AWW Feature: Q&A with Kate Forsyth, author of The Wild Girl

Forsyth, Kate

Welcome Kate Forsyth

I am thrilled to introduce you to Australian author Kate Forsyth today. Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of more than twenty books, including The Witches of Eileanan and Rhiannon’s Ride series for adults, and The Puzzle Ring, The Gypsy Crown, and The Starthorn Tree for children. She has won or been nominated for numerous awards in Australia and the US.

Currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology, having already completed a BA in Literature and a MA in Creative Writing,  last year she published  Bitter Greens (Random House 2012)  an exquisite retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale, interwoven with the dramatic true life story of the woman who first told the tale and I was captivated by its effortless blend of history and fantasy.

Today I am delighted to be celebrating the release of Kate’s newest novel, The Wild Girl (Random House 2013), the story of Dortchen Wild and her relationship with the Grimm brothers, the authors of the Grimm’s Fairytale collection. The Wild Girl is a stunning tale of passion, love and war where history and imagination intertwine to create a wonderfully rich portrait of a woman whose contribution to legend is finally acknowledged.

You can read my review of  The Wild Girl , and have the chance to win a copy, HERE.  But first, Kate graciously agreed to answer some questions for me about The Wild Girl. Read on to learn more about this novel and how you can download an Ebook Sampler to enjoy.

Q: Please tell us about The Wild Girl

Kate: ‘The Wild Girl’ tells the beautiful untold love story of the forbidden romance between Wilhelm Grimm, the younger of the famous fairy tale scholars, and the young woman who told him many of their most compelling fairy tales. Her name was Dortchen Wild and she grew up next door to the Grimm brothers in the small German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel. It was a very bloody and turbulent time, with Napoleon conquering most of Europe, and Dortchen’s father was an autocratic man who disapproved of the impoverished Grimm brothers and forbade her from seeing Wilhelm. They met secretly so she could tell him such well-known stories as ‘Rumpelstiltskin’, ‘Six Swan’s, ‘Hansel & Gretel’, ‘The Frog King’, and ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’, (plus many more). She was only nineteen and he was twenty-six, yet it was a long time before they could at last be together. 

Q: Why did Dortchen Wild capture your imagination?

Kate: It was the irresistible combination of the beautiful and heart-wrenching love story, and the telling of the tales. I’ve always been both enchanted and frightened by fairy tales and I found it extraordinary that this one young woman had a head stuffed full of all these marvellous stories, and that she told them to Wilhelm so they could be saved forever. I felt a very strong connection to Dortchen right from the very beginning – her birthday is actually only a week before mine – and I found it very easy to imagine myself into her skin.

Q: What are the challenges in melding historical fact and fiction?

Kate: The first and most difficult challenge is finding the facts in the first place. Dortchen Wild is virtually forgotten by history. I had to create a lot of story out of my own imagination, using her own stories to guide me. Then there was the difficulty of portraying such well-loved figures of the Grimm brothers as fictional characters. I set the known facts as immovable pegs around which I wove my own intuitive interpretation of their lives. Finally, there’s the need to write a compelling, fascinating, unputdownable novel. I had to make sure the story wore the historical background lightly. I really dislike books where the author feels a need to show off their scholarship by weighing down the story with pages of details and facts. It has to be just enough to bring the past to life without slowing down the pace. It can be a delicate balancing act sometimes.

Q:What was the most surprising piece of information you uncovered in your research?

Two things, which actually strike off each other. Firstly, Jane Austen and the Grimm brothers were contemporaries of each other. Her first novel ‘Sense & Sensibility’ was published in 1811, and the first edition of the Grimm’s fairy tales was published in 1812. She was actually ten years OLDER than Jakob Grimm at this time.

Secondly, the last witch to be executed in Europe died only 3 years before Jakob was born, in 1782. That means Jane Austen was seven. The woman’s name was Anna Göldi and she was convicted of bewitching her employer’s daughter causing her to have fits.

Q: What was the highlight of your research trip to Germany?

Kate: I had a couple of magical moments, but the one that stands out for me the most is on my first day in Kassel (which used be spelt with a C).

I had had a extraordinarily vivid dream in which a young woman danced alone in a snowy forest, at twilight, dressed all in black. They sky was grey, the ground was white, ravens flew over, crying harshly. Above the forest was a castle, its windows lit up with light. People were dancing up there, their shadows twirling past the golden windows, and I could hear violin music spilling into the dusk. The girl in black was dancing wildly, laughing and crying both at once. Then a tall young man, also dressed all in black, stepped out of the shadowy forest and danced with her and the scene – so strange and wild – turned into a joyous one. I had used this dream as the opening and closing scenes of the novel and, indeed, it became the front cover image as well.

German girl playing violinAnyway, when I went to Kassel I went to the castle there and went walking through the parklands and forest around it, looking for a spot that seemed to chime with my dream which I remembered so vividly. I came to the woods below the forest and stood so that the castle was in the same spot as it was in my dream. I wondered to myself – if violin music was played in the castle, could you hear it from here? Just then – I swear to this with everything I hold true – I heard violin music. It was the spookiest, most eerie thing that has ever happened to me. At first I thought I must be imagining it. But no. A young woman stood just below the palace, playing a violin. She was about 19 years old, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, just like I imagined Dortchen would look, and she stood alone on the shore of the lake, just below the palace, playing her violin. Every hair on my body rose up, quivering. I could not believe it!

Kate took a photo of the child and shares it here at left

Q: Which is your favourite Grimm fairytale?

Kate: Can I please have three? ‘Six Swans’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘The Leaping, Lilting lark’, which is one of the tales Dortchen told Wilhelm. Its a very beautiful and romantic variant of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ with a much stronger and more active heroine.

Q. Name three of your favourite novels by Australian women writers

Angel of Ruin’ by Kim Willkins.

‘Daughter of the Forest’ by Juliet Marillier.

‘The Forgotten Garden’ by Kate Morton.

Q. What is your preference?

  • Coffee/Tea or other? Tea!
  • Beach/Pool or River? Beach.
  • Slacks/Jeans or Leggings? None of these. I mainly wear dresses 🙂
  • Butterfly/Tiger or Giraffe? Tiger.
  • Swing/Slide or Roundabout? Swing.

You can find out more about Kate Forsyth @

Website I Blog I Twitter I Facebook

The Wild Girl is available

@Random House Au I @Boomerang Books I @Booktopia I @Amazon Kindle

via Booko

You can download a free Esampler at Random House by clicking on the image below


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Melissa Wray
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 10:40:14

    This was perfect timing as I am going to listen to Kate speak tonight in Geelong!



  2. Angelya
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 12:05:13

    Great interview and very interesting insights 🙂 I love the violin story, what an amazing thing to have happen and perfect for your inspiration!



  3. Margaret Lynette Sharp
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 18:12:10

    An inspiring story. 🙂



  4. Trackback: Review & Giveaway: The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth | book'd out
  5. Ashley @ The Bibliophile's Corner
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 02:52:00

    Such a great interview! It makes me want to read The Wild Girl even more.



  6. Kate Belle
    Apr 08, 2013 @ 19:57:23

    Im coming in late. I got goosebumps reading about that dream. How awe inspiring. What a wonderful, synchronous experience.



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