Category Archives: No Holds Bard

No Holds Bard

Modern LGBTQ+ fiction inspired by the works of William Shakespeare

Blurb: Ten authors, twelve extraordinary stories. From a novel solution to the Plantagenet succession crisis to revelations about the private lives of Prince Hal and – separately! – Brutus and Cassius, plus a surprise ending for Twelfth Night, no play is safe. We have marriage proposals and murder; subtle scheming villainy; a missing manuscript; a haunting… Whether set within the framework of a play, or spotlighting actors, characters, or the Bard himself, these stories will have you viewing Shakespeare in a whole new light. It’s definitely not the kind of thing they taught us in school…

Take a deep breath. Dive in. Prepare to be astonished!

An anthology edited by Fiona Pickles and featuring authors Julie Bozza, Siobhan Dunlop, Adam Fitzroy, Bryn Hammond, Erin Horáková, Molly Katz, Vanessa Mulberry, Eleanor Musgrove, Michelle Peart, and Jay Lewis Taylor.

Genre: LGBTQ+ fiction; historical; contemporary; William Shakespeare; anthology

Click here for the blurbs.

Word count: 67,000

Available in ebook formats from:

Also available in paperback format.

Published on 1 May 2018.

blurbs: No Holds Bard

THE STORIES

Couched in a Curious Bed
Erin Horáková
Having lost his youngest son, a shaken but still-living York is determined to bring the War of the Roses to a swift end – preferably one that will benefit his family. The Lancastrian queen and heir are dead, and, medieval diplomacy being what it is, the best hope for peace lies in a highly unexpected royal marriage.

The Lord and Christopher Sly
Vanessa Mulberry
Christopher Sly is a wastrel with nothing to his name but a handsome face, but he’s always intrigued the local Lord. When he finds Sly drunk outside an inn, the Lord decides to play a trick on him and give him a taste of a better life.

In Fair Verona
Julie Bozza
Adventures naturally befall Lord Byron while he travels through Europe, but all are deliciously surpassed when he is visited by an apparition in the book-lined parlour of an old palazzo in Verona.

Under the Veil of Wildness
Adam Fitzroy
It isn’t only contemplation that Hal’s obscured under the veil of wildness; also growing like the summer grass, wildest at night, is another personality – a female one, Arietta. When a French spy discovers Hal’s secret, trouble follows – but the sequence of events is not what either of them had been expecting…

Continue reading blurbs: No Holds Bard

stories: In a Dark House

art by johnhain on Pixabay

This story follows a character or two from Twelfth Night into a future beyond the play. The story grew from a seed planted so long ago I can’t remember quite when or where.

I once read in a scholarly tome that if we are looking for queer characters in Shakespeare’s work, then we needn’t rely only on the relatively explicit declarations of same-gender love from characters such as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Antonio in Twelfth Night, or Antonio in The Merchant of Venice. Disclaimer: These can be interpreted as declarations of affectionate friendship, of course, rather than romantic love or attraction.

If we are looking for queer characters, however, we might also consider the characters who are left alone at the end of each play. This particularly applies to the “comedies”, in which most of the main characters are finally paired up in heterosexual couples, and left to a (presumably!) happy ending. For me, the fact that the Antonios in Twelfth Night and Merchant of Venice are each left to walk away alone at the end of their plays, only reinforces my romantic interpretation of their devotion to Sebastian and Bassanio respectively.

So, I wondered, all that time ago … what about Feste? He is, as I’m sure you remember, the Fool in Twelfth Night, belonging to the Countess Olivia’s household (though having been long absent) and also welcome to visit and perform for the Duke Orsino.

Shakespeare’s fools are usually clever and funny, and adept at using language to score a witty point. They entertain a court or household, in the traditional role of jester – but they also challenge people by speaking truths, and turning expectations topsy-turvy. In these ways, they could be seen as operating in a queer space, outside the social norms.

Given all of that, and that Feste is one of the few main characters left alone and unmatched at the end of Twelfth Night, I felt it wasn’t unreasonable of me to write him as queer.

So, what would he do next, once he has performed the play’s concluding song and the curtain has fallen? Would he stay with his newly married mistress Olivia, or would he go wandering again? And if the latter, then where…?

You might care to read my story to find out one possible answer!

stories: In Fair Verona

“The Death of Mercutio, Romeo’s Friend” (1904) by E. A. Abbey (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

My second story for this anthology was In Fair Verona, which features a character from Romeo and Juliet. Well, I couldn’t let this queer Shakespearean anthology go by without claiming a spot for Mercutio, could I? I’ve spent most of my life convinced that he was deeply in love with Romeo, after all.

At the time this thought occurred to me, I was reading the English Heritage anthology Eight Ghosts, and writing my own ghost story, An English Heaven. So, in a spectral mood, I wondered whether there are some ghosts out there who aren’t the remnants of human beans – but of strong characters from literature? We authors often like to say that characters take on lives of their own… What if some of them continue on beyond the inspiration and even the life of their author, in a kind of literary afterlife?

If so, then Mercutio certainly has the chutzpah to exist in his own right. And he might be found in a number of places, but one of them could certainly be Verona… And who else has visited Verona, and might encounter him…?

Enter Lord Byron and entourage, with a suitable flourish. Though the timeframe is neither here nor there, I set the story in early November 1816, when Byron travelled to Verona with his friend Hobhouse. Though I admit to conveniently ignoring Hobhouse (let’s pretend they went their separate ways while in town), I did draw on some of Byron’s thoughts on Verona, to be found in his letters.

And I have to admit to feeling rather pleased with the results… I hope you might give it a try – and if my story isn’t quite the thing, no doubt you will find something else in this quixotic tome to bewitch you!