Hi Friends,

I’m buried in the page proofs of By Any Other Name – making my last edits and corrections before it gets into your hands.  It’s also a chance for me to reread my book (again) and fall in love with the subject matter.  As I’ve already said, this book flips between the story of Melina Green, a modern female playwright unable to get her play produced – until it is submitted with the name of a man.  The play’s subject is Melina’s ancestor, a real-life woman named Emilia Bassano who may very well have been the actual author of some of Shakespeare’s work.  Emilia’s narrative is the other half of the novel, and will not only immerse you in the world of the Elizabethans, but will convince you that Emilia is more likely to be the author of the plays that have been attributed to Shakespeare than Shakespeare himself.

But why should you have to wait till August for me to give you a sneak peek at the research that led me to this conclusion?  Without giving anything away in By Any Other Name, I’m going to walk you through ONE single instance of a play that seems far more like the work of Emilia Bassano than William Shakespeare – Hamlet. In case you haven’t read it since high school, Hamlet is a revenge story based on the Scandinavian legend of Amleth. In the play, Hamlet’s father, the king of Denmark, is killed by his uncle, Claudius – who goes on to marry Hamlet’s mother. The ghost of the king tells Hamlet to get revenge. Hamlet does so by pretending to be insane, mulling over the nature of life and death, disrupting a troupe of players who come to perform at the castle, and generally mucking everything up. He alienates his girlfriend Ophelia (who ACTUALLY goes mad when she can’t get Hamlet to commit to her and drowns herself). Claudius sets up a plot to kill Hamlet by sending him to England with two courtiers named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – and a message that says whoever reads the note should murder the person bearing it. Hamlet manages to save his own life and get Rosencrantz and Guildenstern killed instead. He goes home, duels, and by the end of the play Hamlet, his mother, and Claudius are all dead. It's a real feel-good story, amiright?!

Let’s start by saying that there is no evidence Shakespeare ever left England, much less went to Helsingör, in Denmark, where Kronborg Castle is located – and yet there is such detail in the play that suggests an awareness of the structure, including the platforms where the guns were located, the Queen’s closet, the floral crowns worn at Ophelia’s funeral, the tapestry on the banquet hall wall depicting 111 dead Danish kings.

On the other hand, Emilia Bassano was a woman who was the first published poet in England later in her life. The odds of her being a writer before her 40s are pretty strong, but she has no published work to her name – which means either she did not write anything for public consumption, or she DID, and wrote under an alias or an allonym (meaning she borrowed the name of an existing person). Emilia came from a family of performers – recorder players who served King Henry VIII and then Queen Elizabeth. Unlike Shakespeare, who did not attend formal school, Emilia became the ward of a countess at age 7 and received an extensive classical education. When the countess remarried, Emilia was 12. She couldn’t go with the countess to her new husband’s home in the Netherlands, so she remained behind with the countess’s brother, a baron named Peregrine Bertie. Bertie happened to be the ambassador to Denmark and the summer that Emilia was twelve, he had a diplomatic mission there.

Either he took Emilia, or he reported his travels to her. Either way, the trip was important for several reasons. He met the king and queen. He met Tycho Brahe, the astronomer whose revolutionary idea that the Heavens did not stay fixed is a staple in multiple plays attributed to Shakespeare (although Shakespeare did not study astronomy). In fact, the star discussed in the first scene of Hamlet is the supernova that Brahe discovered that led him to his belief that stars could be born and could die out. Also at the state dinner at the Danish royals’ castle? Tycho Brahe’s cousins…two guys named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It’s not a stretch to imagine that the Scandinavian tale of Amleth was performed there during Peregrine Bertie’s stay, as entertainment. 

By age 13, Emilia had been given by her family to Lord Henry Carey, aka Baron Hunsdon, as his mistress. He was 43 years older than she was, and he was Lord Chamberlain – meaning that he was in charge of every single play that was written and performed in England. For ten years, Emilia lived with him, immersed in the world of theater and its players. At 23, she got pregnant – a major no-no for a mistress – and was married off to a distant, abusive cousin who squandered all the money that Hunsdon settled upon her. Suddenly, Emilia was in need of funds and desperate. She knew all the playwrights and theater owners in England. She had a brilliant mind and a thorough education. She could write plays…she just couldn’t publish them under her own name, as to do so would invite scandal at least and imprisonment at worst. 

Stay tuned for next month, when I will outline what all this has to do with Hamlet


And in the meantime – you can preorder By Any Other Name!




BY ANY OTHER NAME: Available Later This Year!

In 1581, Emilia Bassano—like most young women of her day—is allowed no voice of her own. But as the Lord Chamberlain’s mistress, she has access to all theater in England, and finds a way to bring her work to the stage secretly. And yet, creating some of the world’s greatest dramatic masterpieces comes at great cost: by paying a man for the use of his name, she will write her own out of history.

In the present, playwright Melina Green has just written a new work inspired by the life of her Elizabethan ancestor Emilia Bassano. Although the challenges are different four hundred years later, the playing field is still not level for women in theater. Would Melina—like Emilia—be willing to forfeit her credit as author, just for a chance to see her work performed?

Told in intertwining narratives, this sweeping tale of ambition, courage, and desire asks what price each woman is willing to pay to see their work live on—even if it means they will be forgotten.


US/Canada: 8/20

UK: 10/10


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Are we getting one of your classic plot twists in this one (By Any Other Name)??? I have the tingles and jingles already. I’m still recovering from the ending of My Sister’s Keeper and it’s been 20 years. 😳😳😅

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