Take Five: Kate Forsyth and The Wild Girl

I recently had the pleWildGirl cover (418x640)asure of launching Kate Forsyth’s wonderful new novel THE WILD GIRL, published by Vintage Books in Australia, at an event in Sydney. I interviewed Kate here on Writer Unboxed when her previous book for adult readers, the stunning blend of history and fairy tale BITTER GREENS, was released in 2012. Kate is an incredibly hard-working writer, energetic and versatile. She has written books for children, young adults and adults, and has ranged across the genres of fantasy, historical fiction, literary fiction and poetry.

I was delighted when Kate took time out from a hectic round of promotional appearances to give WU a mini-interview about THE WILD GIRL.

Q. What’s the premise of your new book?

THE WILD GIRL tells the story of the forbidden romance between Wilhelm Grimm, the younger of the famous brothers, and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most compelling and powerful fairy tales. Set during the turbulent years of the Napoleonic Wars, THE WILD GIRL illuminates how the Grimm brothers came to discover their famous fairy tales, as well as telling one of the great untold love stories of all time.

Q. What would you like people to know about the story?

THE WILD GIRL is an epic romance set in one of the most dangerous periods in history. It illuminates the story of the famous Grimm brothers and what drove them to begin collecting  their tales, as well as exploring what life was like in Europe at the time Napoleon set out to conquer the world. Inspired by a true story, it is filled with romance, passion, drama and heartbreak.

Q. What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them?

The novel is told from the point of view of Dortchen Wild, who has to overcome many obstacles before she can be with her one true love, Wilhelm Grimm. She wishes to be a dutiful daughter to her autocratic father, but, on the other hand, she longs for freedom and a life of self-determination. Her world is racked by war and famine and disease, and she must overcome the shadows of her past and her own demons before she can at last find her voice and win her love.

Wilhelm Grimm is desperately poor and cannot afford to take a wife. Dortchen Wild is forbidden to even see him by her cruel and overbearing father. At times it seems impossible that they could ever be together. Both have a long journey ahead of them before at last true love triumphs. [Read more…]


Interview with Kate Forsyth: Part One

I was recently lucky enough obtain an advance reading copy of Kate Forsyth’s new novel, Bitter Greens, to read during my Christmas break, and was bowled over by its magnificent blend of history, fairytale and sheer storytelling flair. Bitter Greens will be released this month by Random House Australia, and not only has Kate agreed to be our guest on Writer Unboxed for a two part interview, she’s also giving away a copy of the novel to a lucky WU reader. Post a comment on Part One of this interview by April 12 to be in the draw, which is open to readers from any part of the world.

 Kate is an extremely versatile writer, as you’ll see in this interview, and she seems to thrive on challenge. With Bitter Greens she’s done something entirely new. I couldn’t wait to ask Kate about the creative process for this particular project, which combines her scholarly interest in fairy tales with the creative passion of a true storyteller.

To introduce the novel, here’s a quote from Kate’s website

Bitter Greens is an historical novel which intertwines a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale with the dramatic true life story of the woman who first told the tale – the 17th century French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force. It moves from the dazzling court of the Sun King in 17th century Paris and Versailles to Venice in the 16th century, and is filled with romance, magic, history and danger.

JM: Kate, congratulations on this wonderful new novel and thanks so much for agreeing to talk to Writer Unboxed. Bitter Greens is one of those books that breaks out of recognised genre moulds – it’s part historical novel, part fairytale, and part serious examination of gender roles, power and cruelty in 16th and17th century France and Italy. I want to start at the very beginning. I know you’ve loved fairytales since childhood. Will you tell WU readers about your first encounter with the Rapunzel story?

KF: I first read the Rapunzel fairytale when I was a young girl in hospital, suffering a series of treatments and operations for a damaged tear duct. I was given a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the stories in that little leather-bound book have been my favourite fairytales ever since – among them, of course, Rapunzel. I felt a great affinity with that other young girl, locked away alone in a tower as I was confined alone in my hospital ward. I loved the fact that her tears had the power to heal the Prince’s blindness and wished that my own tears, weeping constantly from the damaged tear duct, would heal mine.

JM: What would you like our readers to know about Bitter Greens?

KF: I began wanting to retell the Rapunzel fairytale, which has fascinated and puzzled me ever since I first read it as a child. I’ve always loved both fairytales and retellings of fairytales, but it seemed to me that most reworkings of the Rapunzel story sidestepped the biggest problems in it. For example, why did the witch want to lock her in a tower. Why was Rapunzel’s hair so impossibly long? Why didn’t Rapunzel ask the prince to bring a rope so she could climb down and escape?

The other big problem with fairytale retellings, I think, is that they can lack surprise and suspense, the two ingredients I consider the most important in creating a compelling narrative. The stories are so well-known that it’s difficult to build suspense, or create switches and reversals, when the reader knows the story so well. Most writers solve this problem by subverting the tale, but this usually fails to surprise as well. I wanted to be faithful to the haunting, beautiful feel of the familiar tale, while still writing a gripping, unputdownable novel.

JM: I understand that at a certain point your publisher took a change of direction about marketing for the novel. Could you tell us about that? [Read more…]