"Of all the great love stories ever told, hers is perhaps the most famous. To me, she is the key to my family's fate. To you, she is Juliet."

Witty, original and unashamedly romantic, it's easy to see why this brilliant twist on a classic tale is said to be the book women everywhere will fall in love with this year. Already a bestseller in Italy and Germany, with rights fought over by more than 30 other countries, including Australia, Anne Fortier's extraordinary debut looks set to conquer the world.

Tipped to rival the phenomenal breakout success of other debut novels on the international stage like Kate Morton's The Shifting Fog and Kate Mosse's Labrinyth, Juliet has garnered rave reviews ranging from the acclaimed author of Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen, and New York Times bestselling historical author Alison Weir to a starred Publishers Weekly review, which hails it as: 'A high-flying debut … a love story that reads like a Da Vinci Code for the smart modern woman'.

Inspired by history's most famous star-crossed lovers, Fortier returns them to their rightful home, Siena, a place she knows intimately and brings vividly to life - her historical research was a labour of love and it shows - and in a master stroke, creates a brilliant two-hander, intertwining the fates of two feisty and resourceful heroines, one in the present day and the other who lived and loved centuries ago, to tell her story. Add to that a seductively beautiful Italian backdrop, an unforgettable love story, a dangerous hunt for hidden treasure, family secrets and blood feuds, mad, bad and dangerously attractive men, and the discovery that Shakespeare's tale was just one take on the real lovers' story, and you have just some of the reasons this book is winning such spectacular praise. And, as one fellow writer says, we will never see Romeo and Juliet in quite the same way again.

When a young woman inherits the key to a safety deposit box in Siena, she is told it will lead to an old family treasure. But her mysterious inheritance leads her on a perilous journey into the past - and to the true history of her ancestor, Giulietta, whose legendary love for a young man named Romeo turned medieval Siena upside down.

As she crosses paths with descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud that inspired Shakespeare's famous tale, it becomes clear that the notorious curse 'A plague on both your houses' is still at work, and that she is the next target.

Anne Fortier grew up in Denmark, but moved to the US in 2002 to work in film. She co-produced the Emmy-winning documentary 'Fire and Ice: The Winter War of Finland and Russia', and holds a PhD in the History of Ideas from Aarhus University, Denmark. The story of Juliet was inspired by Anne's mother, who always considered Verona her true home … until she discovered Siena.

Harper Collins
Author: Anne Fortier
ISBN: 9780732289416
Price: $32.99

Interview with Anne Fortier

Why did you choose to put a twist on a classic tale?

Anne Fortier: I have to say that I did not set out to write a spin-off of Romeo and Juliet. I think it is a wonderful way, to be honest, as it keeps the tradition of classics alive. Although, that's not what I set out to do, I was inspired by the city of Sienna, in the first instance and then the realisation that actually this is were the very first version of Romeo and Juliet was set, came later. There I was in Sienna, discovering that Romeo and Juliet, from 1476 had actually been set there. Then, of course, I thought here is my story! I was not just going to write another prose version of Romeo and Juliet that would be boring; you have to interpret it a little bit.

When I first read Romeo and Juliet, in high school, I was always a little bothered of Juliet's character. It is probably because I am a modern woman and it grates a little bit to see her say "whatever Romeo… I'll go with you anywhere" and all he has to do is drop a few lines during the dance (laughing). I didn't want it to be that easy for Romeo, this time around. Juliet has a motive and that's what got me started on reinterpreting the story.

Also, Shakespeare wrote that Romeo kills Juliet's cousin Tybalt, I wanted to include these key things from Shakespeare's play that people know and love, I needed to have them there but I certainly wanted to twist them around. That is why, in this case, Romeo is framed for a murder, it's not Romeo, but the whole town thinks it is Romeo and he has to flee town. That is how I played with these things; I thought it would be too boring if I just retold the story, it had to have something new.

What research went into writing Juliet?

Anne Fortier: Absolutely! When I was first researching Romeo and Juliet before Shakespeare I was helped by a woman in Australia called Professor Nicole Prunster from Latrobe University. Nicole actually sent a copy of the very first version of the Romeo and Juliet version to me. I am a little embarrassed to say that I forgot to thank her, in my credits, because it was so long ago that she sent the book to me. It was so sweet of her to send the book. Professor Nicole Prunster has translated and reinterpreted Romeo and Juliet before Shakespeare: Four Early Stories of Star-Crossed Love.

Have you sold the film rights for Juliet?

Anne Fortier: I haven't signed a contact, with Universal. My agent and I decided to not sign a contract because we picked up through the grapevine that Universal was going through a troubled time. I hope it is going to become a movie, but right now there is a producer and director in Hollywood, just looking for a studio.

Do you have anyone in mind to play Juliet?

Anne Fortier: I think that the most obvious person, right now, off the top of my head would be someone like Anne Hathaway. I only just realised, when I was doing the final edit of the book, I thought that Anne Hathaway would be the perfect Juliet.

Who do you suggest reads Juliet?

Anne Fortier: I have to think about the people that have come to me and said that they have loved the book. Originally when I pitched the book to my agent, I said "I think every woman between the ages of 10 and 110 are going to love this book", it is a bit broad but as it turns out a lot of woman read the book, love the book and then give the book to their mother's and then the mother loves the book and then they give it to their daughters. We are covered with all ages, this is where it becomes funny, I could have sworn that men wouldn't be caught dead with a book with this front cover, but men love the book. Men contact me to ask questions and they say 'that their wife read it and then their wife told them that they would love it and they were skeptical but then they couldn't put it down'.

The only negative reactions I have had have been from a few men in Europe who may have been a little jealous of the hero.