Interview: Kate Forsyth

As part of the Discover Aussie Fantasy feature this month, I’m very pleased to welcome Aussie author Kate Forsyth to the Bookcase today! Kate’s historical work The Wild Girl is due for release in the UK on July 29 – make sure you get your pre-orders in for this beautiful story about the Brothers Grimm and the family who lived next door.

The Wild Girl
Aussie cover
The Wild Girl UK cover
UK cover

Welcome, Kate! Firstly let me just say that I read both Bitter Greens (my review) and The Wild Girl (my review) earlier this year and loved both of them! I have a few questions about The Wild Girl for you:

The Wild Girl is written from the point of view of Wilhelm Grimm’s wife, Dortchen, of which very little was recorded. How much real information did you find out about the real Dortchen, and how much about her character were you able to create?

The lives of the Grimm brothers has been extraordinarily well-documented – they both wrote so many letters and diaries and lectures and essays and books and reminiscences. There was very little documentation for the life of Dortchen Wild, however. Only a couple of letters, and a memoir she dictated to her daughter on her death-bed which is only a page long. I knew, from Grimm biographies, that Dortchen had grown up next door to the Grimm family and had been best friends with the only girl in the family, Lotte Grimm. I knew that Dortchen had had a girlish crush on Wilhelm from one of her few letters, and I knew – from painstaking research into the oral origins of the Grimm Brothers’ tales – that she had told Wilhelm almost a quarter of all the tales in the first edition of Kinder-und Hausmarchen, published in 1812. Otherwise, all I had were the dates of her birth, her marriage to Wilhelm, and her eventual death.

So I had to look to the stories that she told for a clue to her inner life. I researched into all of her tales, found out when and where she told them as much as I could (luckily Wilhelm kept very good records), and then I constructed a timeline for her. I was then able to weave a narrative around that timeline, looking all the time for the emotional truth revealed by the tales she told. I took some imaginative liberties. For example, we know that Aschenputtel, the German version of the Cinderella tale we know so well, was told by an old woman in a poorhouse in Marburg. We know someone wrote it down and sent it to Wilhelm – since that someone is lost to history, I had it be Dortchen, which meant that I got to describe a scene in the dramatic, heart-rending setting of a 19th century poorhouse. I knew her father had been religious and very strict. I looked at Dortchen’s stories and found many of them to be about a young woman’s struggle for self-determination – and so I built a story around the conflict between her duty to her father and her desire to be free of him. It is all creative imagination, because I had so little to work with, and yet I did my best to be true to the known facts and to the nature of the times.

Your characters in both The Wild Girl and Bitter Greens use herbal remedies throughout the stories for various treatments and spells. Where did your herbalism inspiration come from?
Well, I have always loved gardens and I’ve always been interested in the healing power of herbs – its a thread that runs through nearly all of my books. My own garden is a great source of pleasure to me, and I grow many herbs for cooking, and for natural remedies. One of the few things I knew about Dortchen Wild was that she was the daughter of an apothecary, and that her father had a famous garden outside the city walls of Kassel in which he grew many plants for medicinal uses. This appealed to me, and it seemed natural to me to make Dortchen a girl who loved the green places like I had always done. It was really interesting researching 19th century apothecaries, and beliefs of the time about flowers and plants and cooking and healing.

You’ve been doing a lot of travel for your recent historical works. Can you tell us about one or two of your favourite places you’ve visited so far?
I have to say the research trip for BITTER GREENS was the trip of a lifetime. My children and I went to Paris and the south of France, and to Venice and the Italian lakes – it was utterly magical and wonderful. We were away for a month – my children are used to travelling with me for research and so we have a good routine. They go with me to churches and museums and castles and palaces, and then they read or play cards at night while I write; and in return they get to do amazing things like go to Disneyland in Paris, or do a midnight ghost tour in Venice.

In the past, my children have gone with me to Scotland for The Puzzle Ring, all around London and southern England for The Gypsy Crown, and to Fiji for a tour and writing retreat I did there – they’re lucky kids!

I left them at home for the Wild Girl research trip, though. I was travelling the fairy tale road in Germany, which they were a bit old for now, plus they had school and sport commitments that made it hard to take them on the road for a month. I left them at home with Dad, and I travelled alone, researching and writing at high intensity. It was amazing, but a little bit lonely. I missed my family!

Can you share with us what you’re working on next? (if it’s a secret then that’s ok!)
I’m now writing a 5-book fantasy adventure series for children aged 9-12, which will come out late 2014 and early 2015, and then I plan another historical fairy-tale retelling for adults. I aim to retell one of Dortchen’s most beautiful and powerful stories, a Beauty and the Beast variant called ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’. It’ll be set during the Nazi era in Berlin, Germany, and I can hardly wait!

Thanks so much for your answers, and best of luck with your current projects!

The Wild GirlThe Wild Girl (Goodreads) (read my review!)
Author: flag_aus Kate Forsyth (website)

Dortchen Wild fell in love with Wilhelm Grimm the first time she saw him.

Growing up in the small German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in early Nineteenth century, Dortchen Wild is irresistibly drawn to the boy next door, the young and handsome fairy tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm. 

It is a time of War, tyranny and terror. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Forced to live under oppressive French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.

Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories, such as ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Frog King’ and ‘Six Swans’. As she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen’s father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream.

Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales.


Series: Stand-alone
Genre: Historical romance, with fairy tales
Published: Vintage Australia (Random House), March 18, 2013. In the UK, Allison & Busby, 29 July 2013.
Pages: 530

Paper copies:  Book Depository (pre-order) • Booktopia • Bookworld
E-copies:   Bookworld (epub)

About the Author

Kate ForsythKate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the award-winning & internationally bestselling author of more than 20 books for both adults and children.

Her books for adults include ‘The Wild Girl’, the love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales, ‘Bitter Greens’, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale, and the bestselling fantasy series ‘Witches of Eileanan’. Her books for children include ‘The Gypsy Crown’, ‘The Puzzle Ring’, and ‘The Starkin Crown’

Kate is currently studying a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology, Sydney

Review and Interview: Destiny of the Light, Louise Cusack

This review is part of the Discover Australian Fantasy feature, running all July on The Oaken Bookcase. Please visit the Aussie Fantasy page to see the other reviews and articles and also to enter the giveaway (which includes a copy of this book)!

Louise Cusack very kindly answered a few interview questions for me – you can find them further down in this post. But first, my review.

Title: Destiny of the Light (Goodreads)

Author:  Louise Cusack (@Louise_Cusack)

Rating: ★★★★★

Ennae is a parallel world joined to our own world by the Sacred Pool, a portal that can only be opened by one with the Guardian blood running through their veins. It is through this watery gateway that Khatrene leaves her modern-day life behind forever, drawn into a quest that will take her into the depths of the unknown. Khatrene must fulfil her destiny as The Light, the woman whose child will unite the four elemental worlds. 

At each turn are real and imagined enemies who will do everything in their power to prevent her from fulfilling the prophecy, including the ethereal and erotic shadow woman, the enigmatic tattooed man, even her beloved brother Mihale. Talis, her appointed Guardian, must help her through the dangerous terrain of Ennae, sacrificing everything to ensure her safety in a land where magic prevails and nothing is as it seems.


Series: Shadow Through Time #1 of 3
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Published: Momentum, February 2012 (First published Simon & Schuster, 2001)
My copy: E-book copy won from Momentum in a giveaway, thanks!

Paper copies:
E-copies: • • Momentum Books


Ennae is a world poised for catastrophe – the northmen gather for war, the people of the plains have all but been wiped out by royal decree and the rest of the inhabitants wait for the coming of The Light – a prophecy foretelling the reunion of the four worlds and salvation from the creature of the Fire Realm. When Catherine (or Khatrene) falls into Ennae she unwittingly drops right into the centre of this coming storm and must make sense of this new world and its inhabitants.

I loved everything about Destiny of the Light. The sepia world of Ennae didn’t seem like a very beautiful world to imagine, yet its inhabitants were amazingly detailed and diverse. Louise Cusack has told this story in a beautiful and compelling way – it had me hooked from the opening chapters and wouldn’t let me put my kindle down!

The scale of the political intrigue and interwoven stories in this book reminded me a little of A Game of Thrones – there are plenty of characters to keep track of and it’s never clear who is allied with whom. The point of view shifts around throughout the story so we do get an idea of the motivations of most of the characters. This was the only slight downside I found with Destiny of the Light – I’m not such a fan of constant POV-switching.

The main characters were brilliant and very easy to relate to – especially the leading ladies, Khatrene and Lae. I thought Khatrene was at times a little too trusting, especially since she’d just come from our modern world and had no memories of Ennae. I expected her to freak out a little more, especially after reuniting with her brother. The character of Lae was gorgeous – I loved her mischievous banter with Pagan.

The leading men are also really well-written – Talis was almost painfully honourable and I wished he would stop blaming himself for everything. The romance between him and Khatrene is delicious. Pagan is another gorgeous character and I’m sure plenty of readers love his roguish attitude. The Dark is one scary dude, and that’s all I’ll say about him.

The pacing is just right – I was drawn onwards after the end of each chapter and the story builds up towards an apocalyptic climax which makes me really want to pick up the next in the series, Daughter of the Dark, right away.

If you love your fantasy to be slightly gritty but with plenty of swoony romance, Destiny of the Light is for you!

Warnings: Sex scenes, torture and violence.

Shadow Through Time Series

About the Author and Interview

Louise Cusack is an Australian award winning author whose best-selling “Shadow through Time” fantasy trilogy with Simon & Schuster was selected by the Doubleday Book Club as their ‘Editors Choice’.

As well as writing novels, Louise has been a Writer in Residence at the Queensland Writers Centre and has tutored hundreds of writing workshops at the QWC, the NSW Writers Centre, and libraries and schools in Brisbane and regional Queensland.
In 2006 she presented the Queensland Government’s Queensland Writing Showcase to top  New York speculative fiction agents and publishers at the very swanky 21 Club!

Louise is currently writing two fantasy novels while on leave from a Research Masters in Speculative Fiction at QUT.  She ran away from home to a gorgeous seaside village at the southern tip of the Great Barrier reef where she eats delicious local produce (the strawberries are divine!), listens to the ocean and writes up a storm.  Literally!

Louise Cusack very kindly answered a few questions for me and I’m delighted to include the answers here!

Q: Can you share with us what you’re currently working on? (if it’s a secret then that’s okay!) 

A: I’ve just handed in the first novel of a YA fantasy series that has a world based on Florence during the time of the Italian Renaissance. A young Australian Engineering graduate is pulled into this world and falls in love with an ambassador who is about to be given to the Medici prince in an arranged marriage.  She must marry the prince or her people will starve, and the prince must marry her if he’s to have any hope of overthrowing his ruthless father.  It’s a book about what happens when love and duty conflict, and I adored the setting.  I had a trip to Rome and Florence two years ago to research it and many of the tiny details of those cities have turned up in the fantasy world of Stella Mondo.

Q: What does your writing workspace look like?

A: I have a desk that overlooks the beautiful Coral Sea near the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef.  It’s very inspiring. Around my computer is a delightful muddle that suits me perfectly. Greeting cards I don’t want to toss out and am using as a coaster for my coffee (I drink lots of coffee), hand cream to rub in while I’m gazing out the window thinking, ten different pens, notepads, my camera, my phone, my personal diary and also a calendar of the upcoming month’s activities.  My printer is also on this desk and it’s usually spilling out things I’ve printed and not filed yet!

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers of Fantasy?

A: Write a lot.  Every day.  And write what your imagination dictates, not what you think will sell.  My best work has come from writing ‘seat of the pants’ having no clue what was coming next.  It’s an exhilarating way to write and it takes faith.  Trust in your own unique ‘voice’ and let it seep into your work, influencing the type of characters you write about, the conflicts they find themselves in, the settings they traverse, the emotions they experience.  Every writer has a different story to tell, and you need to be true to your own.  None of us know which of our stories will resonate with a multitude and become mega-bestsellers. All we can do is write what we love and hope others will too.

Don’t forget to enter the Aussie Fantasy Giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Destiny of the Light!


An Interview with Jay Kristoff

This post is part of the Discover Australian Fantasy feature, running all July on The Oaken Bookcase. Please visit the Aussie Fantasy page to see all the reviews and articles for the feature and to enter the giveaway!

Jay Kristoff (not his evil twin)

As you may have gathered from yesterday’s guest Five for Friday, Stormdancer is the highly anticipated debut from Jay Kristoff, releasing worldwide during September. Jay was kind enough to answer a few questions for me and today I’m delighted to share the answers with you! There’s more information on the book itself further down in the post.

Q: So, Stormdancer is just about to be released and it must feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is finally daylight rather than an oncoming train. How long since you finished writing the book was it actually accepted for publication?

A: It felt like years at the time, but honestly it all happened pretty quickly. I finished writing STORMDANCER in August 2010, I picked my agent by November (I was really lucky and had multiple offers of representation, which made a real nice change after years of being kicked in the baby-maker by boiler-plate rejection letters) and we had our first deal on the table by December.

Things went a little mad after the first offer came in though, and the book ended up going to auction. It took most of January for the auction to finish, so the deal wasn’t finalised until Australia Day, 2011. Lucky it was a public holiday – my hangover was killer.

I wrote a blog post about how the auction went down. Crazy stuff.

Q: It seems like a lot of the social media promotion for Stormdancer is being directed at the US and UK markets at the moment. Are you or will you be doing much publicity around Australia? Are there any plans to head overseas for the other launches?

A: Yup, we’re going to be doing a bunch of stuff closer to launch. We’ve got an Aussie giveaway on Goodreads in July (ed: it’s on right now!), I’ll be doing my first ever signing at Manifest in Melbourne at the end of August (terrifying). I’ll be doing a bunch of press too – my Aussie publicist is actually a bit of a gun, and everyone will be frackin’ sick of me by the time the book actually hits.

By the by, my book launch will be at Dymocks in Melbourne city on the 7th of September, and it’d be awesome if someone other than my mum showed up. She doesn’t even read fantasy. She wouldn’t know a griffin if one fell out of the sky, landed on her face and started to beatbox.

US cover

Q: Who are some of your favourite fantasy authors, Aussie or otherwise?

A: William Gibson, Douglas Adams, Robin Hobb, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Katsuhiro Otomo, Stephen King, Robert Cormier, someone stop me or I’ll be here all frackin’ day….

Q: You’re a self-proclaimed tragic nerd. Care to tell us about your nerdy credentials? – Gamer? Star Wars/Star Trek/Firefly? Ever dressed up for a con or for a tabletop game?

A: Yes to all of the above. I could nerd for Australia at an Olympic level. If you weaponized nerdery, and put said nerdery under a microscope, you would see lots of little Jays with sweet beards swimming around having lightsaber fights and playing Collectible Card Games in the corner.

The last full-on argument I had with my bride (we almost never argue) wasn’t about money, or “were you looking at that girl’s ass” or whatever. It was about Theon Greyjoy and whether or not he is a tragic character torn between blood and duty, or just a straight up douchebag. We were yelling at each other. Drunkenly. Outside a pub. At 2am.

True story.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring Aussie fantasy writers (or writers in general)?

A: To the Aussies – Don’t think of yourself as Australian, just think of yourself as a writer. Aim high. In this day and age, there’s no reason at all your words can’t be read all the way across the globe. If I can do it, anyone can.

Writers in general – I could say all the usual bollocks about write every day, write what you love, yadda yadda. But everyone says that. The best piece of advice I can give is this:

Believe in yourself.

The only belief that matters in this equation is your own. It’s nice to have the support of betas or trusted friends, but it’s not necessary (the only person who had more than the vaguest idea that I was writing a book until I got repped was my wife). The only person who needs to believe you can do this is you. Everything else is window dressing.

The peoplewho reject you? The people who tell you that you can’t do it? The people who give you a funny little look when you mention your book? The people who are waiting for you to fail?

Fuck them.

Say those words. Sing them.Take a deep breath and scream them.



It doesn’t matter what theythink, or what they say. It doesn’t matter what they believe. It only matters what you think, what you believe. Because if you believe you can do it, and you’re meant to be doing it, then you will. You can. And that’s all there is to it. No more, no less than that.



Details about Stormdancer

Title: Stormdancer (Goodreads)
Author: Jay Kristoff (@MisterKristoff)

Series: The Lotus War #1 of 3 (possibly more)
Genre: “Japanese-inspired Steampunk Dystopia”
Published: Pan Macmillan Australia, September 1, 2012; TOR UK September 13 and St. Martin’s Press (US) on September 18.
Pages: 352

Pre-order Paper copies: • • Book Depository
Pre-order E-book copies: • • Barnes & Noble

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she’s determined to do something about it.

Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

I know Rebecca linked this in her post yesterday, but if you haven’t seen Jay’s review of Stormdancer on Goodreads, you really need to read it.  Right.  Now.

Also, you can read the first three chapters for free at! Can you wait until September? I know I can’t!


Review and Interview: The White Oak, Kim White

The White OakTitle: The White Oak (Goodreads)

Author:   Kim White (@kimwhitebooks)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Cora Alexander falls through a sinkhole and enters the underworld still alive. Her living presence threatens the tyrannical rule of Minos and the infernal judges who have hijacked the afterlife and rebuilt it, trapping human souls in a mechanical, computer-controlled city that lies at the core of the earth. To survive, Cora must rely on her untrustworthy guide, Minotaur, an artificial intelligence built by Minos.


Series: Imperfect Darkness 1 (of 4 planned)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: Story Machine Studio, April 9, 2012
My copy: Digital ARC from NetGalley

No paper copies available.

E-copies: • • Barnes & Noble


The White Oak certainly begins with a bang, with Cora falling into the Underworld and starting her terrifying adventure right from the first page.

Cora must venture across the River Tartarus and into the city of the dead to rescue her twin brother and find her way out again. The story is a whirlwind of adventure, with Cora flung from one adventure to the next. It’s never clear what will come next – I loved the fast pacing of the story.

The story is based on the Greek underworld mythology with a high-tech twist. The shining gem of this story has to be the descriptions and imagery. White’s Underworld springs out of the page in vivid detail. Some of the scenes in The White Oak are rather dark and nightmarish – in fact most of the story feels quite dreamlike. I certainly wouldn’t want to be on that ferry across the river.

Cora is a strong-willed and determined heroine. She seemed as confused about what was happening to her as I was – she certainly asks a lot of questions of every character she runs into! This inquisitive nature helped describe what was happening, but occasionally slowed the story down a little.

The only part of the story that I felt really stopped the flow was the last couple of chapters. This instalment of the series ends with a very detailed courtroom scene, completely different to the rest of the tale. The ending doesn’t really feel like a real ending, but rather like the first and second books were once joined together and have been split into two separate volumes.

The White Oak is a fantastic first part in this series. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next!


Kim WhiteI’m very pleased today to welcome the author of The White Oak, Kim White to the Oaken Bookcase!

Angelya: Firstly, congratulations on the upcoming publication of The White Oak today!

Kim: Thank you!

 A: Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself?

K: I’m a creative person—happiest when I’m making something. I’ve been really fortunate to have had opportunities to work on amazing projects. I’m primarily a writer, but I also have a degree in studio art and was a sculptor for many years. I was one of the artisans who worked on Jeff Koons’ candy heart sculpture, which set a record at auction, and his balloon dog sculpture which made a cameo appearance in: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. My son got a huge kick out of that. I was also a fashion designer, graphic designer, and for the last seven years I’ve been a digital product manager in charge of creating games, websites, and apps.

A: What kinds of books do you like to read?

K: Can I answer that one with a book quote? In The Golden Compass, when Lyra is learning to read the alethiometer, Farder Coram tells her: “…you mustn’t grasp at the answer. Hold the question in your mind, but lightly, like it was something alive.” I like stories that have to be handled this way, like mysteries that you are puzzling out, but that could easily disintegrate if you get too literal. The books I fall in love with and return to tend to have this quality.

A: What does your writing space look like?

K: I work full-time and am a mother and wife, so out of necessity I’ve trained myself to write anywhere. I take a small netbook computer with me so that I can write on the train during my commute. Right now, I’m writing from a hotel room during a business trip. When I’m at home, I write in my sun room, a wonderful little room with one wall of bookshelves and three walls of casement windows. The old windows make it too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer, but I don’t mind because it makes me feel like I’m writing outdoors—which is my favorite place to write.

A: Much of the action in The White Oak is quite nightmarish or dream-like. Do you ever use dreams for story ideas?

K: I’m inspired by dreams, but the dreams themselves are usually too opaque or non-sequential to sustain a long narrative, so I haven’t used them as story ideas. I have worked hard in this book to evoke the feeling of a dream and of a dreamer trapped in a world that she thinks she can’t escape, even though she has all the tools to do so.

There is a phenomenon in dreaming called lucid dreaming. In a lucid dream you realize that you are dreaming and that you can change the dream. Some believe that the lucid dreamer’s ability to alter dreams can carry over into waking life. This is one of the ideas I’m exploring in the Imperfect Darkness series.

A: In the White Oak, Lucas plays and writes a computer game. Are you a gamer?

K: I’ve dabbled in game design and am hoping to make a very modest game for the Imperfect Darkness series, but I don’t know if I can call myself a gamer. My husband and son laugh at me because I spend a lot of time looking at games, admiring them, and thinking about them, but the ones I get obsessed with are simple games like Solitaire. Not sure, but I think being obsessed with Solitaire automatically disqualifies me from claiming gamer status.

A: The White Oak ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Can you share with us when the next book is due for release? We must know what happens!

K: The publication date for book two, Sword of Souls, is August 6. I’ll be posting the opening chapters on the website in May. Readers, please hang in there!

Thanks very much for joining me on the Oaken Bookcase!

You can get in touch with Kim via Twitter (@kimwhitebooks) or on her personal site,

The White Oak is available in e-book format today, April 9th. No trees will be harmed in the making of this book. Get your copy from:

What did other people think of The White Oak?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: