2012 Snapshot Archive: Kate Forsyth

First published at Ian Mond’s blog.


Kate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults.

Her most recent book for adults is Bitter Greens, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale interwoven with the dramatic, true life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force.

Her most recent book for children is The Starkin Crown, a heroic fantasy adventure set in the magical world of Estelliana, a place of wild magic and terrifying monsters.

Since The Witches of Eileanan was named a Best First Novel of 1998 by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for numerous awards, including a CYBIL Award in the US. She’s also the only author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year, for her Chain of Charms series – beginning with The Gypsy Crown – which tells of the adventures of two Romany children in the time of the English Civil War. Book 5 of the series, The Lightning Bolt, was also a CBCA Notable Book.

Kate’s books have been published in 14 countries around the world, including the UK, the US, Russia, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. She is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology, having already completed a BA in Literature and a MA in Creative Writing.

Kate is a direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, A Mother’s Offering to her Children. She lives by the sea in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, three children, a rambunctious Rhodesian Ridgeback, a bad-tempered black cat, and many thousands of books.

1) According to Wikipedia you started your working life as a journalist – both full time and freelance.  Do you think journalism gave you a head-start in terms of craft prior to embarking on your first novel?

Well, I wrote my first novel when I was seven and have been constantly working on one project or another since then, so I was essentially a novelist before I was a journalist. What I learnt from my years working in newspapers and magazines was discipline, and an awareness of the market i.e. thinking about who would be reading my story and what it is they wanted from their reading experience. I still love writing feature articles – I write a handful every year, simply for pleasure.

2) After hearing you talk to Sean Wright on Galactic Chat about your new novel Bitter Greens I immediately bought myself a copy on the iPad (actually Sean should be your publicist, it was a great interview) (Thank you! I do hope you love it.)  Your passion for acknowledging the source of fairytale, in particular Rapunzel, was infectious.  Did you ever find, though, that this passion got in the way of telling the story?

No, not at all. You need to be passionate about your subject, and absolutely committed to it, if you are going to be able to sustain a writing task that may take years and years to complete. I cannot write a novel unless I am completely obsessed with it, even to the point of dreaming about it. Passion is the driving force that makes me write.

3) OK, a shorter question this time.  Is Bitter Greens the start of a series of books re-telling or re-discovering fairytales?

I’m now working on a novel about Dortchen Wild, the girl who grew up next door to the Grimm Brothers and who told them many of their most compelling stories. Although I’m not re-telling any of the tales she told, I am using key motifs from the tales to add a sort of metafictive subtext to her story.  It’s still in early draft stage, but I’m happy with the way it’s going so far. I am interested in looking at other fairytales and their tellers in the future too – fairytales have always  fascinated me and they are such a rich source of story and symbol.

4) What Australian works have you loved recently?

Books I’ve enjoyed recently include ‘Sea Hearts’ by Margo Lanagan, ‘Poet’s Cottage’ by Josephine Pennicott, ‘Raven’s Heart’ by Jesse Blackadder, and I’m halfway through ‘The Lavender Keeper’ by Fiona McIntosh now.

5) Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

The Australian SF scene has always  been diverse and lively, but I think we are seeing an even greater range of stories and voices and styles than ever before.


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