Q & A with Kate Forsyth

Q & A with Kate Forsyth
Authors at the National Library
13 June 2017

Named ‘one of the finest writers of this generation’, Kate Forsyth’s new novel Beauty in Thorns tells the story of love, desire, obsession and tragedy that underlies the creation of this famous depiction of Sleeping Beauty.

Before Kate joins us for Author Talk on the 20th of July,  she took the time to provide insight behind writing Beauty in the Thorns. 

Why do you write?

Because I must. It’s a compulsion I hardly understand myself. I’ve been writing ever since I could first hold a pencil, and always knew I had to be a writer. Perhaps it’s in my blood (I come from a long line of writers, including my great-great-great-grandmother who wrote the first children’s book in Australia). Perhaps it’s because I love reading so much, and writing is a way of weaving that magic for myself. All I know is I cannot imagine NOT writing.


What are you reading right now?

Fiction: Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland, set in Occupied France

Non-Fiction: Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland, a meditation on forests and fairy-tales


What three titles should always be on the shelves of any self-respecting bookshop?

Apart from my own books? I would say Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Color Purple by Alice Walker.


What was the hardest part of writing Beauty in Thorns?

Sustaining narrative tension in a story that stretches over almost fifty years, from the 1850s to the end of the century.


What was the best part of writing Beauty in Thorns?

Spending so much time studying the glorious art of the Pre-Raphaelites.


What was it that prompted you to write a novel about the Pre-Raphaelites?

When I was nineteen years old, and a desperately poor university student, I saw a poster of Dante Gabriel Rossettis’ painting, ‘Proserpina’, in a gallery window. I feel in love with it at once, and spent my rent money buying it. I stuck it up on the wall of my student digs, and it was the first and last thing I saw every day. It seemed so beautiful, so mysterious, so sad. I bought a biography of Rossetti, which led me to discover the poetry of his sister Christina, which just mesmerised me. That was it. I was hooked. I’ve been fascinated by the Pre-Raphaelites ever since.

What do you love about libraries?

When I was a shy bookish child, libraries were my favourite place in the world. So many books waiting for me to read them! And non-one there ever mocked me for always having my nose in a book. It was my happy place.