1. The inspiration you list as being behind the book - "Anne Fortier's mother, who considered Verona her second home...until she discovered Siena." Can you tell us a bit more of that story?
Anne: My mother lived in Verona when she was young, and it was only much later she started traveling to Tuscany. Once she found Siena, she was hooked. It is a very special place, beautiful and unsettling at the same time. When you walk through those narrow alleys, you almost feel as though you have stepped right into the Middle Ages. The funny thing is that Mom and I always used to visit Juliet`s Balcony in Verona, and so I grew up with a special relationship with the Romeo & Juliet-story; imagine my surprise when Mom discovered – many years later – that the earliest version of the story had been set in Siena, and not in Verona. It almost felt like a betrayal to move the story back to its “origins”, but it was impossible to resist.
2. Your studies (and I'm fascinated by the degree you have - the History of Ideas!) have taken you to many countries - did you spend time in Italy - specifically Sienna as part of your research? How much of the story is fact based?
Anne: I have lived in many different places, that is true, but have never actually been able to spend long periods of time in Italy. Not yet, anyway. And I was quite busy while I wrote JULIET, so I only had time to go to Siena for a week at a time, in fact, one trip was only five days, just to double-check my descriptions of streets and shops and the sort. Fortunately, my mother was able to do a lot of research for me, and truffle out historical facts, which I then used in the novel. The feud between the Salimbenis and the Tolomeis is based on facts, but the characters of Giulietta and Romeo are my invention. Undoubtedly, there were tragic love affairs between the members of those two feuding families, but naturally, such things would never have been allowed to find their way into the history books. That is why we have novels!
3. How do you write? At a scheduled time every day? Same place? Your first language is Danish. Do you think in Danish or English? How does that translate into your writing?
Anne: I write whenever I can. I have an eight-month old baby, so forget about scheduling! I do prefer to write in my office, but sometimes I like to snuggle up in bed with a laptop, too. I’m not actually sure what language I think in; I fear it is a nasty mix of Danish and English, a sort of Denglish. But I definitely think in English when I write, and I definitely think in Danish when I work with numbers. I just can’t do numbers in English, barely even remember a telephone number.
4. Romeo and Juliet is one of the best known romances in the world. Do you believe in love at first sight? Are you a romantic at heart? Were you worried at all at taking on such a 'staple' in the literary world and rewriting it?
Anne: Oh, I am terribly romantic all over! And yes, I do believe in love at first sight, or at least in a sort of “biological reaction” at first sight, whether negative or positive. I know that doesn’t sound terribly romantic, but I actually believe that love and biology go beautifully together. With regards to Romeo & Juliet, it never actually occurred to me that I should be worried about fiddling with Shakespeare until people started asking about it. The thing is, this is a story that has traveled through many different hands; Shakespeare was “just” one of many re-writers. Now, he happened to be a genius, and his is the version we know and love, but hey, he never owned the story, and he would completely understand our desire to re-tell it.
5. Do you have a favourite author/book/influence? What are you reading now?
Anne: Some of my favorite authors are P. G. Wodehouse, Jane Austen, and Elizabeth Gaskell. In fact, I am just now reading Gaskell’s “Wives and Daughters”, and I can re-read Austen’s work any day. In terms of more modern authors, who really ace the quest, my favorites are Katherine Neville, who wrote the classic “The Eight”, and Jane Johnson, who recently wrote “The Tenth Gift”.
Thanks so much for stopping by Anne!