When you were writing Bitter Greens, did the whole story come together at once, or did you write the stories of Margherita and Charlotte-Rose separately?
BITTER GREENS is told in three separate narrative threads and I wrote each one separately. The story told from Charlotte-Rose de la Force's point of view was written first - from beginning to end - with breaks at the points I thought the other narratives would be inserted. Then I wrote Margherita's narrative, from beginning to end, inserting it into the breaks as I went. I then wrote the third section, the narrative told from the point of view of Selena, a Venetian courtesan and witch. My initial plan was to entwine all three narratives like a braid, but when I began to do this it became clear to me it wouldn't work - it made Selena's story too jerky and dissipated the power of its impact, plus it weakened the other sections too. So I changed my plan, and inserted Selena's section as one piece in the middle of the book. I thought of it as the dark heart of the novel. Charlotte-Rose and Margherita's stories weave into her story, and then out of it again, but everything is changed by the revelations we get in Selena's sections.
The "interludes" throughout the novel, how were they selected? I love the way they sort of "lead in" to the story.
I was reading a lot of poems inspired by the Rapunzel fairy tale while I was writing the book and some of them seemed so beautiful and extraordinary that I wanted to share them. They also seemed to add another dimension to a book that is essentially about the power of telling, and retelling, stories.
What was your favorite aspect of the background research for the writing of Bitter Greens? (Personally, I'm jealous of time spent in Italy).
The research trip was very special, I must admit. My three children and I stayed in Paris, and visited Versailles, and then flew to Italy for a fortnight in Venice, the Italian lakes, and Florence Then we had another week in the south of France. It was absolutely wonderful, and helped make the book so much more vivid and alive. I loved all aspects of the research, though. It was all so fascinating and I learnt so much.
Do you see yourself approaching other fairy tales for future projects?
Oh yes. I've written another book called THE WILD GIRL about Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told the Grimm brothers many of their most compelling and famous stories. I've woven the tales she told - stories like "Hansel and Gretel" and "Six Swans" - into the narrative. Then I'm planning to retell another of her stories - a Beauty an the Beast variant called "The Lilting, Leaping lark' - as a novel set in Nazi Germany.
What is your absolute favorite fairy tale? (I know, tough question, hehe)
I love so many, but 'Rapunzel' always haunted me - partly because of all the mysteries in the tale.
When you read, what is your favorite snack and/or drink?
A cup of tea during the day, a glass of fine red wine at night.
What is your number one go-to "comfort book"? "Comfort movie"?Whenever I'm sick or exhausted, I'll read something by Georgette Heyer. She never fails to lift my spirits.
Thanks so much for letting me pick your brain, Kate! After the wonderful reading journey of Bitter Greens I am definitely looking forward to The Wild Girl and the Beauty & the Beast novel as well (that's one of my particular favorites!).
More information about Kate:
Kate Forsyth is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 books for adults and children, translated into 13 languages. She was recently named in the Top 25 of Australia's Favourite Novelists. Since The Witches of Eileanan was named a Best First Novel by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for many 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 Gypsy Crown series of children's historical novels. Kate’s latest novel, Bitter Greens, interweaves a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale with the scandalous life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force. It has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’ and ‘an imaginative weaving of magic, fairy tale and history’. A direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, Kate is currently studying a doctorate in fairy tales at the University of Technology in Sydney, where she lives by the sea, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.
Please visit Kate Forsyth's WEBSITE and BLOG for more information. You can also find her on FACEBOOK and follow her on TWITTER.
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