Darkstars Fantasy News

23. September 2014

Interview with Kate Forsyth on Bitter Greens

Category: Interviews – Darkstar – 20:50

Bitter Greens (US Cover)Last week Australian writer Kate Forsyth visited Berlin and talked about her career as well as about her published and upcoming books. A report will follow soon.

However, as yesterday her fairy tale fantasy “Bitter Greens” got published in the US, I decided to re-post this interview with her from 2012. “Bitter Greens” starts in 17th century French and interweaves the real life story of writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force and the fairy tale “Rapunzel”.

Dear Kate, could you please describe the atmosphere of your novel?

“Bitter Greens” is an historical novel which interweaves a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale with the dramatic life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force. It’s a story of desire, obsession, madness and the redemptive power of love, and is, I hope, filled with the sights and sounds of Renaissance Venice and 17th century Paris.

How does your novel differ from other retellings of the Rapunzel fairytale?

Firstly, its written for adults, and not for children, and so is filled with all the sexual charge of the original story. Secondly, I have told it as if was living history, as if it really happened. The story is told to the 17th century French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force while she is locked away in a nunnery, and the two stories intersect in surprising and unexpected ways.

Bitter Greens (UK Cover)Please introduce us to your main characters.

Charlotte-Rose de la Force is a strong-willed, intelligent and audacious woman of the French royal court, kin to Louis XIV himself, and not averse to scandalising the court with her love affairs and wild behaviour.

Soeur Seraphina is warm-hearted, golden-eyed nun at the convent in which Charlotte-Rose is incarcerated. She tells a story about Margherita, a young girl who was stolen from her parents and locked away in a tower many years before, by Selena, la Bella Strega, a beautiful and manipulative Venetian courtesan who was muse to the painter Titian.

Is there anything which was really hard for you during the writing of “Bitter Greens”?

Many, many things! The research. The size of the story. The technical difficulties of writing two historical periods (16th century Venice & 17th century France). The fact I was writing a novel about a woman who really lived, and so needed to spin my fancy around the immovable pegs of the facts of her life.

The problem of re-telling such a well-known story while still making it fresh, original and surprising. And the everyday problem of being a creative artist and a mother and wife.

Bitter GreensWhat made you decide to retell this particular fairy tale?

Rapunzel has always had an extraordinary haunting power for me because I first read it as a young girl at a time when I was in and out of hospital with chronic tear duct infections caused by a savage dog attack when I was only two years old. I was half-blind, racked with pain and fever, and incarcerated in a hospital ward with one small window looking out into the world.

The story of a another young girl locked away from the world resonated strongly with me. I was also entranced with the idea of her healing tears (Rapunzel weeps on the prince’s blinded eyes and heals him).

As well as enchanted by the story, I was also puzzled by its mysteries. Why did the witch lock Rapunzel away? Why couldn’t the prince rescue her with a rope? Why was her hair so impossibly long? Questions like these are the grit in the oyster of the imagination which, over a long time, began to create a pearl.

I thought about the story, off and on, for years until a story began to grow out of the questions. The challenge for me, though, was to write a story that was utterly compelling and surprising, and so I decided to discover who first wrote the tale and see if I could use it to add suspense and new interest. That was how I stumbled upon the astonishing life of Charlotte-Rose de la Force, which added so much more to the tale.

For your current novel you’ve been doing research in Europe. How important is research for you during the writing process?

Absolutely necessary. The research generates ideas and incidents in the story, and helps bring the characters and the setting to life.

Bitter Greens (Russian Cover)Since your first novel has been published, years have passed. How did your work as an author change since then and how did the phantastic genre change in your opinion since then?

It’s been over 15 years since my first novel was published and in that time I’ve been transformed from an impoverished university student to an award-winning and internationally bestselling novelist. I finished one degree (my Masters) and started another (my doctorate), and most importantly of all, I married and had three beautiful, joy-bringing children. My writing has definitely changed as I have grown older and learnt more of my craft, but that is natural.

The genre has changed too. Heroic fantasy was all the rage when I was first published; now paranormal romance rules. In time, other sub-genres will flourish too (please let it be fairytale retellings!)

Thank you!

Kates Website: here!

On her blog, Kate also talks about the history of the Rapunzel Fairytale. Check it out!

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