Friday, 11 March 2011

Interview - Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth's latest book The Wildkin’s Curse, is a tale of high adventure and true love for readers aged 12+. It is the sequel to her award-winning novel The Starthorn Tree.

What authors/books did you read as a child? When did you first discover your love of books?

I could read before I went to school, and was already devouring books as fast as I could get my greedy little hands on them. I remember loving my first day of school because - as all the other kids began to be taught the alphabet - I got to curl up on a beanbag and read my way through the class library. They had to bring in another box for me, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh I love school! I get to read all day.’ Books have always been a source of enchantment and wonder to me. I spent a lot of time in hospital as a child, and books were my only escape from the pain and fever and loneliness. By the time I left primary school I had read every book in the library, and my local council library had issued me with special permission to read the books in the adult section as I’d read everything in the children’s!

When did you first realise you were a writer?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a desperate longing to be a writer. It was my one ambition, all of my life, and at every crossroads I’ve always taken the road that would lead me towards that dream. It’s not always been easy, particularly when I was young and poor, but I feel justly rewarded now that I’m an established writer with a body of award-winning and internationally published work. I feel I’m living the life I always dreamed of, and that’s a joy all in itself.

What do you hope your readers will take away with them from reading your books?

I have such high ambitions of every book I write! I want my readers to be totally absorbed in the world I’ve created, as if they have stepped through a magical door into another land. I want them to laugh and gasp and cry and shiver. I want them to finish reading my book with that sting of tears in their eyes, that lump in the throat, that means they have been truly moved. I want them to look up from the book and see our own world with a clearer, brighter gaze, with a new sense of astonishment and awe. I want them to feel as if the boundaries of the known universe have been pushed out, and their own sense of the possible enlarged. I want them to think about my book in the days and weeks and years that follow, and go back to it and read it again with the feeling of meeting an old and trusted friend. I want them to push a copy into the hands of everyone they meet and say, ‘you must read this! It’s wonderful!’ I want them to treasure my book, and give it to their own children and grandchildren, and forever after list it as one of their all-time favourite books. I want them to divide the world into people who love it, and so are clearly kindred spirits, and people who don’t, who are obviously lacking some kind of magic in their soul. Sigh! Wouldn’t all that be heavenly?

Do you find it difficult to read purely for pleasure? Does everything you read come under your ‘writer’ microscope?

No, I read for pleasure all the time. It’s one of the great sources of joy in my life. I do find that my reading is shaped and affected by what I’m writing – for example, when I was working on The Gypsy Crown I was utterly obsessed with the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell and the history and culture of the Romanys, and so I found it very hard to read anything outside that area of interest. As soon as I finish writing a book, I start catching up on all the books I wasn’t able to read during the writing process. I’ll have books stockpiled, sometimes for years, waiting for me to read without any underlying purpose. I always read with a critical eye – a sign of a good book to me is one that works so beautifully that I relax into it and just enjoy it.

Name five authors or books that have influenced or inspired your own writing in some way?

Only five? There are so many wonderful writers! A few favourites from different stages of my reading life:

C.S. Lewis and the Narnia books – these books were among the first I ever read all on my own and the very word ‘Narnia’ has the power to make me shiver with delight.
Enid Blyton and the Famous Five – how I longed for adventure when I was a child! I still wish I lived in a house with a secret passage, that led somewhere mysterious and exciting.

The Bronte sisters - I loved the whole story of the girls sitting and scribbling by candlelight and creating these astonishing books and poems. I like to re-read their books every few years.
Tad Williams and his fantasy series Memory, Sorrow & Thorn – I had not read any fantasy since I was a child and these books led me back to tales of magic and adventure and danger, which encouraged me to write my own fantasy, Dragonclaw, which was my first published book.
Tracey Chevalier – she is one of my absolute favourite writers. I love the perfect balance of plot, character and place, and I love the way she brings history to life.

What makes a book ‘too good to put down’?

A fascinating plot full of suspense and surprise, compelling writing, characters that you really care about, a world that has been so beautifully crafted it feels real. Easy!

What makes you put down a book without finishing it?

A boring plot, bland writing, flat characters, a beige setting.

What was your 2010 ‘best read’? What was it that made it number one?

The best book of 2010 for me was The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It was absolutely stupendous. The only reason he’s not on my list of Top 10 favourite Writers of all time is that I haven’t yet read any of his other books yet. I’ve bought them and I plan to read them just as soon as I can. Other stand-outs for me, in adult fiction, were The Distant Hours by Kate Morton and The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon. Best crime novel was Heartstone by C.J. Sansom, and The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley. Best children’s book was absolutely Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish, though I also enjoyed A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elisabeth C. Bunce.

What do you think of the non-traditional publishing methods – eBooks etc? Do you think the new technology will encourage more people to read? Do you think there’s a future for print books?

I think e-books are a wonderful innovation that will open up reading to many people who might otherwise find books heavy, inconvenient, expensive, or just too daunting. There’s no doubt it will change the way many people read – but so too did the printing press. I think books published in the traditional way will become collector’s items, sought out because of their beauty and rarity. I think signed books will become a lot more valuable, and that publishers will begin to do limited editions of certain books remarkable for their packaging and presentation. In other words, start collecting first edition, signed copies of books now!

Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of more than twenty books for children and adults, including The Puzzle Ring, The Gypsy Crown, The Starthorn Tree, and the bestselling fantasy series The Witches of Eileanan and Rhiannon’s Ride. In 2007, Kate became the first author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year when Books 2-6 in the Chain of Charms series were jointly awarded the 2007 Aurealis Award for Children’s Fiction. Her books have been published in 13 countries around the world. You can read more about her at


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