By Angharad Lodwick
Where do I even begin? Is it two and a half years ago when I got a copy of Bitter Greens as a Christmas present from my aunt? Is it several weeks ago when I read Dragonclaw as the book for the feminist fantasy book club I’m part of? Or was it just the other evening when I arrived, face flushed from the cold Canberra night, at the National Library of Australia to see Kate Forsyth speak?
Most author talks have a standard format: the author and the interviewer, seated either side of a coffee table, who engage in an hour or so of Q&A. I was bang on time, but when I sat down I thought maybe I was early. There were no chairs, no water jugs—just a projector screen with Kate Forsyth emblazoned across it. Shortly after I arrived, Kate Forsyth was introduced and it was clear that this was not going to be like most author talks.
It was just Kate Forsyth by herself, no interviewer, no questions. Instead this was something much more intimate. Armed with her detailed presentation and her distinctive storyteller’s voice, Kate took the audience on two intertwining journeys. Words can’t quite capture the energy and finesse Kate brought to the evening, but I’ll do my best here and you can listen to the talk yourself on the National Library’s podcast.
The first journey was about how Kate became an author. After being savaged by a dog as a child, which resulted in terrible injuries, a coma and years in and out of hospitals, Kate found “sunshine and solace” in books. One particular book that inspired Kate was the copy of Grimms Fairy Tales given to her by her mother—stories that have inspired her passion for and success in writing to this day.
At the age of 11, Kate was the youngest Australian to receive an artificial tear duct, and her tears caused her many health issues following her injuries as a child. The story of Rapunzel, whose tears healed her prince blinded by thorns, gave Kate hope about her own tears which made her so sick. The story of Sleeping Beauty resonated with young Kate as well, who also felt locked away in a hospital bed against her will.
After years of writing and hoping, eventually at her husband-to-be’s suggestion Kate decided to set herself a goal—to have a novel published by the age of 30. Five years later she signed international contracts for her fantasy novel Dragonclaw at just 2 days before her 30th birthday.
However, her passion for fairy tale retellings never faded. Kate told us about how this lifelong affinity led her to a PhD scholarship on Rapunzel retellings, and to write her novels Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl.
She also shared a wonderful story about how she found the print of a pre-Raphaelite painting depicting Persephone, the daughter of a Greek goddess, in a shop window. The print cost her $12, all the money she had not just in her wallet, but the world. She simply had to have it. Kate gave us a fascinating background on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The story, as she said, had everything: mythology, love, heartbreak, betrayal and death. She walked us through the lives of members of the society, and the women who were their models and muses.
However, there was one story that she only gave us the briefest snippet of. An artist who, like Kate, was obsessed with the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. This is the story of her newest book, Beauty in Thorns.
Kate drew her talk to a close with a perfect circle to the absolute delight of the applauding audience. However, the wonderful night didn’t end there. We all filed upstairs to have a glass of wine, some nibbles, buy copies of Kate’s books and, of course, get our books signed.
Other members from our feminist fantasy book club had come along, and we had a great time at the end of the line chatting to each other. When we arrived at the author’s table, Kate was all smiles and kindly took a photo together with the entire book club—all of us holding her books.
I was last in line and Kate signed three books for me. One for my aunt, who gave me my first ever Kate Forsyth book. One for my friend, who is going to be Kate Forsyth’s biggest fan—she just doesn’t know it yet. Then, of course, one for myself.
Whenever I get a book signed, there’s always a secret hope that one day an author will like my traditional Welsh name so much they’ll name a character after me. As I stepped out into the cold Canberra night, Kate Forsyth’s books in my arms and her kind words still in my ears, I thought maybe, just maybe, this time I’ll be in luck.
Angharad Lodwick has been book blogging in Canberra for the past two years at Tinted Edges where she waxes lyrical about every single book she reads. Angharad runs a book-themed podcast called Lost the Plot and has been published in a number of online journals such as Feminartsy.
Angharad has a lot to say, and enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction pieces. She is a very familiar face at National Library of Australia author events and liveblogs them before lining up to get her books signed.
Angharad loves to get out and about in the Canberra community to chat to people about various book-related things like street libraries, the Lifeline Book Fair, book shops and book clubs. Her family also runs a book charity called Books for the World. Angharad recently upcycled books for an art project with Blemish Books at Noted Writers Festival 2017.
Author Talk with Kate Forsyth
20 July 2017, National Library of Australia
Angharad is participating in the 2017 ACT Lit-Bloggers of the Future program, which is an initiative of the ACT Writers Centre in collaboration with the National Library of Australia. Participants are mentored by Sue Terry of Whispering Gums.