Monday, October 18, 2010

Interview With Anne Fortier (Juliet)

I am excited to post my interview today with author Anne Fortier, author of the fantastic novel Juliet.  Thanks very much to Shannon at Harper Collins for arranging this opportunity. For more information about the author please see the authors web site, for my review of Juliet click here and to brows inside the book and read the first few chapters please click here.

The Book Guru sends out a big warm welcome to Anne Fortier!

TBG:  It is my understanding that the research for Juliet was a collaborative effort between you and your mother.  With half of your novel taking place in 1340 and the other in present time I can hardly imagine the volume of research you had accumulated in addition to your own ideas for the story.  How did you keep yourself organized through the writing process?  How long did it take to write the book from the initial idea to the last revision?  Was it an emotional journey for you?

Anne: I can’t tell you how many times I have been rifling through boxes and stacks of paper in search of some important article or research note from my mother, which I knew was somewhere … It’s true that a lot of research has gone into the book, but the ratio of research that did not make it into the book is even more frightening. I would say it’s at least 20:1. I started writing the book in 2005, but most of that year was spent doing initial research; through 2006 and 2007 I wrote the bulk of it, and in  2008 I entered the editing process with my agent. So, if I got the idea in March 2005, and made the absolutely final corrections by June 2010 … that means the book was underway for over five years. And yes, it was quite emotional, especially when I had to say goodbye to characters along the way.

TBG: After reading Juliet I was struck how fluid the transitions were between the chapters that took place in the past and the chapters that took place in the present.  Was it difficult to weave together your tale of the “true” story of Romeo and Juliet with the story of Julie Jacobs?

Anne: I always knew that if I were to write a novel that went back and forth between different story-lines, it would have to be a big priority for me to make the transitions smooth, and to make sure both narratives were easily accessible and instantly appealing, so that the reader wouldn’t skip chapters along the way. I confess I am a chapter-skipper myself, and it always annoys me, so I was very determined to address that problem. What is interesting is that it was actually surprisingly natural for me to switch back and forth, probably because both narratives are set in Siena, and because a lot of the characters are “mirrored” across time. That said, I did tend to write a few modern-day chapters in a row before going back and picking up the 1340 storyline. I found it quite hard to flip from writing flirtatious banter between Julie and Alessandro to going back and describing the bloody events in the “original” Romeo & Juliet-story.

TBG:  I have read that growing up you spent a lot of time reading curled up in an armchair.  Who are your favorite authors/novels and does any of the material you have read over the years inspire the types of stories you like to write?

Anne: I always loved treasure hunts, and some of my favorite books growing up were Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and books of the “Famous Five”-variety. But I also liked alternative worlds such as the Narnia-book by C.S. Lewis. However, I think it was a very good thing that I also read very wholesome, down-to-earth books, such as “The Little House on the Prairie” and all the very wonderful books by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Apart from “Pippi Longstocking” Lindgren wrote a lot of very wholesome books about children growing up in small towns and farming communities, and her stories really add to my own fond memories of childhood. As an adult, I have been inspired by books such as John Fowles’ “The Magus” and Umberto Eco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum”, as well as Katherine Neville’s “The Eight”. And lately I have discovered Jane Johnson’s “The Tenth Gift”, and can’t wait to read her new book, “The Salt Road”. Most of these books straddle several genres and can best be classified as “adventures” – my favorites!

TBG: The characters in your story leapt right off the page for me and by the end of the novel I felt as though the protagonist Julie was a dear friend.  Are any of your characters inspired by real people?  If so are they aware which character is inspired by them?  If not what how do your characters come to be?

Anne: There is no question all the characters are inspired by real people, but only rarely are they modeled after one person in particular. I was probably always a bit of a “collector” when it comes to people-watching; I have a pretty expansive mental archive for voices and human behavior, and this is what I draw on when I write. In my first novel, which was published in Denmark in 2005, one character was a potent mix of my mother, my grandfather’s house-keeper, and my wild imagination, and I remember my mother being somewhat disgruntled, because she could recognize herself in the character, but felt I had made her too shrill and ridiculous. It was very difficult to explain that, yes, it was her, but no, it was also not her, and so I definitely learned a lot from that experience. In JULIET the characters are such composites that I hope no one will recognize themselves, unless, of course, it is a compliment.

TBG: There is a growing trend of books being made into movies and for the most part I love watching my favorite novels come to life on the big screen.  Have you been approached by any production companies regarding turning Juliet into a movie? If you have not, would this be a direction you would like to see Juliet go? And because I am curious, if you have thought about this, is there any particular actress/actor that you have imagined playing Julie, Romeo, or Giulietta? 

Anne: Right now there is a producer in Hollywood who is trying to get a JULIET film off the ground. Her name is Cathy Konrad, and she is married to the director, James Mangold, who recently did “Knight and Day”. I am hopeful they will find a screenwriter soon, and would absolutely love to see JULIET on the silver screen! I think someone like Anne Hathaway would be a fantastic Julie, and I would love for Alessandro to be played by the Italian actor, Raoul Bova, who starred in “Alien vs. Predator” of all things. I imagine Andy Garcia would make a great Umberto, and of course, I wrote the part of Eva Maria for Sophia Loren. As for the 1340-narrative, I think it should be enacted by an all-Italian cast speaking Italian. But we shall see.


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