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Interview with Kate Forsyth

      A huge 'thank you' to author Kate Forsyth for taking the time to respond to this interview! In her latest book, 'The Crimson Thread', tells of the resistance on the Greek island of Crete during WWII. In this interview, Mrs. Forsyth tells of the very personal origins of the novel and the sometimes difficult but fun methods of the research on Greek culture. I hope you enjoy the insights into the world of Kate Forsyth!

There are very few WWII stories that are set in Crete. What drew you to the setting?

My great-uncle fought in the Battle of Crete and hearing the very dramatic story of his escape from the island when I was a child gave me a lifelong interest in Greece and its history and myths. Then a few years ago I bought an antiquarian copy of Nathanial Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales which reignited my interest. I began to do some research, and discovered the untold story of the brave women of the Cretan resistance and knew that was a story I wanted to tell. 

There are many references of the Greek myth, Ariadne in The Crimson Thread. Were you inspired by the Greek myth?

Yes, it was one of the key inspirations for me. I first read the myth of Ariadne and the Minotaur the same summer I was told the story of my great-uncle’s wartime experiences on Crete. The two stories together ignited a lifelong interest in Crete, and I’ve long wanted to go there. To me, weaving the ancient myth into a modern setting gave my story so much more symbolic resonance and depth. 

How did you conduct your research? Did you travel to Crete?

I did! My family and I spent a month in Greece while I was writing the book. I also read every book I could find on Cretan culture and history, listened to Cretan music, did a cooking class in an old, ruined mill in Crete, read ancient Greek poetry, read memoirs of the war in Crete, and studied every historical non-fiction I could find on Greece during the war and the British covert operations in Greece and the Mediterranean. It was all so fascinating!

The friendship and eventual rivalry between Jack and Teddy plays a major role in The Crimson Thread. How did you keep the characteristics of the two separate?

Oh that was never a problem. They are very different people. Jack is quiet, shy, sensitive, and loves books and music. Teddy is brash and confident and used to getting his way. 
Were any of the characters based on real life figures?

Nearly everyone! Only my major characters, Alenka and her family and Jack and Teddy, are imaginary. Everyone else is real. For example, the British writer Patrick Leigh Fermor was a SOE agent who lived for almost two years in the Cretan mountains disguised as a shepherd. He and his friend William Moss were behind the infamous kidnapping of the German general Kreipein 1944. They both wrote books about it, which inspired a film starring Dirk Bogarde called ‘Ill Met by Moonlight’. King George of the Hellenes, cousin of the late Prince Phillip, escaped the Nazis over the White Mountains of Crete just as I describe in my novel. Alenka’s best friends, Micky and PhylliaAkoumianakis, are real too - they grew up next-door to the palace of Knossos and worked for the Cretan resistance, and many of the details of their resistance work came from a memoir written by their friend, Helias Doundoulakis, who also appears in the book with his elder brother George. I really wanted to honour the true story of the unbelievable courage and resilience of the Cretan people, who helped my great-uncle escape.
What were some of the challenges in writing The Crimson Thread?

The research was arduous and took me a long time, but I loved every moment of it. 
You have a very unique and fun doctorate degree in fairytales. What can fairytales teach us about today’s world? How have fairytales influenced your personal life?

Fairy tales and myths are among humanity’s oldest stories, and so they are deeply embedded in our psyche. They work on two very different levels. On one hand they are stories of enchantment and wonder that amuse and delight us, and on a more profound and mysterious level they offer us a metaphorical stage to act out difficult human dilemmas and problems. They give us hope that we can be saved, healed, or transformed, and they give us the tools that we need to negotiate the dark and thorny paths of life – courage, kindness, wit, humour, steadfastness of purpose. I have been fascinated by fairy tales since I was a small child, when they offered me comfort and consolation at a time when I was very sick and afraid. I’ve worked with them in one form or another ever since. 
You have written your first novel at the young of seven. After writing almost 40 novels has writing gotten easier or is it very challenging?

It never gets easier. Each new book is a new adventure, a new challenge, a new set of problems. There is always moments of fear and despair and heartbreak, and always moments of excitement and joy. The only difference now is that I know if I keep at it steadily, placing one word after another, the book will spring to life and I will find my way to the end. 
You have written books in several genres such as fantasy, historical fiction, and children. Do you have a favorite genre that you like reading personally? What books are currently reading?

My favourite genre, both to read and write, is historical fiction. I love books set far, far away and long, long ago. Most of my books have a little twist of the uncanny and mysterious about them, and a preoccupation with the lost stories of women. I am currently reading ‘Horse’ by Geraldine Brooks – it’s marvellousso far!

What is your next project?

I am in the early stages of a new novel called ‘Psykhe’ which is a reimagining of the myth of ‘Eros and Psyche’, set in ancient Rome. It’s slowly unfurling in my imagination …

The Crimson Thread

Publication Date: July 5, 2022
Blackstone Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction
Synopsis: In Crete during World War II, Alenka, a young woman who fights with the resistance against the brutal Nazi occupation, finds herself caught between her traitor of a brother and the man she loves, an undercover agent working for the Allies.

     May 1941. German paratroopers launch a blitzkrieg from the air against Crete. They are met with fierce defiance, the Greeks fighting back with daggers, pitchforks, and kitchen knives. During the bloody eleven-day battle, Alenka, a young Greek woman, saves the lives of two Australian soldiers.

     Jack and Teddy are childhood friends who joined up together to see the world. Both men fall in love with Alenka. They are forced to retreat with the tattered remains of the Allied forces over the towering White Mountains. Both are among the seven thousand Allied soldiers left behind in the desperate evacuation from Crete's storm-lashed southern coast. Alenka hides Jack and Teddy at great risk to herself. Her brother Axel is a Nazi sympathiser and collaborator and spies on her movements.

     As Crete suffers under the Nazi jackboot, Alenka is drawn into an intense triangle of conflicting emotions with Jack and Teddy. Their friendship suffers under the strain of months of hiding and their rivalry for her love. Together, they join the resistance and fight to free the island, but all three will find themselves tested to their limits. Alenka must choose whom to trust and whom to love and, in the end, whom to save.

About the Author:

    Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally bestselling author of 40 books for both adults and children.

     Her books for adults include 'Beauty in Thorns', the true love story behind a famous painting of 'Sleeping Beauty'; 'The Beast's Garden', a retelling of the Grimm version of 'Beauty & the Beast', set in the German underground resistance to Hitler in WWII; '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 Impossible Quest', 'The Gypsy Crown', 'The Puzzle Ring', and 'The Starkin Crown'.

     Kate has a doctorate in fairytale studies, a Masters of Creative Writing, a Bachelor of Arts in Literature, and is an accredited master storyteller. For more information, please visit her website, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Instagram page.


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