Today I am so pleased to welcome J.I. Davenport to Joyfully Jay. J.I. has come to talk to us about his latest release, Mercutio. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!
Mercutio is by no means the first novel I’ve ever written. It is, however, the first I’ve finished, and I’m very excited to share it with you.
Mercutio is a character who has lived in my imagination ever since I was compelled to study Romeo and Juliet at secondary school (8th grade). I didn’t quite connect with Shakespeare at the time — my fourteen-year-old mind finding more diversion in video games and Xena Warrior Princess — but I think what caught my attention was the academic theory that there was something “queer” about Mercutio. His campy “gaylord” exuberance and flirtatious exchanges with Romeo seemed to be implying something that Shakespeare could not have expressed openly. Mercutio was a man with hidden struggles, prone to spells of moodiness and outbursts of temper and despair, prompting me to wonder along with the analysts as to the nature of his struggles.
I first conceived the idea of writing the novel while working on a short story about a young gay man who overcomes depression after being cast as Mercutio in a modern-day production of Romeo and Juliet. The role was a ray of hope to my protagonist — an outlet for his emotions and a catharsis to his anxieties — and I discovered the empowering effects of Mercutio for myself. His ability to light up the stage/page and inspire love, pathos and hilarity in equal measures make him one of Shakespeare’s most enduring characters, a literary saint to whom it is a joy to pay homage.
Inspiration for my depiction of Mercutio came first and foremost from Shakespeare’s text. Will’s the one who took an obscure name from the Italian sources and attached the glittering personality we know today. Another meteoric impact was made on me by the late John McEnery’s portrayal in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film adaptation; a tour-de-force of a performance that’s truly a wonder to behold. (You may also spot some lingering glances and pregnant pauses between Romeo and him. Zeffirelli’s queer influence, perhaps?)
Other influences on my character are as varied as British comedy legend Kenneth Williams — a deeply troubled man whose greatest defence was his razor wit — and even Frankie Howerd — whose wry disdain was never short on double entendres — to the Joker from DC Comics, whose flamboyant defiance of the world around him has seen him compared to a “flaming queen” next to Bruce Wayne’s tortured, “closeted” personality.
I hope you enjoy your time in medieval Verona with Mercutio and his companions. I’ve truly enjoyed every moment, so much so that, despite its conclusive ending and my desire to write something different next, I believe there is unfinished business in fair Verona that might just warrant a return visit.
For never was a story of more woe
Than of Mercutio’s love for Romeo.
Return to the sensuous world of Romeo and Juliet to discover the story of Mercutio, Verona’s most flamboyant citizen!
Prancing on the sidelines of the bitter feud between the House of Montecchi and Capuleti, Mercutio harbours his own secret conflict: he is hopelessly in love with his best friend, Romeo Montecchi. When he spies true love blossoming between Romeo and a young Capuleti girl one fateful summer’s eve, Mercutio fears he has finally lost the man he loves, forever.
Turning to drink, drugs and ever wilder escapades in an effort to ease his aching heart, Mercutio starts to come off the rails, hurtling towards his own spectacular fate …
Buy link: Amazon
J.I. Davenport has a B.A. in English literature and creative writing from the University of Greenwich. He lives in London with his family and a tomcat named after Cesare Borgia, who he is forever trying to persuade not to invade Naples!