Interview with Melinda Taub (THE SCANDALOUS CONFESSIONS OF LYDIA BENNET, WITCH)
Melinda Taub is an Emmy- and Writers’ Guild Award-winning writer. The former head writer and executive producer of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, she is the author of Still Star-Crossed, a young adult novel which was adapted for television by Shondaland, who also made Bridgerton. (She also wrote that thing about the Baroness in The Sound of Music that your aunt likes.) She lives in Brooklyn.
Welcome to the Hive, Melinda. Congratulations on the release of your latest novel, The Scandalous Confessions of Miss Lydia Bennet, Witch. Firstly, can you tell our readers a little about it?
THE SCANDALOUS CONFESSIONS OF LYDIA BENNET, WITCH is a re-examining of Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of youngest, wildest sister Lydia. It’s about magic spells, empire waists, and empire, but mostly it’s about how everyone is living out their own story, and even the people you know best may be living not only in a different book, but a different genre.
What inspired you to write a reimagining of Pride and Prejudice?
And in particular what drew you to focusing on Lydia Bennet’s character?
I reread Pride and Prejudice many times while I was working as a writer for Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, a political comedy show. Our show had a feminist bent, which meant I was often writing about horrible things happening to girls and women. I read P and P again and again to soothe myself to sleep, and around the thirty-ninth reading, a Lydia story started to take shape in my head. She’s a great character because she’s deeply flawed but also funny and endearing, and no sixteen-year-old deserves her fate. I wanted to write a defiantly joyful book about a girl who has supposedly destined herself to a life of ruin – who, according to many characters in the book, deserves a life of ruin – finding unexpected ways to escape the trap.
Can you tell us a bit more about your other characters? What kind of twists on other Pride and Prejudice characters can we expect to find?
Well, it’s not a spoiler to say that Kitty Bennet’s name is very literal in this – she’s a cat whom Lydia has enchanted to appear to the world as a young Miss Bennet. Giving them both a witch-familiar relationship as well as a sisterly one was tremendous fun, and let me sort of explore the way even very close siblings sometimes have trouble seeing each other clearly.
I won’t get into too much detail about Wickham, but I will just say that the Wickham in my book is both better and much worse than the Wickham you may remember.
Lydia’s aunt in Meryton also has an expanded role here. She’s a witch as well, and Lydia’s first teacher – and not necessarily the best influence.
Pride and Prejudice is such a beloved classic, were there any characters in particular that were harder to portray or you were worried about portraying?
I kept Lizzy Bennet almost entirely offstage for this book. She is maybe the most beloved fictional character of all time, and rightly so, and I felt that to bring her in would steal too much focus. But she kind of lives rent free in Lydia’s head, and Lydia’s thoughts toward her perfect older sister are not always charitable. I did worry that writers might confuse Lydia’s feelings with my own!
Are there any other Jane Austen novels you’d love to see reimagined with a fantasy twist? (Beth: Northanger Abbey is ripe for one, surely?)
Technically this book reimagines two Austen works! In addition to Pride and Prejudice, it borrows a character from Austen’s unfinished fragment Sanditon. As for other books – well, I have thoughts about Persuasion. Meeting someone you once loved years later, and finding them changed… well, there’s a lot to play with there, fantasy-wise.
Beth: Excellent shout!
Do you have a preference between writing for television or writing novels? Do you find one easier than the other?
At the moment I prefer writing novels! I do sometimes miss the community of writing as part of a team though.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
Ha! I’m rereading Naomi Novik’s Temeraire right now, so I’ll say Temeraire the dragon, because he would do most of the work battle-wise, and would be good company.
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
I just reread Juniper, by Monica Furlong. It’s technically for kids but I find it just as complex and compelling now as I did when I was eight. It’s about a medieval Cornish princess training as a witch. It’s almost Game of Thronesy in the way it demands real sacrifices and difficult choices from its characters. Thankfully less gory though.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share?
What do you think Mary Bennet is up to in the attic of Longbourn? How much trouble could a too-smart, too-intense, terminally overlooked young lady get up to? Hey, is that a lightning rod?
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Are you planning anything fun to celebrate your new release? Do you have any upcoming virtual or in person events our readers may be interested in?
If any of your readers are in Brooklyn, they should check out my book launch on Oct. 3, at 6:00 at the Barnes and Noble on Atlantic Ave. It’ll be a hootenany.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
Thank you so much for joining us today!
The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch is out today from Quercus Publishing! Order your copy from Bookshop.org