I’m so thrilled to be participating in the 2017 Debut Authors Bash, especially since I have author Katie A. Nelson on the blog today! Katie’s debut novel The Duke of Bannerman Prep was one of my favorite books I read in 2017! I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is a YA retelling of The Great Gatsby, and it’s just so wonderful! Check out my Q&A with Katie all about writing retellings and be sure to order your copy today if you haven’t already!
About the Book:
Title: The Duke of Bannerman Prep
Author: Katie A. Nelson
Pub. Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Words are weapons. Facts can be manipulated. And nothing is absolute—especially right and wrong.
Tanner McKay is at Bannerman Prep for only one reason: the elite school recruited him after he brought his public school’s debate team to victory last year. Bannerman wants a championship win. Debate is Tanner’s life—his ticket out of his poor-as-dirt life and family drama, straight to a scholarship to Stanford and the start of a new, better future.
But when he’s paired with the Duke, his plans for an easy ride seem as if they’ve hit the rails. The Duke is the quintessential playboy, beloved by everyone for his laissez-faire attitude, crazy parties, and seemingly effortless favors.
And a total no-show when it comes to putting in the work to win.
But as Tanner gets sucked into the Duke’s flashy world, the thrill of the high life and the adrenaline of existing on the edge becomes addictive. A small favor here and there seems like nothing in exchange for getting everything he ever dreamed of.
But the Duke’s castle is built on shady, shaky secrets, and the walls are about to topple down.
A contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, Katie Nelson’s taut debut is perfect for fans of John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Kate Brian’s Private series, and anyone who’s encountered the cut-throat world of competitive high school.
1- I’m a huge fan of both The Duke of Bannerman Prep and The Great Gatsby. When you decided to tackle a Great Gatsby retelling, what elements from the original story were important for you to stay consistent with in your retelling?
Thank You! I’m so glad you liked it! I have been a Gatsby fan since the first time I read the novel, back in high school. I think at the time, I was pining for a boy who didn’t know I existed, so that idea of a character who feels like If I can just achieve _____, then this unattainable person will love me was always really interesting to me. I also wanted to examine the elements of class and how they relate to accessing the American dream. We have this idea in America that if you just work hard enough, you can achieve anything that you want, and the whole college admissions process is kind of a microcosm of how that plays out. It was definitely the first time that I realized that yes, hard work is important, but wealth, privilege and background play a role too. So I wanted to examine that in my novel.
2- How many times did you read The Great Gatsby and what kind of research did you do to prepare for writing The Duke of Bannerman Prep?
I lost track of how many times I read Gatsby! I read it right before I started my first draft, and then I re-read it when I was stuck at one point, but that was after I’d read it at least a dozen times. I used to teach high school English, so I read it with my students. But then I did get to a point where I had to set it aside and focus on my own story, rather than trying to mirror every plot point in the original. I did a bunch of other research in writing Duke. I’d competed in high school debate, as well as coached it, but I did some research into current practices and rules, etc. I judged several tournaments and talked to high school competitors. I also did a lot of research into boarding schools. There are a ton of boarding school novels out there, but most are Ivy covered, been around for hundreds of years, and located in the Northeast. I wanted my school to reflect the values and attitudes of modern day Silicon valley, so I talked to schools in California and researched what daily life is like in those schools.
3- What do you think is the most challenging part of writing a retelling?
I think the most challenging part is that people know the original, and will come to your story with pre-conceived ideas about what they think it should be. I tried to write the story that I wanted to tell, and let people form their own opinions. One of my reviewers said that my book was more “homage than retelling” and I think that is an accurate description.
4- What do you think are some important elements that any retelling needs to have?
I think that the main characters need to feel similar to the characters in the original. I always fall in love with characters more than plot, so I want the characters in a retelling to feel like the ones that I already love so much. I also think that thematically the books should be similar. I would expect a Julius Ceasar retelling to deal with the theme of ambition. If it all of the sudden was a love story, I’d scratch my head.
5- In your opinion, what is the best Great Gatsby film adaptation?
Wow, this is a hard question to answer! The first film version I saw was the Robert Redford version, so for a while, that was how I pictured so much of the locations and scenes in the novel. But once the Baz Luhrman film came out, it pretty much replaced the Redford one for me. That version captured the excess of the novel so well. I also love the visuals of the Valley of Ashes, and the contrast between Gatsby’s house and the Buchanan’s. Plus I think that Leonardo DiCaprio just nailed that performance!
6- What are some YA retellings that you would recommend to fans of The Duke of Bannerman Prep?
There have been so many great ones that have come out recently! I loved Kate Watson’s Seeking Mansfield, a retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. I might get kicked out of the Jane Austen fan club for saying this, but I liked it better than the original! I also loved The Only Thing Worse than Me is You by Lily Anderson and Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George. They are both retellings of Much Ado about Nothing, but are very different stories. I loved them both so much!
7- What advice would you give to any writers considering tackling a retelling?
The advice I would give is to let your story take on a life of its own. Often I think writers get tied to the original plot points and try to force their story into that construct, and it makes it feel false for those characters. So let your story be your story, driven by the characters you create.
8- One of the most captivating parts of The Great Gatsby are the party scenes. How did you approach taking those scenes and adapting them for a YA audience?
Well, to be honest it took several drafts. I had a critique at a conference by an editor where he pointed out that the party scenes felt too adult. This was after I’d been working on the novel for at least a year and a half and had written several drafts. But he was right! I’d been trying too hard to make the parties feel Gatsby-like that they weren’t fitting of a YA audience. So I went back and tried to see them in a different way. The hamster balls and super soaker fights all came out of that revision.
9- In your opinion is writing a retelling more or less challenging than creating a story entirely from scratch?
I think they’re both hard! How’s that for an answer?
10- Do you think you’ll write another retelling in the future?
The first novels that I wrote were retellings. I wrote a really awful retelling of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. It will probably never see the light of day, but it taught me the discipline to finish a novel. The second novel I wrote was a Jane Eyre retelling. That one got me my first agent, but it didn’t sell and I eventually parted ways with that agent. I might revisit that one in the future, but I think it would need a pretty significant revision to work.
I have lots of ideas for retellings. I think it’s the English teacher in me. For now, I’m not working on one, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I did in the future!
Katie Nelson has always loved words and stories. Formerly a high school English and Debate teacher, she now lives in Northern California with her husband, four children, and hyperactive dog.
Click below to enter to win a copy of the book, along with a bookmark and notebook!
US and Canada Only
Enter by 12/18/2017
Thanks so much to YAReads for hosting this amazing tour! Be sure to check out all the tour stops below from these incredible author/blogger pairings!
December 1stGabriella M Reads – Kate Hart
APictureASongALiteraryQuote – Jilly Gagnon
Wishful Endings – CAITLIN SANGSTER
Beauty and the Bookshelf – JENNIFER PARK
December 2ndLisa Loves Literature – Alexandra Ballard
Downright Dystopian – KELLY GARRETT
YA Books Central – MCCALL HOYLE
Bookblogarama – JODI KENDALL
Gabriella M Reads – Stephanie Elliot
December 3rdPlatypire Reviews – SONIA BELASCO
Folded Corners and Smudged Screens – A.V. Geiger
Vox Libris – Katy Upperman
Pink Polka Dot Books – CORRIE WANG
December 4thTwo Chicks on Books – Michael Miller
Read Love Blog – Amy Giles
Chapter by Chapter – CECILIA VINESSE
December 5thPandora’s Books – Sarah Henning
The Eater of Books! – Jennifer Honeybourn
Teawithmermaids – Amanda Foody
Book Lovers Life – ALEXANDRA OTT
December 6thThe Turning Pages – SARA BIREN
Laura Noakes – Allison K. Hymas
A Dream Within A Dream – KATIE BAYERL
The Reading Nook Reviews – Supriya Kelkar
December 7thPBC – CHELSEA BOBULSKI
Kourtni Reads – Christina June
Smada’s Book Smack – Kate Watson
BookCatPin – TRACEY NEITHERCOTT
December 8thPink Polka Dot Books – Amy Brashear
YA Books Central – Heather Kaczynski
Book Lovers Life – DANIELLE MAGES AMATO
YaReads – MELISSA ROSKE
December 9thGryffindor Books – Emma Chastain
The Winged Pen – GWEN C. KATZ
My Book Addiction – PATRICIA BAILEY
Bibliophilekid – Cale Dietrich
December 10thCindy’s Love of Books – REBECCA CHRISTIANSEN
Mundie Moms – Linsey Miller
Written Infinities – Scott Reintgen
Book Lovers Life – JONATHAN ROSEN
December 11thMilky Way of Books – Nikki Katz
books are love – FAITH M. BOUGHAN
Platypire Reviews – MEG EDEN
Sci-Fi & Scary – KATIE SLIVENSKY
December 12thLiterary Meanderings – Dave Connis
Jrsbookreviews – Ruth Lauren
YA and Wine – KATIE A. NELSON
Wonder Struck – JOANNE O’SULLIVAN
December 13thThe Royal Polar Bear Reads – Jessika Fleck
Ink Sisters Write – Katherine Locke
My Book Addiction – TARA GOEDJEN
APictureASongALiteraryQuote – CARLIE SOROSIAK
December 14thThe Royal Polar Bear Reads – Jessika Fleck
BookCatPin – Heather Fawcett
Doodle’s Book Reviews – Caroline Leech
The Hermit Librarian – KARINA YAN GLASER
Laura Noakes – KRISTI WIENTGE
December 15thKendra Loves Books – Laurie Forest
Too Much of a Booknerd – MAGGIE ANN MARTIN
The Book Beacon – JJ STRONG
The Reading Nook Reviews – Michael Harrison
The Royal Polar Bear Reads – Jessika Fleck
December 16thThe Nocturnal Fey – KIM FOSTER
Media Geeks Unite – Karen McManus
YaReads/The Rest is Still Unwritten – Mark Maciejewski
The Book Beacon – A.M. Rose
December 17thThe Candid Cover – Candace Ganger
The Reading Nook Reviews – Kristin Gray
Too Much of a Booknerd – Ibi Zoboi
Vox Libris – Lisa Rosinsky
December 18thBrittany’s Book Rambles – Elly Blake
PBC – LARISSA HARDESTY
YaReads – Julie Shepard
The Book Beacon – Henry Lien
December 19thThe Reading Nook Reviews – Danielle Davis
Folded Corners and Smudged Screens – S. F. HENSON
Roxy’s Book Reviews – Heather Maclean
December 20thSci-Fi & Scary – Andrew DeYoung
The Book Beacon – Beth McMullen
APictureASongALiteraryQuote – DIANA GALLAGHER
Book Lovers Life – Hope Cook
December 21stPooled Ink – Rosalyn Eves
Across the Bookiverse – Rebecca Ross
2 Cooks Crafting Books – ALYSON GERBER
December 22ndTween 2 Teen Book Reviews – ANDREW SHVARTS
Books, Occupation… Magic! – Lana Popović
Lisa Loves Literature – ALISON GERVAIS
Laura Noakes – Kimberly Ventrella
December 23rdYaReads – KELLY DEVOS
BookCrushin – ANNA PRIEMAZA
The Reader and the Chef – KAYLA OLSON
Laura Noakes – PATRICK MOODY
2 Cooks Crafting Books – SUSAN TAN
December 26ththe bookdragon – Laura Creedle
Rockin’ Book Reviews – Tiffany Pitcock
Latte Nights Reviews – Misa Sugiura
Readingwithwrin – KES TRESTER
YaReads – Meg Kassel
December 27thThe Hermit Librarian – JC Davis
Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Bonnie Pipkin
Here’s to Happy Endings – KIERSI BURKHART
Book Lovers Life – DARCY MILLER
Sci-Fi & Scary – Gareth Wronski
December 28th2 Cooks Crafting Books – Jake Burt
Dani Reviews Things – Shaila Patel
Never Too Many To Read – Nic Stone
Cindy’s Love of Books – WENDY MCLEOD MACKNIGHT
YaReads – Gwen Cole
December 29th21st Century Once Upon A Times – ERIN BEATY
The Phantom Paragrapher – Kristen Orlando – Review
Vicky Who Reads – CHELSEA SEDOTI
The Reading Nook Reviews – JAMIE MAYER
YaReads- Steve Schafer
December 30thRachel’s Book Reviews – Axie Oh
Bookblogarama – LAURIE DEVORE
Readingwithwrin – amanda searcy
2 Cooks Crafting Books – Mary Lambert
YaReads/The Rest is Still Unwritten – J.C. WELKER
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