Tag Archives: Kate Forsyth

Winner Kate Forsyth book give-away!

Kate says:

I loved all the comments but my favourite was from Faith. I think her advice to always be nice to lost bears is very true and very wise, and so she wins the copy of BITTER GREENS.

I was also very touched by all the comments about fairy stories being read by parents and grandparents and what wonderful memories they created, and I absolutely agree with everyone who said that the message of fairy tales is to be brave, resourceful and kind – that’s what I think to!

So Faith, if you email Kate on: kate(at)kateforsyth(dot)com(dot)au 

Kate will arrange to post you a copy of her book.

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Kate Forsyth tells us about Rapunzel…

Today we have the lovely Kate Forsyth visting us to coincide with the release of her new book Bitter Greens. There is a copy of Bitter Greens for one lucky reader. See the give-away question at the end.






Rapunzel is one of the most mysterious and enduring of all fairytales, telling the story of a young girl sold to a witch by her parents for a handful of bitter green herbs.

Most people think that the ‘Rapunzel’ story was first told by the Grimm Brothers in the early 19th century, but in fact it is a much older tale than that. There are so many ‘Maiden in the Tower’ stories in cultures all around the world that it has its own classification in the Aarne-Thompson fairytale motif index (Type 310).

The first known version is from Christian iconography with the story of Saint Barbara. She was a virtuous young girl locked in a tower by her father in the 3rd century. She was tortured for her Christian beliefs but her wounds miraculously healed overnight and when she was beheaded by her father, he was struck by lightning and killed. Most images of her show her with long, flowing, blonde hair, and in one version of the story her hair miraculously burst into flame when her father seized hold of it.

The first appearance of the motif of the ‘hair ladder’ was in a 10th century Persian tale told by Ferdowsi (932-1025 AD), in which a woman in a harem offers to lower her hair to her lover so he can climb up to her. He is afraid he might hurt her and so throws up a rope instead.

One of Rosetti's paintings because I love the Preraphaelites

The ‘hair ladder’ reappears in Petrosinella, a literary fairy tale told by a Florentine writer, Giambattista Basile and published in 1634. Basile was living in Venice at the time and so may have heard many tales brought by sailors and merchants from faraway lands. Petrosinella (Little Parsley) is given up to an ogress after her mother steals parsley from the ogress’s garden. The ogress locks Petrosinella up in a tower in the forest, using her hair as a ladder to access the building. Petrosinella escapes with the help of a prince who heard her singing, overcoming the ogress by casting three magical acorns behind her that turn into obstacles that impede the witch and ultimately devour her.

Sixty years later, the story appears again, this time in France. It is told in 1698 by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force , who has been banished to a convent after displeasing the Sun King, Louis XIV, at his opulent court in Versailles. Locked away in a cloister, much like Rapunzel is in her tower, Charlotte-Rose was among the first writers to pen a collection of literary fairy tales and also one of the world’s first historical novelists. Published under a pseudonym, Mademoiselle X, Charlotte-Rose’s tales became bestsellers and she was eventually able to buy her release.

In Persinette, Mademoiselle de la Force’s version of the tale, the mother conceives an insatiable longing for parsley which her husband steals for her from a sorceress’s garden. When he is caught by the sorceress, the husband promises the sorceress his unborn daughter. The sorceress comes and collects the little girl at the age of seven, names her Persinette, and raises her until she is twelve. Persinette is then locked away in a tower without a door or stair, deep in a forest.

The Bridesmaid by Millais

In time she becomes a woman; the prince hears her singing and chants the rhyme so he can climb up the ladder of hair to her room, where he seduces her. “He became bolder and proposed to marry her right then and there, and she consented without hardly knowing what she was doing. Even so, she was able to complete the ceremony” is how Charlotte-Rose rather coyly describes his seduction.

Persinette becomes pregnant as a result, and in her naivety betrays herself to the sorceress when she complains about her dress growing tighter. The sorceress is furious. She cuts off Persinette’s hair and banishes her to a far-distant wilderness, then tricks the prince into climbing up the braids to the tower. She then causes him to fall from the tower to the ground, and he is blinded by the thorns that grow about the base of the tower. Persinette bears twins in the wilderness, then finds the prince and heals his eyes with her tears. The sorceress continues to torment them, until the young couple’s courage and tender love for each other move her to mercy and she magically returns them to the prince’s loving family.

The story was then retold by the German author Friedrich Schulz (1790). His version is almost identical to Mademoiselle de la Force’s, except that he changed the girl’s name to Rapunzel. It was then retold by the Grimm Brothers (1812), becoming less powerful, mysterious and sexually charged with each subsequent edition. For example, Rapunzel betrays the prince by remarking that the witch is much heavier to pull up, rather than by the witch’s realization that Rapunzel is pregnant.

I love Charlotte-Rose de la Force’s version of the story because of the ardent love affair and the miraculous healing of the prince’s eyes, and also because the heroine takes a more active role than in later versions of the tale. Persinette is imprisoned as a child, but she survives her ordeal, plots her escape, falls in love, and then raises two children on her own. She heals her lover’s wounds with her tears, and she persuades the sorceress to set them free. She becomes a magical agent of healing and salvation, not only for herself and her family, but also for the sorceress.

I am also fascinated by Charlotte-Rose herself. Strong-willed, intelligent and fiercely independent, she once rescued her lover from imprisonment by disguising herself as a dancing bear and entering his father’s castle with a travelling troupe of performers. Her stories were among the first literary fairy tales to be published, and her historical novels are known to have been read and enjoyed by Sir Walter Scott, who many attribute with beginning the historical fiction genre. Her most famous novel, The Secret History of Margeurite de Valois (1697), was also a strong influence on Alexander Dumas’s novel The Queen Margot (1854). She was an early feminist who believed passionately in free love and fought to live her own life liberated from the rigid hierarchy and etiquette of the court of Louis XIV. I find it interesting that her own story echoes the themes of Persinette – she is locked away from society by the king, but she wins her freedom by telling stories.

In my novel, Bitter Greens, I have entwined a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale with Charlotte-Rose’s dramatic life story to create a novel of desire, obsession, black magic, and the redemptive power of love. Oh, and Giambattista Basile makes a brief appearance too …

Dornr Schenschloss, Sababurg

Don’t you love it, when someone really knows their stuff? Kate’s currently overseas staying in the Sleeping Beauty castle at Sababurg. She’ll be back mid week.

Here’s the give-away question: What is your favourite fairy tale and why?


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Back from Sydney Supanova

This time last week I was sitting at the Dymock’s store at Supanova surrounded by wonderful costumes and fellow writers trying desperately to talk. I have my voice back, but I’m still suffering with the ‘flu. Can’t hear properly and it’s been almost a week since I flew home. Here I am with my amazing pull-up behind me. Clint Langley‘s artwork came up really well. Made people stop and take a second look

Was wonderful to catch up with Marianne de Pierres, Alison Goodman, Kate Forsyth and Jennifer Fallon. Also met up with Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, who I’d met at the Brisbane Writers Festival a couple of years ago. It is nice to get away with fellow writers and talk shop, everything from career moves and publishing industry to writing craft. Although I didn’t do much talking. Very frustrating. Here we are all lined up for the obligatory photo with the storm troopers!

You couldn’t be bored. There were comic artists, manga artists and lots of amazing costumes. People who’d bought the KRK trilogy at other Supanovas came by to chat.

One girl told me, I bought your books in Melbourne. You said they’d keep me up all night and I thought you were just saying that, but they did. I finished all three in three days!

I wonder if she got any sleep.

The nice thing about Supanova is that when I was growing up there were hardly any TV shows with a spec fic theme, Lost in Space, I Dream of Jeanie and Bewitched spring to mind. It wasn’t until Star Wars in 1977 that the genre I loved started to become mainstream. Back in those days there was definitely a sense of them and us. We were the fans and everyone else thought we were crazy. Now, every second TV show has elements of paranormal/SF and no one thinks anything of it. So a pop culture event like Supanova can attract crowds of between 10 to 25 thousand. People turn up in costume and they feel like they fit right in.

Thinking of wearing a costume to Supanova? Here’s some inspiration.

Had to miss the Perth Supanova, my work load, the ‘flu and the cost made it impossible, but I’m looking forward to the more Supanovas in future. Maybe I’ll see you there.


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Winner Kate Forsyth Give-away!

Kate says:

Oh so hard to choose a winner! You all love the same books as me. I think I might have to with Brendan, because Susan Cooper and The is Rising means to much to me, too.

Brendan,  email Kate to organise your prize.

kate (at)kateforsyth(dot)com(dot)au



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Meet Kate Forsyth …

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented and always engaging Kate Forsyth to drop by.

Watch out for the give-away at the end of the interview.

Q: Kate, tell us a little about your new book?

The Starkin Crown is a fantasy adventure for readers aged 12 and above, which tells the story of Prince Peregrine, a boy who must overcome treachery, heartache and his own secret weakness in order to find the lost spear of the Storm King.

With the blood of wildkin, hearthkin and starkin in his veins, Peregrine is heir to both the Erlqueen of Stormlinn and the starkin throne – except that the starkin crown was seized before his birth by his grandfather’s cruel cousin Vernisha. An ancient prophecy says that Peregrine will be the one who will at last break the starkin’s ruthless reign and bring peace to the land, but his parents fear the prophecies and try to keep him safe.

The arrival of a starkin girl with an urgent warning of an impending attack sees Peregrine and his faithful squire Jack flee Stormlinn Castle. Guided by a mysterious white owl, and with enemies on all sides, Peregrine soon realises that there is a traitor in their party … and that he must learn to trust his own heart.

Q: Your first series was The Witches of Eileanan, which took its inspiration from the Scottish witch trials of the 16th century. There are six books in the series. You must feel like the world and characters are old friends. Are you tempted to revisit it with a new series?

I get emails every week begging me to write more books set in Eileanan, and I always reply, “Maybe one day”. With the six books of ‘The Witches of Eileanan’ and the three books in the ‘Rhiannon’s Ride’ series, the books set in Eileanan took me ten years to write and constitute more than a million words. I loved writing them and I’m glad so many people have enjoyed them, but I had so many other ideas I wanted to bring to life!

Q: There is also Rhiannon’s Ride Series, with a ‘fierce satyricorn’ heroine. It looks like it could be YA cross-over. What age group was this written for?

‘Rhiannon’s Ride’ is a series of three books set in the world of Eileanan sixteen years after the end of the last book in ‘The Witches of Eileanan’. I always say the Eileanan books can be read by anyone sixteen years and older – there’s lots of battle scenes, cruel betrayals, traitors, necromancy, torture, love, despair, and ultimate triumph – not reading for the faint of heart!

Q: The Chronicles of Estelliana (The Starthorn tree, The Wildkin Curse and The Starkin Crown is for ages 12 and up). I see there is a girl heroine again. Is this a theme you like to explore?

Actually, in the three books set in Estelliana I always have two boys and two girls around 15 years of age, and the primary protagonist is always a boy. This is because I wrote these books for my eldest son, Ben, who loves fantasy fiction. The books are read by both boys and girls – I try and have all four of my heroes being vivid, interesting, and fully realised characters with their own strengths and weakness, and their own lessons to be learnt.

Q: I remember you were so excited when your children’s series The Chain of Charms won the Aurealis Award for its section in 2007. That must have been a real buzz. This series is set in the time of Oliver Cromwell. Did you have to do a lot of research?

It was wonderful! There are six books in ‘The Chain of Charms’ series, and five of them came out in 2007 so I was thrilled to have all five of them short-listed that year. You can imagine my excitement when all five of them ended up winning! It’s the first time that’s ever happened. And, yes, I had to do a great deal of research but then I do with every book I write. With the ‘Chain of Charms’ series, I read every book I could find on Oliver Cromwell and King Charles II, the English Civil War, life in the 17th century, and the language and culture of the Romanichal, or the English Gypsies. I also took my three children to England for a month, travelling in the footsteps of my two Gypsy children in their wild adventures in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. I even began to dress like a Gypsy, and Gypsy Stew became a favourite meal of our family.

Q: The Puzzle Ring was written for ages 10 and up. In this one you have a time travelling heroine who goes back to 16 century Scotland. Are you a big fan of Scottish history?

I was brought up on family stories about Scotland – my grandmother’s grandmother was Scottish on both my mother and my father’s side which meant as a child I heard many an old tale of bloody battles, murdered queens, fugitive princes, ancient curses, loch monsters, and one-eyed giants. I’ve always been interested in Scottish history and mythology as a result, and read a lot of books set in Scotland growing up. So when I was thinking about where to set ‘The Puzzle Ring’ –it seemed very right and natural that it should be set in Scotland and that I should draw upon some of the stories my grandmother and great-aunts told me.

Q: Ben and Tim’s Magical Misadventures series looks like it is meant for a younger reader again. And then there is a picture book titled I Am. Your books range from picture books, through the different primary age groups, through Young Adult to the grown up books?

Do you have to get into a certain mindset to write for a certain age group?

I always say that you can read my books from birth to death! Basically, ‘I Am’ and the three Magical Misadventures were written for my own children’s reading pleasure and I was thrilled when they were published and other children loved them too. I never have any problem writing for different age groups – I always know exactly who my audience is before I even write a word. I ‘see’ the whole narrative shape in my mind’s eye, and know who I want to read it.

Q: You originally worked as a journalist. (See here for a series of articles on Kate’s web site).Did you enjoy this and was it a big leap to writing fantasy?

I always wanted to be a novelist – working as a journalist was a way to pay the bills until I was ‘discovered’. I still write half a dozen articles a year for various publications, for no other reason than my own pleasure. I love to write in many different shapes and forms –it’s challenging to conquer the different styles, and I feel small projects like poetry, articles, picture books, and early readers are a way of refreshing my mind in between the big, long, complex novels I usually write.

 Q: My youngest son had a severe speech impediment. He didn’t have a recognisable (to others) word when he started school. I worked long and hard with him to help him overcome it. I believe you had a speech impediment as a child. Did you find the frustration of not being able to communicate your ideas shaped the person you are?

I had a severe stutter as a child, which meant many hours of speech therapy. My mother worked incredibly hard with me, just like you did with your son, to help me conquer my stutter. One of the things I was encouraged to do was read poetry and Shakespeare aloud, and I truly believe this had a profound effect on me, giving me a deep love of language and rhythm and rhyme. It also meant that I retreated into books, and read voraciously as a child, because I struggled to express myself at school and in unfamiliar situations. I still stutter when I’m tired or nervous or excited, but in general I think I’m quite fiercely articulate now and proud that I was able to overcome the great obstacle that was my stutter. (Read Kate’s article on stuttering).

Q: Tell us a little about the book you are working one now. Set in the time of Louis the 14th, involving a French noble woman, a young girl shut up in a tower, and a Venetian Courtesan, it sounds wonderful.

Thank you! I must admit it has been wonderful to write. Called ‘Bitter Greens’, it is a historical novel for adults which interweaves a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale with the life of one of its first tellers, the scandalous 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force. Charlotte-Rose shocked the court of the Sun King with her love affairs and her dabbling in witchcraft, and so was banished to a convent in the country. In those days, enclosure was very strict and so Charlotte-Rose would not have stepped outside the high, stone wall of the convent or seen anyone apart from the nuns and their lay-sisters. She wrote the fairy tale ‘Persinette’ while imprisoned, which was later renamed ‘Rapunzel’ and bowdlerised by the Grimm brothers. Her life story was a gift for a novelist – I could not have made up a better story! The novel is told in three strands – Charlotte-Rose’s life in Paris and Versailles during the 17th century, the tale of the maiden in the tower, and then the story of the witch, who I have imagined as a 16th century Venetian courtesan who was Titian’s muse. I’m just back from a month in Europe, going to all the places described in my book – Paris, Versailles, Bordeaux, Venice and the Italian lakes!

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

Certainly there’s a widely expressed view that men write fantasy full of battles, assassinations, murder and torture, while women write fantasy full of flowers and frocks. Although there is some truth that women’s fantasy fiction is sometimes softer and more romantic, some of the toughest, bloodiest fantasy is written by women such as Fiona McIntosh and Robin Hobb. I certainly love a good love scene, but then I also think battle scenes have their place. I have both in my books!

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

No, not at all. I love fantasy fiction by both men and women. What I care about are the characters and the story and the quality of the writing, not the gender of the writer.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why? (16th Century Scotland? LOL)

16th century Scotland was a wild, dangerous place without hot running water! I think I’d be scared to go there. I’d need a big, strong Highlander with a big, sharp claymore to protect me! I would like to meet Mary, Queen of Scots, though, and I’d be very interested to know who really murdered her second husband! I have theories of my own, I’d like to know if I was right. I’d also really like to go to 16th century Venice at Carnivale time ….

Kate very kindly has offered a copy of The Starkin Crown as a give-away. Here’s the Give-away question:

What was your favourite fantasy book as a child?

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Anyone considering writing for Children?

While I think of it … the lovely (award winning) Kate Forsyth has done a post about writing for children over at the ROR blog.  She talks about getting your story age appropriate and length, etc. Plus they’re giving away two copies of her book.

I’ve known Kate since she had her first book published around the same time as my first trilogy.  She turned up for a panel only a couple of days after giving birth to her first child. You had to admire her dedication. I believe in supporting fellow Australian authors, so drop by the blog, if you can.

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