Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Wild Girl Blog Tour: Interview

I've got a little treat for you today! I was given the opportunity to ask Kate Forsyth, author of The Wild Girl (see my review here), a few questions and I'm going to share her answers with you. If you're a fan of fairy tales, be prepared to want to devour a few right now. If you're not a fan, be prepared to become one. 

1. This is your second novel centered on fairy tales and you are doing a doctorate about the re-telling of fairy tales - just what is it about fairy tales?

Fairy tales are stories of triumph, transformation and true love, and so they speak to the most basic human longings and desires. We all want to win against all the odds, we all want to believe it is possible to change our world for the better, and we all wish to be loved. Nothing is easy in fairy tales, though. That’s important too. The heroes and heroines have to deal with sometimes unimaginable impediments to their happiness (their hands being cut off, being turned into frogs or beasts, having to climb mountains of glass) and so that helps us to feel that, perhaps, our own obstacles can be overcome too.

2. What inspired you to tell the mostly unheard of Dortchen's story?

As soon as I read about Dortchen, I knew I had to write a novel about her. I was utterly electrified by her story. She’s nothing but a footnote in the occasional musty old academic journal – and yet her life was full of everything I love in a story. Romance, passion, drama, heartbreak, struggle, and, finally, triumph. Plus, of course, the fairy tales! I never knew that so many of my favourite fairy tales had been told to the Grimm brothers by the one young woman, yet her name was unknown. I feel very strongly about the power of stories to shape and change our lives, and Dortchen’s life was such an extraordinary example of that.

3. Which female fairy tale character do you find the most intriguing?
I find many of the heroines of fairy tales of fairy tales intriguing … and also, I must admit, many of the villains. My novel BITTER GREENS is a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale (interwoven with the true life story of the fascinating woman who first told the tale). I was inspired to write that book because I felt so many emotional and psychological resonances with Rapunzel, having spent much of my childhood locked up in a lonely hospital ward, with only one narrow window to look upon the world. I was, however, also very troubled by the witch and her motives, which were never explained in the tale, and so BITTER GREENS is told partly from the point of view of the witch as well as Rapunzel and Charlotte-Rose de la Force, the 17th French writer who first wrote the story. I’m deeply intrigued by tales such as ‘Síx Swans’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, and ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’, any tale that mingles joy and terror, brightness and shadows, beauty and strangeness.

4. Do you have a favourite fairy tale?

I have a few. ‘Rapunzel’, ‘Six Swans’, ‘Beauty & the Beast’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’, ‘The Snow Queen’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, plus many lesser known ones. I love Romany tales, and wove quite a few into THE GYPSY CROWN, and I love Scottish fairy tales as well, and drew upon Scottish folklore in THE PUZZLE RING. Both of these are children’s books, and entwine history, mystery, and magic together in the way that I love to do.

5.  Whenever I think of retold fairy tales Angela Carter springs to my mind (and no doubt everyone else's). Was she an influence on you? Did you have any other influences?

BITTER GREENS has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’ which pleased me enormously, as I’m sure you can imagine. She was not really an influence on me, however, although I have read and studied her work. I think I was more influenced by fairy tale retellers such as Robin McKinley and Juliet Marillier, and historical fiction writers such as Philippa Gregory, Tracy Chevalier, Geraldine Brooks, Sarah Dunant and Joanna Harris. They all bring the worlds of their novels vividly to life, which is something that’s very important to me, and they all explore the forgotten lives of women. Their books are page-turners, and yet serious in intent and tone, and they are not afraid to shine light into some dark corners of the soul.

6. Did you find telling a story about arguably the 'ultimate' storytellers a daunting task?

Oh yes! In so many ways. People revere the Grimm brothers, and so much is known about them – and so little about the woman who told them their tales. The research was enormous, the problems at times insurmountable. And the emotional cost of the book was soul-shaking. I spent so long inside Dortchen’s skin, it was difficult at times to pull myself out. I began to dream I was her …

7.  What's next? Do you have anything in the pipeline?

At the moment I’m having enormous fun writing a five-book fantasy adventure series for kids (I tend to alternate between adult and children’s books). Then I plan to rewrite one of Dortchen’s tales, ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ (a Beauty and the Beast-variant), setting the novel in Nazi Germany. That will be another intense, dark, soul-shaking book, but extraordinary to research and write.

8.  On a slightly more general note - what has been your favourite read so far this year?

I could not possibly choose only one! I read so much and so widely. So I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve picked my 12 favourite novels for adults for the year so far. They’re all wonderful! PS: I put them in order of reading, not in order of preference.

The Falcons of Fire & Ice - Karen Maitland

Chasing the Light – Jesse Blackadder
The Lavender Keeper - Fiona McIntosh
The Venetian Contract – Marina Fiorato
Nine Days – Toni Jordan
The Darling Strumpet – Gillian Bagwell
The Perfume Garden - Kate Lord Brown
The Shadow Year – Hannah Richell
The Ashford Affair – Lauren Willlig
Keeping the Castle – Patrice Kindl
A Spear of Summer Grass – Deanna Raybourn
Longbourne – Jo Baker

Oh look, another load of books to add to my wishlist!

Thank you so much to Kate for such a wonderful interview and brilliant answers. And obviously, thank you for introducing me to Dortchen Wild...time to dig out my Grimm collection.

Thanks Kate!

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