Interview with Kim Askew and Amy Helmes, authors of Anyone But You

Publisher: Merit Press

Publication Date: January 18, 2014

Book Links:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: These violent delights have violent ends...

Gigi Caputo is fed up. A vicious act of vandalism has dealt another blow to her family's proud pizza heritage, and the Montes--owners of a rival Italian restaurant--are clearly to blame. The hostility goes far beyond bragging rights for best pizza in Chicago. The Montes have been bent on destroying Cap's for four generations. Even if it means putting herself in harm's way, Gigi's determined to get to the bottom of the feud. Instead, in a secret encounter with Roman Monte, the very boy whose relatives have brought her family such grief, she finds both danger and love at first sight. If the daughter and son of these two warring families fall for each other, can it be anything but a recipe for disaster? Slowly, Gigi and Roman learn that their story is fatefully linked to the summer of 1933, when two twelve-year-olds, Benny and Nick, hop the turnstile at the Chicago World's Fair. The most stunning wonder of the fair is Stella, who innocently causes a lasting rift between the two boyhood. Wending its way through past and present day, this modern take on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is bittersweet, funny, and intensely exciting. It's classic romance--a tale of hate and the only force that can ever defeat it: love.

Series: Tempestuous: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare's The Tempest (1), Exposure: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare's Macbeth (2), Anyone But You: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (3)

Interview: Q. Please tell us about the inspiration for your current release.

Amy: The novels in our Twisted Lit series are each inspired by a different Shakespeare play. ‘Anyone But You’, the third standalone book in the series, takes its cues from ‘Romeo and Juliet’. We set our story in Chicago, with two rival, family-owned Italian restaurants standing in for the Montagues and Capulets. The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair actually inspired us to go back in time to explore the genesis of this legendary family feud. Why did the star-crossed lovers’ families hate each other so much in the first place, and how did that quintessentially Italian food, pizza, come to be such a staple in American culture? That was our springboard to retell Shakespeare’s beloved teen tragedy in an entirely different fashion.

Q. How did writing this book affect you?

Amy: I really had to reclaim what it feels like to be a teenager in love while writing this book. Adults tend to dismiss high school relationships as “puppy love,” but it was important for me to honor those intense, sometime irrational emotions that Gigi and Roman (our Juliet and Romeo) have for one another. It taught me to look at young love with a less cynical point of view.

Kim: I have to agree with Amy on this one--I really wanted the love scenes to be true to the experience of being a teen and meeting your first love. I thought a lot about my own first crushes and rewatched scenes between Angela and Jordan from ‘My So Called Life’ for inspiration.

Q. Is there anything you haven’t written about that you would like to in the future?

Kim: Well, because our series are based on Shakespeare’s works, we’d love the opportunity to continue to publish modern twists on his plays. We’re gearing up to write our version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and we’re also itching to have fun with ‘Hamlet’, ‘King Lear’, and Shakespeare’s “Henry” plays, to name just a few.

Q. Which of your characters would you want to be and why?

Amy: I’d love to be Benny, one of the male characters in ‘Anyone But You’, because he has a charmingly carefree attitude that I envy in other people. He’s cocky, confident, and devilishly handsome, but he also has a heart of gold.

Kim: I’d want to be Gigi. Falling in love for the first time is a magical, intense experience.

Q. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

Amy: I would love to be really fluent in another language, and I would love to be able to play a violin.

Kim: I would like to learn to fence professionally, and I’d love to be able to read Proust in French.

Q. What are you currently reading?

Amy: ‘Eleanor & Park’ by Rainbow Rowell. My old college roommate was freaking out over it, and she never steers me wrong on books.

Kim: I’m reading Donna Tartt’s new novel, ‘The Goldfinch’. She’s the author of one of my favorite books, ‘The Secret History’.

Q. Of all the books you’ve read, which book has impacted you the most?

Amy: I’d say any of Jane Austen’s books. I vowed, after reading them, that I would never, ever settle for a mate who was anything less than one of Jane Austen’s heroes. (I even incorporated this proclamation into the vows at my wedding!) She gave me an ideal to aspire to, and fortunately, I found an amazing husband of whom Jane would wholly approve … he even has a t-shirt that says, “Hello, my name is Mr. Darcy!”

Kim: It’s hard to choose, but I think it would have to be E.M. Forster’s ‘A Room with a View’, which I re-read at least once a year. It’s a reminder to forsake the mundane and be open to new experiences. It’s quite romantic as well.

Q. What gives you the most joy in life?

Amy: Sharing the books I enjoyed as a child with my own children. I love when one of my kids geeks out over ‘Alice In Wonderland’ or ‘Pippi Longstocking’, for example. I keep a notebook where I write down all the books I want to introduce them to some day.

Kim: I get a lot of joy from live music, particularly chamber music, performed in a stunning setting like one of the many chapels at the colleges in England’s Oxford or Cambridge. When I’m lost in writing, time seems to stand still, and I get a thrilling, feeling of purpose. It’s empowering.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Kim: We specifically wrote our books with both Shakespeare fans and Shakespeare-phobes in mind. Even if you’ve never read a lick of Shakespeare (or have, and hated it!), these books are meant to entertain, first and foremost. They’ve been called “compulsively readable” and we certainly hope you’ll check them out to see for yourself!

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