My guest today is award-winning Australian author, Kate Forsyth whose books include The Witches of Eileanan series, The Crown of Charms series, The Chronicles of Estelliana and many more. This 2-part interview coincides with the launch of Kate’s new book, The Wildkin’s Curse. Pan Macmillan ISBN 9780330426053
Thank you, Kate for coming over to chat on my blog. Congratulations on the launch of your new book. This is the second book in the Chronicles of Estelliana – the first was The Starthorn Tree. Tell us about The Wildkin’s Curse.
The Wildkin’s Curse is a fantasy adventure for young teenagers set in a world of magic and monsters and strange beasts. It’s the first pure fantasy I’ve written in a few years & I really enjoyed allowing my imagination to run riot again. It tells the story of two boys and a girl, whose people have been enemies for centuries, who must join together on a secret mission to rescue a princess from a crystal tower. Like The Starthorn Tree, I deliberately set out to use – and subvert – fairytale motifs like the maiden in the tower.
First published in 2002, The Starthorn Tree was your first book for children. Now, eight years later, like a polished piece of driftwood, has it ‘weathered well’ for you?
I re-read The Starthorn Tree for the first time in seven years when I was preparing to write The Wildkin’s Curse and I was amazed. I really loved it all over again. I wrote it when my second boy was just a baby, and I was really exhausted from being woken over and over again every night. My dreams and my daydreaming about the novel kept bleeding into each other, and so much of what happens in the book seems like an astonishing, vivid dream to me now.
Reading The Witches of Eileanan series was a milestone for me, Kate – it was the first time I have ever finished a fantasy series of six books (besides Harry P). The story was riveting. I was greedy for the next one in the series as soon as each one was over, and when I finished the last book, it was with a feeling of loss. But what astonished me was the skill needed to link each book and each character in a flowing, thrilling narrative, as you did.
How did you keep track of what every character was doing throughout the six separate stories? Especially as each of the characters were so complete.
Sheryl, thank you so much! I’m so pleased you loved the books so much – and so happy that the hard work that went into the plotting paid off. 🙂
It was a very complex story, and so I had a time chart with the main events down one side and the names of all my key characters along the top – so I was able to keep track of who was doing what when. I also plotted each story quite meticulously, trying to make sure all the plot lines converged at the climax. I really enjoy doing that kind of work, and have all sorts of diagrams and plot summaries to keep me on track.
To plan one book is hard enough, to write a series must require a massive amount of pre-planning and mind-mapping before you even start. How do you plan? With large sheets of butcher’s paper plastering your walls?
No, I always work in a notebook so I can carry it with me everywhere. I keep all my character sketches together, and my plot outlines, and my research, and so on – and then as I go, I write lists of things to do so I don’t forget anything. It does look like an awful mess but it means I can work in the park while my kids are kicking a ball around, or in the car as we drive on long holidays, or in my bed late at night.
I love your description of ‘day-dreaming the story to life’. Can you tell us about this process?
I like that expression too! What I mean is – you start with an idea, an image, a character, or a storyline.
The more you think about it, the more ideas begin to grow around it, like a piece of grit in an oyster growing into a pearl.
You wonder about your hero or heroine, and one day you see a stranger in the street and you think, ‘that’s what she would look like!’ You read an interesting article about homing pigeons, and think ‘I could use that!’
The more you think, the more vivid and alive your story becomes and the more urgent your need to tell it. When I start lying awake at night in a fever of ideas, I know I’m ready to start writing.
*****End of part 1*****
Part 2 will feature Kate’s views on the big ideas in fantasy, poetry, the importance of ‘place’ in writing stories and writerly sisters.
Tune in on the 5th May for the next instalment of ‘Turning Grit into Pearls’.