Literary speed dating with Kate Forsyth, historical fiction author

“I was riding around on a tricycle which squeaked very badly… when a Doberman lunged for me, caught my head in his jaws and proceed to tear my head apart.”

No, it’s not the opening of a novel – it’s real life. Australian author Kate Forsyth was still in nappies when that dog attack happened and she was hospitalised for much of the following seven years. The years in bed developed her extraordinary imagination and her love of reading, so it’s not surprising she’s published more than 20 books, including picture books, poetry and novels for adults and children. You won’t be surprised to hear she’s not a procrastinator.

Being a Queen of Scots fan myself, right now I’m reading ‘The Puzzle Ring’, her historical fantasy for children aged 10+. It tells the story of a girl who discovers that her family was cursed long ago, and the only way to break the curse is to go back in time to the perilous days of Mary, Queen of Scots, and find a broken puzzle ring.

Next on my list is Kate’s latest adult novel ‘Bitter Greens’, which interweaves the Rapunzel fairytale with the scandalous life of one of the tale’s first tellers, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. Moving from Venice in the 16th century to the glittering court of the Sun King, Louis XIV, in the 17th century, ‘Bitter Greens’ is a story of desire, obsession, black magic and the redemptive power of love. Check out the reviews below – they’re exceptional. And go the end to read the opening paragraph.

IN THE MEANTIME, ON HER LITERARY SPEED DATE, IS KATE:

Give me ‘You’ in 25 words.
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I spend my days reading, writing, daydreaming, making stuff up – lucky me!

If you were a book, what would it be and why?
One of those thick, gaudy books filled to bursting with drama, passion, intrigue, mysterious happenings and a good, old-fashioned happy ending.

What made you write your last book?
I’ve have been fascinated by the Rapunzel fairy tale ever since reading the story as a young girl in hospital. I’ve thought about retelling the tale for a very long time, though as a historical novel not as a fantasy – I wanted it to seem as if it had really happened. To help create this feeling, I interwove my retelling with the true-life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French fairy tale teller, Charlotte-Rose de la Force.

Why would a reader love your book?
It is full of magic and romance and mystery, and moves between the opulent court of the Sun King, Louis XIV, in 17th century Paris and Versailles, to the secretive world of Renaissance Venice. What’s not to love?

When did you decide to be a writer?
It feels as if I was born wanting to write. I certainly began as soon as I could hold a pencil and form my letters. I wrote my first novel when I was only eight.

What’s your most humiliating moment as a writer?
There have been many small, private stings – other writers winning awards, making the international bestsellers list, scoring big advances – but no large, public humiliations. And even the small stings are soon forgotten.

When, where and how do you write?
I write most days, while my children are at school. I usually write in my study, which has a lovely view over my garden to the sea – though I have been known to write at the beach, in the park, in airports and hotel rooms, on trains … I keep a notebook in which every scrap of paper, every visual stimulant, every scribble is recorded and dated. However, I write directly on to the computer.

Did you find it hard to get published the first time?
I first tried to get published at the age of 16, and received a very lovely letter back telling me I clearly had talent and keep on writing. It took me another 14 years to have a novel published, though I had many poems, stories and articles published during that time. It seemed to take a long time, and I almost lost faith a few times, but most people tell me I was quite young to have a first novel published at 30.

What’s the best thing a reviewer said about your last book?
‘If books were the notes of a violin, Bitter Greens would be the highest soaring note – the one that brings goosebumps to the skin and swells the heart with passion.’ Australian Women Online

What writers do you admire most?
My top 12 favourite writers of adult fiction are Geraldine Brooks, Tracey Chevalier, Joanne Harris, Kate Morton, Kim Wilkins, Karen Maitland, Sarah Dunant, Philippa Gregory, Juliet Marillier, Susan Vreeland, Mary Stewart, Georgette Heyer. All women!

What’s your favourite writing form?
I love to write novels, poems and articles – but have no desire to write short stories.

Did you learn anything useful when you studied writing?
Discipline.

What inspires you?
I love my morning walk along the ocean front with my dog. I blow all the cobwebs out of my brain and think about what I’m going to write that day . By the time I get to my computer, I’m raring to go.

What’s your favourite procrastination when writing?
I don’t really procrastinate much. I always want to write. If I wasn’t writing, I’d have to do housework!

What are you working on now?
I’m doing the edit on a historical novel called The Wild Girl, which tells the story of Dortchen Wild, the girl who grew up next door to the Grimm Brothers and told them many of their most compelling stories.

Opening paragraph of Bitter Greens
I had always been a great talker and teller of tales.
‘You should put a lock on that tongue of yours. It’s long enough and sharp enough to slit your own throat,’ our guardian warned me, the night before I left home to go to the royal court at Versailles. He sat at the head of the long wooden table in the chateau’s arched dining room, lifting his lip in distaste as the servants brought us our usual peasant fare of sausage and white-bean cassoulet. He had not accustomed himself to our simple Gascon ways, not even after four years.
I just laughed. ‘Don’t you know a woman’s tongue is her sword? You wouldn’t want me to let my only weapon rust, would you?’

For more about Kate Forsyth, and to buy any of her books, check out her website

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About Jesse Blackadder

Living at the easternmost tip of Australia on the caldera of an extinct volcano, Jesse Blackadder is a novelist, freelance writer and Doctor of Creative Arts. She is fascinated by landscapes, adventurous women and very cold places and has published three adult novels and three novels for children.
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One Response to Literary speed dating with Kate Forsyth, historical fiction author

  1. Donnas Robet says:

    This blog is great. Her book was nice.

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