I’m so thrilled to have Kate Forsyth here today for Where Stories Are Made, where I take you behind the scenes into a writer’s writing space. Kate Forsyth is one of my favourite authors of historical fiction and I’m so looking forward to reading her new book, Beauty in Thorns. Over to Kate, to tell you all about the places where she dreams up her wonderful stories!
1. My stories are made …
I can write anywhere, but I have two favourite places.
The first is in bed, first thing in the morning, when I write in my diary. I record what I’ve been doing, eating, wearing, reading … whom I’ve met recently … and my dreams. Many of my best ideas come to me in dreams and so I like to scribble them down as soon as I can so I do not lose them. My diary also travels about with me so if a flash of inspiration comes I can write it down straightaway. I also write poetry longhand in my diary, when the mood takes me. I have kept a diary since I was 11, and so I have two whole shelves of them – about 60 volumes.
The other place is my study. It is painted pale green (the colour of creativity & inspiration), and is very warm and comfortable. Two walls are lined with books, and the other wall is covered with prints and paintings and artefacts that have some meaning to me. An ancient chateau key, discovered at the bottom of a well in a small village in France. An oil painting by my grandmother. A 19th century piece of embroidery. Some of my favourite book covers. Posters of artworks that have inspired me.
The fourth wall is a big window that looks out on to my garden, and across Sydney Harbour to the ocean. I love my garden and I find it a very peaceful and tranquil outlook. Whenever I get a little stuck, I go and wander through the garden and an idea will soon come to me.
2. My stance on notebooks is …
I buy a new notebook for each new book. If it’s a very big complex book like ‘Bitter Greens’ or ‘Beauty in Thorns’, I will end up needing two or three notebooks. I try and find something beautiful or meaningful to me, that gives me pleasure to work in. My actual scribblings are not beautiful, however – I draw diagrams in them, and jot down ideas and questions, and stick in maps and pictures in a rather higgledy-piggledy manner. It is a record of my creative process, as much as a place to keep all the information I need.
I also keep what I call an ‘Ideas Notebook’ in which I record ideas for other books that I might write one day. I get new ideas all the time, and so I write them all down in this one big notebook, so that when its time to write a new book I always have a fund of fresh ideas. Most of them will never be written, as I get far more ideas than I can write, but I like to keep them just in case I ever run dry.
3. I am … tidy or messy?
I like a clean desk, but if I am in the midst of a writing frenzy it gets messy very fast with piles of books and scraps of paper and glue and scissors and coloured highlighters everywhere. When I am finished that scene or section, however, everything is tidied away neatly and I begin the next scene with a clean and serene working space.
I am one of those obsessive-compulsive people when it comes to neatness and orderliness. My books are always put in genre and then in alphabetical order, for example. I like being able to put my hand on what I need right away.
4. I like … noise or silence?
I like silence, but I rarely get it! It’s not my kids, because I mainly write when they are at school (though sometimes during holidays and weekends I come out & beg them to turn the noise down). It’s my neighbours with their incessantly barking dog or high-pitched leaf blowers. If I’m desperate I put on noise-cancelling headphones. Once I’m in the zone, it doesn’t matter … it’s getting into the zone that noise really disturbs me.
I listen to music when I’m reading and researching, and when I’m trying to find the rhythm of the story, and when I’m editing. I listened to a lot of Beethoven when I was writing ‘The Wild Girl’ because his music is what my characters would have been listening to (the book is set in 19th century Germany). When I was writing ‘The Gypsy Crown’, I listened to a great deal of wild Romany music, and when I wrote ‘The Beast’s Garden’ I listened to 1940s jazz. It was wonderful.
5. On my desk, I must have …
There will be usually be a cup of tea, in a favourite fine bone china cup. My notebook. A pen or two. The usual sort of stuff. I also have three small quartz crystals that I roll in my hands when I am thinking. A friend gave them to me many years ago, saying that they would bring clarity, focus and inspiration. They certainly seem to.
I often have a jug of fresh herbs from the garden – usually rosemary and lavender – to make my room smell beautiful and to help keep me calm and unstressed. And I also have a small piece of smooth broken glass that I found at a very dark time of my life, many years ago. It looks like an angel wing. It reminds me that – no matter how dark things can seem – these times shall pass, and light return to your world.
7. I love my writing space because …
It’s a very beautiful and inspirational place that makes me happy to be there.
Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
Kate’s new book Beauty in Thorns is out now. Here’s some more info about the book:
A spellbinding reimagining of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ set amongst the wild bohemian circle of Pre-Raphaelite artists and poets.
The Pre-Raphaelites were determined to liberate art and love from the shackles of convention.
Ned Burne-Jones had never had a painting lesson and his family wanted him to be a parson. Only young Georgie Macdonald – the daughter of a Methodist minister – understood. She put aside her own dreams to support him, only to be confronted by many years of gossip and scandal.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti was smitten with his favourite model, Lizzie Siddal. She wanted to be an artist herself, but was seduced by the irresistible lure of laudanum.
William Morris fell head-over-heels for a ‘stunner’ from the slums, Janey Burden. Discovered by Ned, married to William, she embarked on a passionate affair with Gabriel that led inexorably to tragedy.
Margot Burne-Jones had become her father’s muse. He painted her as Briar Rose, the focus of his most renowned series of paintings, based on the fairy-tale that haunted him all his life. Yet Margot longed to be awakened to love.
Bringing to life the dramatic true story of love, obsession and heartbreak that lies behind the Victorian era’s most famous paintings, Beauty in Thorns is the story of awakenings of all kinds.
Thanks so much for being a part of Where Stories Are Made, Kate! I hope you all enjoyed the interview. Which part of Kate’s writing space did you like the best?