Interview: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love. 

Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

I am thrilled to be able to offer a copy of this novel in a giveaway which will be happening all week (see the giveaway post to enter for a chance to win). Forsyth also agreed to an interview with me as part of the release of this magical novel. So without further ado please welcome Kate Forsyth to The Lit Bitch!

The Lit Bitch: Of the three main female characters in the book, which was your favorite or which did you relate to most and why?

Kate: I think I have to say Charlotte-Rose, as her life was such an astonishing discovery for me to make and helped make the book so unexpected and surprising. She just ran away with the story!

The story of Margherita, the maiden in the tower,  was the easiest for me to write and the story of Selena, the witch, the hardest. Her narrative was just so dark and cruel in parts. 

The Lit Bitch: Did you have an idea or an outline for Bitter Greens before you started writing it? Did the direction change once you sat down to being working on it?

Kate: I don’t start writing a book until I have a clear shape and narrative arc for it – I like to be able to see it in my mind’s eye. I plan extensively, so that once I start writing I do so easily and fluidly, knowing exactly what I’m trying to do. However, the story always changes as you write it. You discover things you didn’t know and encounter problems that you didn’t anticipate. As you  travel along this journey of discovery, the early plans for the novel grow and change too – that’s half the fun of writing it!

The Lit Bitch: Are your heroines based on something you found missing in the fantasy/fairy tale genre?

Kate: That was never a concern for me. My characters are living people in my imagination – they are who they are, and I don’t try and force them into any kind of template or preconceived shape. You must remember that Charlotte-Rose de la Force  is a real person. She was born, she lived and loved and suffered, and she wrote in her own particular voice. It was my job to try and make myself a conduit for that living voice of hers. I was, of course, attracted to her life story because she was a brilliant, witty, and rather badly behaved woman who struggled against the strictures of her time. All she wanted was the freedom to write and love as she chose, and yet these simple dreams were almost impossible for her to achieve. I imagined myself bound by these heavy constraints and how I would have felt and how I would have acted … but only so that I could help make Charlotte-Rose seem like a real – and therefore flawed – person. 

The Lit Bitch:  I imagine your research was extensive based on the time period and setting. Can you discuss how that all came together for you. What sorts of research did you have to do?

Kate: The research was immense and took me a very long time. It was all utterly fascinating, however, and I enjoyed it all, even as I despaired that it was taking so long! Most research is reading with a purpose, and I love to read so this was never a problem for me. I also travelled to all the places  described in the book, such as Venice and Versailles. I also like to cook any meals described in the book, and so I tried my hand at making sausage and bean cassoulet and other Gascon delicacies. I also needed the help of a French translator so I could read as much of Charlotte-Rose de la Force’s own writing as possible – much of it had never been translated into English before. 

The Lit Bitch: Did you travel to many of the locations in the novels as part of your research, if so please discuss what that experience was like for you.

Kate: Well, it was wonderful! I packed up my three children and we spent weeks in France and Italy, going to all the places described in the book. One highlight was going to Gascony, where Charlotte-Rose grew up. We were given a private tour of the Chateau de Cazaneuve by one of her family’s descendants, the Comte de Sabran-Ponteves. I got to see Charlotte-Rose’s pram and her bedroom and her baptismal records. It was utterly thrilling. 

The Lit Bitch: If you could have one magical power what would it be and why?

Kate: I would fly!

The Lit Bitch: Who is your all time literary crush, author or character?

Kate: I’m rather keen on the Bronte sisters!

The Lit Bitch: You have written other fantasy novels about witches etc, do you prefer a stand alone novel such as Bitter Greens or do you prefer a series? In what ways are each limiting or liberating for you as a writer?

Kate: I have written many different kinds of books, from picture books for very young children through to big, complex, historical novels like BITTER GREENS. Some of my books are written as part of a larger, over-arching series, some are stand-alones that together link into a series, and others are purely stand-alones. Each has a different kind of challenge. To write a series of books is probably the most difficult, because each book needs to stand on its own strength as well as link into a larger, over-arching narrative arc. I enjoy the challenge though!

The Lit Bitch: In what ways does the use of witchcraft in your stories help strengthen your stories and in what ways is it limiting?

Kate: Well, it depends on the book! In BITTER GREENS, I was writing a historical novel, not a fantasy, and so the magic in the book could only ever be what people in that period of time would have believed was possible. I did a great deal of research into the understanding of magic in Renaissance Venice, to try and get it right. It was utterly fascinating to read the transcripts of witch trials of the time, and then to try and bring those amazing beliefs and superstitions to life on the page. It did cause me some problems, however. For example, if I could not explain the maiden’s impossibly long hair through the use of magic, how could I explain it? It took me a while to come up with a plausible explanation!

In other books of mine, such as THE WITCHES OF EILEANAN, where magic is real in that world, its always a matter of understanding the laws and limitations of the magic, and the consequences of using it. There is always a cost! 

The Lit Bitch: What are you working on next?

Kate: I’m now writing a retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ version of ‘Beauty & the Beast’, set in Nazi Berlin. 

***Side note……I am totally salivating at the thought of a Beauty and the Beast re-telling by Kate…..PLEASE HURRY***

About the Author

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally bestselling & award-winning author of thirty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both adults and children. She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite 20 Novelists, and has been called ‘one of the finest writers of this generation. She is also an accredited master storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers, and has told stories to both children and adults all over the world.

Her most recent book for adults is a historical novel called ‘The Wild Girl’, which tells the true, untold love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, ‘The Wild Girl’ is a story of love, war, heartbreak, and the redemptive power of storytelling, and was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013.

She is probably most famous for ‘Bitter Greens’, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale interwoven with the dramatic life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. ‘Bitter Greens’ has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’, and has been nominated for a Norma K. Hemming Award, the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Fiction, and a Ditmar Award.

Her most recent book for children is ‘Grumpy Grandpa’, a charming picture book that shows people are not always what they seem.

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, and many thousands of books.

For more information please visit Kate Forsyth’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Bitter Greens Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 15
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, September 16
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Review & Giveaway at Bookish

Wednesday, September 17
Review & Giveaway at Literary, etc
Review & Giveaway at Book Drunkard

Thursday, September 18
Review & Giveaway at Build a Bookshelf
Review & Giveaway at The Eclectic Reader

Friday, September 19
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Review & Giveaway at Icey Books

Monday, September 22
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at A Dream Within a Dream
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, September 23
Review at Book Dilettante
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at SurLaLune

Wednesday, September 24
Review at Caroline Wilson Writes
Review, Interview, and Giveaway at Ink Gypsy
Review, Interview, and Giveaway at The Lit Bitch

Thursday, September 25
Review & Giveaway at No BS Book Reviews
Interview & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter

Friday, September 26
Review at The Gilmore Guide to Books
Review at Must Read Faster

Monday, September 29
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at Bookworm Blues

Tuesday, September 30
Review at The Life & Times of a Book Addict
Review & Excerpt at Books-n-Kisses
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, October 1
Review at One Book at a Time
Review at Book-alicious Mama
Review & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, October 2
Interview at Layered Pages
Review & Giveaway at Oh Magic Hour

Friday, October 3
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Review & Giveaway at Gone Pecan

Sunday, October 5
Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, October 6
Review at Book Babe
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Interview, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Harlequin Junkie

Tuesday, October 7
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review & Giveaway at The Pretty Good Gatsby

Wednesday, October 8
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Review & Giveaway at My Friends Are Fiction

Thursday, October 9
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Friday, October 10
Review at Mel’s Shelves
Review & Giveaway at No More Grumpy Bookseller
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Monday, October 13
Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Layers of Thought

Tuesday, October 14
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews

Wednesday, October 15
Review at Crossroad Review
Review at My Tangled Skeins Book Reviews

Thursday, October 16
Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, October 17
Review at Mary Gramlich
Review at She Reads Novels

Monday, October 20
Interview & Giveaway at The Reading Frenzy

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