Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Robin Maxwell on Juliet and Romeo

Today I'm featuring a guest post from Robin Maxwell, author of the new novel O, JULIET.

First let me tell you a bit about the book:

Before Juliet Capelletti lie two futures: a traditionally loveless marriage to her father's business partner, or the fulfillment of her poetic dreams, inspired by the great Dante. Unlike her beloved friend Lucrezia, who looks forward to her arranged marriage into the Medici dynasty, Juliet has a wild, romantic imagination that takes flight in the privacy of her bedchamber and on her garden balcony.

Her life and destiny are forever changed when Juliet meets Romeo Monticecco, a soulful young man seeking peace between their warring families. A dreamer himself, Romeo is unstoppable, once he determines to capture the heart of the remarkable woman foretold in his stars.

And now a few words from Robin on why she chose to write about Juliet and Romeo.
A lot of readers have asked me why, when I've always written about historical figures, did I decide to tackle literary figures, and particularly ones immortalized by Shakespeare. I think the actual light bulb moment came when I read that another author had written an historical fiction called LADY McBETH. I thought, “Hell, what an amazing idea!” I had loved another fiction using a literary figure — AHAB’S WIFE — and my mind zip-zipped to that before coming back to Shakespeare. It was hardly a moment before I realized that “Romeo and Juliet” had never been written as a novel. I couldn’t believe my good luck. I whipped out a brief proposal which everybody — agents, editors, publisher — adored, and got right to work. Shortly I discovered that Romeo and Juliet were “in the ozone,” with the second “Twilight” movie (“New Moon”) filled with references and themes from the Bard’s play; Pop star Taylor Swift’s award-winning “Love Song,” about the famous couple, “Letters to Juliet” (a modern day romantic drama to be released in May); and a more-contemporary-than-medieval novel called JULIET being published in August.

Was I nervous about appropriating two of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters for my own? How could I not be? One device I used to make a literary distinction from the master was to make Romeo and Juliet not only amateur poets themselves, but to both be devotees of Dante (the middle ages’ greatest “rock star”). I used Dante’s beautiful (but little known) love poetry liberally in O, JULIET. My detractors are having a field day repeating that “Ms. Maxwell is no Shakespeare,” but DUH…who in their right mind would ever attempt that? I was also, according to my critics, “attempting to fix what was not broken.” But my purpose was simply to shed some light on the lives of everyones’ favorite star-crossed lovers, and I must say, I’m very pleased and proud of my efforts.

Other readers wonder how it was to be writing about a fictional woman and what were the qualities that made her as strong a heroine as the women in my previous novels. I would say that all my heroines are the “strong-willed-woman-ahead-of-her-time-who-is-looking-for-a-marriage-for-love” — everyone from Anne Boleyn and the young Elizabeth (SECRET DIARY OF ANNE BOLEYN, VIRGIN, MADEMOISELLE BOLEYN) to Grace O’Malley (THE WILD IRISH), to Princess Bessie of York and Nell Caxton (TO THE TOWER BORN), to Caterina da Vinci (SIGNORA DA VINCI). Even though Juliet’s accomplishments may seem minor compared to Anne’s (the Reformation), Elizabeth (the English Renaissance and conquering the Spanish Armada) and Grace O’Malley (pirate, gun-runner, troop transporter and “Mother of the Irish Rebellion”), Juliet’s courage in defying her family and repressive society in order to be with the man she loved was HUGE. This was a girl (daughter of a merchant) who, from the time she was born, would have been barely allowed to leave her father house (except to go to confession and the occasional social gathering) until the day she married her parents’ choice of a husband, after which she would have continued to remain cloistered in his house till the day she died. Relatively speaking, what Juliet accomplished with her rebellion was enormous.
Thank you, Robin, for sharing that with us. I hope you all enjoyed hearing from Robin!

I've heard great things about O, JULIET - have you read it yet?


Erika Robuck said...

I'm dying to read this!

Robin M said...

Thank you, Robin for sharing your thoughts and introducing me to O Juliet. I'll definitely have to read it.

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

I won a copy of O, Juliet from Robin in one of her giveaways in celebration of the book release. And a beautiful heart necklace and earrings. The book is so beautiful and sounds so good. I have it on my (immediate) TBR pile. It's maneuvering its way toward the top!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Erika - You'll have to let me know what you think once you get a copy.

Robin - Thanks for dropping by. :)

Michelle - I like that "immediate" TBR pile!

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