LIANE HANSEN, Host:
And she's in the CBC's Montreal studio, welcome to the program.
ANNE FORTIER: Thank you so much.
HANSEN: Where did your own fascination with "Romeo and Juliet" begin?
FORTIER: I think it was published in 1476, so, well over 100 years before Shakespeare.
HANSEN: Julie Jacobs, aka Giulietta Tolomei, has this key to a safety deposit box and that's her inheritance. What does she find in the box?
FORTIER: Julie begins to unravel the history of her ancestor, the original Giulietta Tolomei, and this becomes the original story of "Romeo and Juliet," the way it might have happened in Siena during the 14th century.
HANSEN: What are some of the same hatreds in the 21st century, if any?
FORTIER: And this is what Julie discovers when she goes to Siena. She discovers that there are these contrade, but more importantly for her, she meets the descendants from the rival family, the Salimbeni family.
HANSEN: And it seems as though, even though there was essentially a truce that was signed between the two families, there's a bit of, oh, they're always giving each other the evil eye in 21st century Siena.
FORTIER: That's the setting for the original story of "Romeo and Juliet." There has been a terrible feud. Now, we assume there is a peace but is there really?
HANSEN: And the question for Julie Jacobs is, who might have murdered her parents?
FORTIER: Precisely. She has grown up knowing almost nothing about her family. And it's not just her parents; it's her entire family history, of course, reaching all the way back to Giulietta. This is when she meets up with long lost relatives in Siena. It suggests to her that there might be a curse on her family, as well as on the family of the feuding family in Siena.
HANSEN: The pox on both their houses?
FORTIER: Precisely, yes.
HANSEN: Are you inspired by such writers as A.S. Byatt, author of "Possession," historical fiction and the same technique that you use of alternating medieval and modern chapters, for example?
FORTIER: I really admire the writers who can write in two different times. I love those kinds of books. But to be quite frank with you, often when I read those books, I find the past a little boring because people have been, the author has been doing so much research and all that research has to be there in the book. So, I knew that if I was going to do the same, I would have to make it really action-packed. It would have to be not weighed down by research but pulled together by action and plot and love and fear and all those emotions that make us want to turn to the next page.
HANSEN: And, of course, the book in Denmark went on to be a bestseller. But is the bard turning in his grave?
FORTIER: I certainly hope so, because that would show us that he's still, you know, paying attention to what's going on. But I think that if he's turning in his grave, it's mostly to see what kind of snobs it is that keep saying that you cannot mix commercial and literary, because that's what he was fantastic at doing. And that's why he's so famous still today.
HANSEN: Anne Fortier's new novel is called "Juliet," published by Valentine Books. And the author joined us from the CBC studio in Montreal. Thank you very much.
FORTIER: Thank you so much.
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