than what they are currently.

That also being said you can also focus the niche for your book to be a certain reader, such as the one that is either still waiting for their first love or they are going through their first love but have yet to experience certain things with that person. Now the biggest question around these type of stories is the subject of sex like you would find in a regular romance novel, and the answer is you can have some but not the extent that a normal romance novel would have or even an erotic romance novel would have. This is where rating your book becomes important, and then if your book was a motion picture you can rate at PG-13 and that is about it.

Granted, the main subgenre of romance that teens are faced with are usually paranormal romance, there is the occasional historical period piece, and then there is the contemporary novel other than there is typically where romance in young adult novels can be found.

Also when it comes to writing young adult romances, you can also write for middle-grade but as far as romance goes, it’s going to be awkward, puppy-dog love, and there may be kissing but no sex. I would really suggest when it comes to writing romance for young adults/teens that you really do your research as far as what is accepted and what is not for the age that you want to write your book towards.

Romance Subgenre #2 – Suspense Romance

I must admit that I have only read one book that is within our next subgenre of the romance genre and I really enjoyed (I just cannot remember the title), today we are talking about suspense romance also known as romantic suspense. The subgenre of suspense romance consists of romance being the main plot while it has a subplot of a mystery, crime, or thriller.

Here is one key thing to note that your female hero is not waiting to be rescued or the victim, in this case, she is a full hero of her own right so you might want to think about Katniss Everdeen and what makes her a badass in her own right. The other thing to note is that while she is in the mix of the suspense so is our male hero right beside her helping her or they can be working together to solve whatever problem that they are facing. Does this mean that the police or any other law enforcement agency is not involved, the answer is no but they should not be the one to catch the villains of the story for it should be our heroes.

Furthermore, the other thing to note when writing romantic suspense is that there should be a balance between the romantic plot and the suspense. If you way too much towards the suspense side, such as the suspense overshadows the romance then you are hitting into mainstream literature and out of the romance genre. So, in this case, the balance should be like 70% romance and 30% suspense or something to that effect. Yes, you may have to do some research like you do with historical romance such as on police procedures depending on who your characters are.

Readers of this subgenre love their romance but they also want a little something extra like a mystery or a thriller for her character to be thrown into while they are trying to become romantic with the male hero, who she may or may not like in the beginning but something brings them together to make their romance possible. But the one thing that you want to keep in mind is that you do not want to make your readers mad by falling into cliches of other mysteries or thrillers, for your readers want something that is fresh and new. Just to add to a bit to this subgenre when it comes to literature mystery is like the second most popular genre of fiction next to romance.

Therefore, you should do research on both romance thrillers/suspense and regular mysteries just in case you need some help with the subplot of your novel.

Romance Subgenre #1: Historical Romance

This week I thought that it would be fun while we are looking at the genre of romance if we took a look at the subgenres of romance individually. Granted there are lots of subgenres but I thought that I would pick the top five so that we have one to discuss each day. The first sub-genre that I will discuss is historical romance. This in part due to me currently reading the novel, The Age of Innocence.

Granted, I must admit that historical romance is not a favorite of mine for one reason, you must enjoy the time period that the romance is written for, such as Victorian England or during the American Civil War. While at the same time you could consider Age of Innocence a historical romance since the novel came out in 1920’s while it focuses on New York during the 1870’s. But I will add this part about historical romance, which is that they are one of the top subgenres in the romance genre and that also means that historical romances do well on screen too, think back to James Cameron’s Titanic and how well it did at the box office.

The biggest thing with historical romance when you are writing in this subgenre is that you must have done your research prior to writing so that you can get all the details just right on the time that you are focusing on. This means how they dress, did their hair, even some events that might have taken place during the time, and this does include getting your romantic details correct to such as was it appropriate to be seen kissing in public or was that more done in the privacy of one’s home. Remember your reader is interested in the time that you are writing about and if you get one fact wrong, they will ring you over the coals for creating such as a taboo in their historical romance. The key is don’t make your readers angry or your historical writing career is over.

Some other helpful things to keep in mind when writing historical romance is that you want to go back further than present times, for the more closer you are to the present the more you will find that your readers will have a hard time telling the difference. So the key is to go back further than World War I. The other key is that if your novel is set in war-time the violence of the war needs to stay out of your book. Yes, you can mention that the war is going on but any violence or gore needs to stay away from the book, unless in extreme circumstances that it has to do with the romance of your novel.

The other key to historical romance is that you want to give enough detail to set the background for the story but not have it read like a textbook. Keep in mind that your reader will have already done their homework on the time that you are writing about so they don’t need to be dictated on the time period. You can make social commentary remarks as long as they pertain from a character’s point of view.

With any of the subgenres that are presented here this week, do your homework on the subgenre to find out which one that you have a desire to write more. As part of doing your homework, I suggest reading books that have been published in the subgenre.

Reading UpdateI have read 170 pages out of 307 pages of Edith Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence. While I reading yesterday, Archer’s wedding took place and now he is “happily married” to May and dealing with the confines of being married to her and how she is acting. Based on how he is acting throughout the first few chapters from the wedding he is already noticing things that he does not like about his bride while at the same time he is noticing the fact that he can still take up what he enjoys like the arts. So in a way, he gets to eat his pie and eat his cake too; although, he cannot have the woman that he truly wants which is bride’s cousin.

The Role of the Lovers

WIN_20180203_092301In a tarot deck, the sixth card of the major arcana in the deck is that of the lovers. This card usually represents love and marriage to the first time glancers of the cards, but in all the card represents the complexities and risks that come into play with relationships. Usually, the image on the card displays that of a happy couple, who are both have the give and takes of relationships such as attraction and opposition and it implies an ongoing cycle of conflict and reconciliation. The card as a symbol represents that of choice.

As many of you know, or you may not know, that from time to time I use tarot in my writing, and I figured while this month is being dedicated to romance, that I would showcase the lovers card and how we can use what it represents in our writing.

Just as it was mentioned above we have the complexities of what goes into a relationship such as that of attraction and opposing views that we find in everyday relationships. How we use the attraction and the opposing views of our characters is how we can create the tension that is needed for our romantic couple since this is one of the keys that is needed in a good romance novel. There has to be a tension between them. If we take the case of Beauty and the Beast, the tension comes in that he has to get over being a selfish and spoiled prince for that got him turned into the beast that he is in the first place. Yes, I know we had the strange begging woman that came to the castle and she was actually a beautiful enchantress, but still, he was very selfish and did not let the poor women come in and get warm by the fire. If he had then maybe he wouldn’t have been turned into the beast and then he would have never met the fair Bell, and we wouldn’t have the story. Let’s not undo our stories, shall we?

Now granted the tension that is faced in Romeo and Juliet is not that with one or the other, but with their feuding families, who had been warned numerous times to get along our they would have to pay the consequences, which they did. There are many things that can create tension for lovers and how you use or create the tension is the fun part for us as writers. We must balance the tension with the rest of the action of the story while giving our lovers time to find out about each other.

Also, I did mention that the card was also a symbol of choice, and that is true for think about it did Romeo have to seek out Juliet? No, he didn’t but he did and that was where the problems lie in the story. In any relationship that we enter into there is a choice element and if we chose not to enter a relationship then we lose part of the story that is possible, but just as we have to make smart choices so do our characters. Unless you feel necessary to give your character the flaw of always making the wrong choices then that is up to you but sooner or later they will have to make a right choice so that you can end the cycle of abuse that you have put your character through.

Relationships are many things for they are conflicted, choices that we must make and there is a risk element involved. Was there a clear risk for Romeo being with Juliet? Yes, there was he could have been killed by his family if they ever found out that she was with him. While on the other hand, I don’t see his family killing a young girl unless they were really that cruel but again it was more her family taking him out back and doing away with him. Plus, he killed one of her family members, which wouldn’t have gone over so well either and it didn’t. But either way, the picture was not looking that great for poor Romeo. Yes, he was a love-hungry fool and he jumped from one girl to the next and both were from the same family (Awkward).

Yes, at some point, this month, I will do a whole post on Romeo and Juliet but for now, I will leave with you the thought that we should have fun making our characters and the tension/choices that we through at them.

Reading Update: I’m currently on page 111 out of 309 pages in Edith Wharton’s novel The Age of Innocence. My first thoughts about this novel are that you get a clear overview of how New York Society was in the 1870’s as well as much about the taboos of the day and age. I’m really enjoying the book and for most of it is a fast read, I just have already found myself asking will it pick up. Granted, I’ve already found characters that I really don’t like or agree with in the book such as the main character’s mother, for she seems to want certain standards to be upheld in society and she wishes that her son would share her views much like his sister, Janey, does. But on the whole, he is already thinking about his future and how it will be once he gets married and thinks that it will be a rather dull affair, and for the most part based on how the society was at the time, he is perfectly correct. These are just first thoughts about the book.

What was your first romance?

To start our long month study of the romance genre, I thought that it would be fun for you think about what was your first encounter with the subject of romance. This is not to say what was your first romance but what was your first knowledge about what is romance. The first few examples, that come to find are like Beauty and the Beast. Yes, the Disney animated classic was what I would consider my first encounter with is romance. Granted, I could say that it was the Little Mermaid, but that really wasn’t like what was in Beauty and the Beast. Other examples, that come to mind are like Dirty Dancing, although, as we all know now Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey did not like each other at all but we were still given the illusion that the characters that they played did have a thing for each other. But we all cannot forget that line “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

Other examples that come to mind of romance, were some of the couples that I saw on soap operas when my mom was watching them. Granted, I got to catch a glimpse of The Young and the Restless or As the World Turns from time to time. But having this as part of my foundation of romance, allowed me to enjoy it more as an adult like when watching Grey’s Anatomy or say Scandal.

However, before there were Meredith and Derick there was The Thorn Birds. Yes, I loved the Thorn Birds. The Thorn Birds was somewhat like Romeo and Juliet with the forbidden love and they both pinning for each other even though there was another “Man” in the picture. The love between a girl and a priest which was also the basis for the novel, The Mermaid Chair.

Another example that comes to mind, of course, is Romeo and Juliet. Where to start with our star-crossed lovers? There are so many places such as the balcony scene, the hidden marriage vows, the fake death of Juliet which leads to Romeo and her death. Was it necessarily romantic? Maybe not but to every young girl that runs across the story for the first time, the answer is yes. It’s like watching the adaptation of West Side Story, where we want our characters to pull through and it goes back to that idea that love never dies.

There are so many examples that come to mind of what was my first taste of romance but hands down, it will always be the animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, since it has all the makings of a true romance novel. Since you have the tension between the two characters and then there is an obstacle that comes gets in the way of their happily ever after, he almost dies and then there is magic that saves him and then we get the happy and uplifting ending where they live happily ever after.

So what was your first taste of romance?

As per my promise that I made yesterday, I started to read Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence. Granted, I’ve only read 52 pages of the 307-page novel, but so far it’s enjoyable. But as I”m reading Wharton’s novel, a curious question came to me if a book that was written in the past read by today’s audiences still considered historical fiction? Or if the book was written today would and read by today’s audiences make it a historical fiction?