We secured an interview from beyond the grave with Harriet Shakespeare, William’s mother. She speaks candidly to JimandPaul.net about stockings, travel and cholera.
Interview by Paul.
What’s it like to have given birth to the most famous writer in living history?
Apart from the birth being a pretty gruesome and painful affair (laughs) it’s a tremendous burden, really. I mean, I used to be able to go to Lidl’s without getting bothered at all, but these days all everybody wants to talk about is the unbridled literary genius of my son. I can’t even go in to the centre of Stratford (Harriet’s home town, Stratford-upon-Avon) these days without being bothered by American tourists, which is the worst part. I can handle the Japanese, they are just so polite, but it’s the brashness of the Americans that really irks. I remember back when William was a boy and America hadn’t even been discovered. Life seemed so much simpler back then. Nowadays I travel further afield; I’m enjoying Dorking at the minute.
What was William like as a child?
He was adorable, but very mischievous. I would leave the bread out to prove of a morning before getting it in the oven, to hang up our clothes to dry, or wash some bits in the river, and it was only when I removed the bread from the oven that I realised that Bill had taken his chance and carved ‘TWAT’ or some other angular swearword in to the top of the bread with a knife! He never could stop writing!
Can you remember when he first displayed an ambition to be a writer?
Not as a definitive moment, no. I think it was more of an organic development of this insatiable urge to write and keep on writing. It probably started in earnest when he started writing letters to the girls he was courting. I think he probably realised it was very rewarding for him, and he had a burgeoning talent for it – so he just went for it. He also would regularly write letters to the Stratford Chronicle complaining about immigration in the area. Not many people know this, but Bill really was quite the racist.
Enough about your son, what about you?
I’m feeling really fulfilled at the minute, my personal life and career are really blossoming. Thanks to the recent increase in interest in Zombies and the undead in popular culture, it’s been really fruitful for me to possess my largely decomposed corpse and do tours around Warwickshire. Students and Metal fans seem to be a big market for this type of thing, although you’d be surprised at the varied sorts of people that book me! I’ve also just started going out with the ghost of Roy Orbison, and that’s really exciting, but early days. He’s really sweet though, and I hope he doesn’t mind me mentioning it.
Tell me about your new book ‘Harriet: Conduit for Genius’
Ah, yes, the book. It’s an autobiography and the guy who did Phil Tufnell’s is helping me with this. He’s really nice and as soon as I read Tuffers’ autobiography I knew I had the right man. I tried for a few centuries to write my own biography, but sometimes you don’t appreciate how hard it can be to be incorporeal, and maintain the sort of discipline necessary to actually complete a book. The book goes through my early life and tries to pin down the reason why my womb was the perfect breeding ground for William to turn in to the man he did. I share my pregnancy diet, so other women can have the best shot at having a one-in-a-billion genius for a son. The diet can’t come with any guarantees, but I would be surprised if it didn’t at least give them a good chance of getting good grades in English Literature and Language at A-Level. And then we talk a little bit about William’s teenage years, how he would sit in his room listening to ‘Bullet for my Valentine’ and how he would re-write the lyrics in the form of an Iambic Pentameter and share it with his girlfriends. Later the book goes in to some detail about my middle aged crisis, where I dumped William’s father and ran off with the local purveyor of pickled lamb meat. Sounds fairly dull nowadays, but let me tell you, at the time it was completely wild! (blushes) I feel really self-conscious about how exposing the whole process was, but I think it has really helped me develop as a deceased human being. It’s another side of the whole William Shakespeare story, as well, so hopefully people will appreciate that – and not judge me too harshly.
Thanks for your time, Harriet, when can we expect to see the book hit the shelves?
Thanks! It’s a real pleasure to talk to you. I’m an intrepid reader of Jimandpaul.net, so it’s a real honour. The book is due to be released in November 2011, and I will be doing some book signing sessions in the Midlands around the end of November, so keep an eye out at the local Waterstone’s.
Harriet’s book ‘Harriet: Conduit for Genius’ hits the bookshelves (available hardback) 21st November 2011.