Welcome to my spot on the blog tour today! I’m thrilled to be able to share my review of Juliet and Romeo as well as a fabulous guest post from author David Hewson!
Juliet and Romeo
About The Book:
Two young people meet: Romeo, desperate for love before being sent away to study, and Juliet facing a forced marriage to a nobleman she doesn’t know. Fate and circumstance bring them together in a desperate attempt to thwart their parents with a secret marriage. But in a single fateful week, their intricate scheming falls terribly apart.
Juliet Capulet is sixteen-years-old. She is adored by her parents and servants and admired by everyone else in Verona. Including Count Paris, a nobleman intent on having her as his wife. A man Juliet’s father urges her to accept. But Juliet is made of sterner stuff and the wealth and stature that would come with their betrothal does not tempt her into a life of loneliness with a man who is nothing more than a stranger. She is adamant she will not marry him despite her parents reproach. When her father holds a ball for her and Count Paris to meet again, Juliet escapes to the gardens of the palazzo, away from attempts to steal away her choice and make her a prisoner, shackled in a loveless marriage.
Romeo Montague is eighteen-years-old and madly infatuated with a young girl called Rosaline. But she does not reciprocate. And soon he will be sent to Bologna to study law. In the meantime, he fills his days with books and poetry, dreading the day when he will have to leave Verona and begin anew. On a warm evening, buoyed by happiness and the joviality of his friends, he disguises himself and sneaks into the home of his neighbours, the Capulets who are holding a ball. There he sees a young woman slip out into the garden and follows her. Juliet and Romeo. Capulet and Montague. Two warring families are swiftly altered by their meeting.
This retelling sits the character of Juliet firmly at the helm. She drives the story with her fierce determination, courage and independence. Whereas, Romeo is a little more quiet and unsure, Juliet is confidant and very intelligent. I really felt for her because she lives in a world dominated by men and she’s in turmoil, fighting against the future building brick by brick around her. She is appalled by the prospect of marrying Count Paris because she will just be a new piece of property. A bird in a cage. She is determined to keep her grasp on her freedom and independence because it is her life and hers alone.
David Hewson captures 1499 Verona on the page in a startlingly visceral, beautifully described portrait, bringing to life the location, the food, the sounds, the people, their dialogue, everything. I loved Juliet and Romeo. David Hewson has taken an age-old tale of love and retold it with a bold, unique flourish. Superb!
Thrilling. Fast-pace. Glorious.
Guest Post from David Hewson
What writers can learn from actors.
Confession time: I used to think actors had it easy. I mean… what do they do except learn lines and say them? I was an idiot. When you work alongside them you realise how a big part of their job is making the very hard look very easy. And for a writer it’s well worth watching how they go about their work too because dramatic skills are key to story-telling and story-telling, more than ‘writing’, is what mainstream fiction is all about.
Richard Armitage is probably best known for Thorin in The Hobbit, the scary Francis Dolarhyde in Hannibal and for British viewers Spooks. But he’s also a formidable stage actor and one of the best narrators of audiobooks on the planet.
I was lucky enough to have him perform the audio rewrite of Hamlet I produced with my co-author A.J. Hartley a few years back. Richard’s work on that was stunning and deservedly won us a nomination for an Audie, an audiobook Oscar.
So it was a great relief to hear he was coming on board to do the same for the version of Romeo and Juliet which I was writing, on my own this time. Fast forward several months later and I’m in a studio in London’s Soho watching him get down to work, speechless behind the glass sitting next to the director.
Richard doesn’t read material, he performs it. For hours on end he was bent over the mike, reading the script from the iPad, moving from voice to voice, quiet and determined for Juliet, raucous Brummie for her Nurse, old and broken for Capulet her father. It was astonishing to watch, and even more astonishing to see Richard break after a couple of hours, take a sandwich then get back to work. I felt exhausted just watching him.
There, and later in New York where recording ended, we chatted about the project and Shakespeare in general – remember he’s worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company along the way.
One of the first things he asked me was, ‘When’s the book coming out?’ And to be honest I didn’t have an answer. I wrote the audio original as a kind of one-man play, specifically with Richard in mind for his range of voices. It was a script, not a book. It wouldn’t work without considerable changes, not least the reversion to my original title for the work, Juliet and Romeo.
Like me, Richard saw Juliet as the principal figure in this story. After all she’s the one in most jeopardy, facing a forced marriage she regards as a death sentence. While Romeo’s a nice enough lad, but not that bright and merely facing the prospect of being jilted.
Something else I was able to learn from Richard too was the importance of theatrical against literary dialogue. No dialogue is ‘real’, in the sense that it matches everyday speech with its interruptions, umms and ahhs, and non sequiturs. But in books dialogue tends to be more formalised. Questions that are asked are usually answered. As an author you tend not to leave things hanging in the air.
At that time in New York Richard was in a fantastic play, Love, Love, Love, by the British writer Mike Bartlett (of Doctor Foster fame on TV). The dialogue here is very precise in its imprecision, full of unanswered questions, overlapping sentences, silences and broken phrases. It’s not ‘real’ but it feels that way. So I learned a fair bit from that, and some of the other comments Richard kindly made, then set about turning the script I wrote for him into a novel.
How different is it from the audio original? In general form not much at all. Some scenes have been added, others changed, and parts adapted into novel format to make them easier to understand. Good audio depends upon simplicity, linear structure and clarity of point of view and dialogue. But you could say the same about mainstream fiction too so it wasn’t hard to go in that direction. A warning though: you can’t follow the stories word for word as you normally can with audio versions of a book. It is too different for that.
Richard’s an incredibly generous chap and was good enough to provide a foreword for the book too. His many fans around the world are always asking me: will you work with him again? I hope so, but then everyone who’s ever worked with him seems to feel the same way. He is the busiest actor I know. If he’s not on a film or TV set somewhere you’ll usually find him in front of the mike in a studio recording an audiobook or drama.
But I hope we cross professional paths again. I learned from a master listening to him turn my words into something else altogether. And a writer’s always learning.
That was fabulous!! Thank you so much David! Below is a behind the scenes video of actor Richard Armitage talking about Juliet & Romeo!
To purchase a copy of the book, you can follow the links below
About David Hewson
David Hewson is the author of more than 20 published novels including the Pieter Vos
series set in Amsterdam and the Nic Costa books set in Rome.
His acclaimed book adaptations of The Killing television series were published around the
world. His audio adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hamlet with A.J. Hartley,
narrated by Alan Cumming and Richard Armitage respectively, were both shortlisted for
A former journalist with the Sunday Times, Independent and The Times he lives in Kent.
His first book with The Dome Press, Juliet and Romeo, will be published in May 2018.
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Huge thanks to Emily Glenister, David Hewson and The Dome Press for my review copy, blog tour invite and the wonderful guest post!