Fairy Tale Forests

ForestChristina here. I’m still in Sweden and have been enjoying one of the things I miss the most about this country – the huge, deep forests. Sweden is fairly sparsely populated, and in the part where I grew up, most of the countryside is covered by woodland and thousands of lakes of various sizes. Going for nature walks or heading out to pick berries and mushrooms is a favourite pastime here and it’s something I used to do with my family as well. There is a law in this country called “Allemansrätten” which gives everyone the right to roam wherever they wish, provided they don’t trample crops, ruin anything or leave rubbish behind. It’s a fantastic privilege and one that most Swedes don’t abuse.

2 Skutt_by_Tuvstarr_by_John_Bauer_1913This time of year, the berries are all gone and most of the mushrooms too, but it’s still lovely to just go for a walk, as I did last week with my friend and fellow author Anna Belfrage. It’s hunting season, so there’s always the possibility that you might come across a panicking elk/moose, deer or wild boar, but that’s never happened to me. I just enjoy the peace and quiet, and the fresh scents of pine and moss. (I’m not getting into a debate about whether they are called elk or moose – I prefer the word elk because it’s a direct translation of the Swedish word “älg” which is what they are called here, but others seem to disagree.) (Illustration – "Skutt by Tuvstarr" by John Bauer 1913)

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Childhood Reads and Influences

Little PrincessChristina here – I was chatting to some of my writing friends via FaceTime the other day and for some reason we started reminiscing about our favourite childhood reads. We came up with one great title after another and I thought back to those exciting days when I would go off to the library to browse the children’s section – there was so much waiting for me to discover! What really struck me, however, was how similar my reading experiences and tastes had been to those of my two friends – all the Enid Blyton stories (especially the Famous Five series), Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Little Princess and The Secret Garden, L M Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, and many more. And because we all write romance now, it made me wonder whether we are all predisposed to liking certain types of stories from an early age? Is it tied up with our personalities or are we influenced by those around us?

GrimmPersonally, I seem to have been fixated on fairy tales, romance and happy-ever-afters right from the start. This could have been because of the stories I was told (my grandmother especially passed on lots of Swedish folklore), but as far as I can remember, my parents read me lots of different things and not just about princesses and castles. I just happened to like the romantic ones the best and I was hooked on fairy tales. Only the nice ones, though, I didn’t like the Brothers Grimm stories in their gory original versions (wasn’t Snow White’s step-mother’s punishment just horrendous?!?), and I positively loathed Hans Christian Andersen’s sad tales.

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Into the Woods

Angus beachNicola here. After the beach and the sea, a woodland is probably Angus’s favourite place for a walk. I’m not a dog, obviously, but I can imagine just how exciting it might be for him; so many sights, sounds and particularly smells that are different from the garden or the street. There is something special about the woods in lots of different ways: places to run, places to hide, secrets and surprises just around the corner.

In the fairy stories, woods are often scary places. I remember Hansel and Gretel as one of my least favourite fairy tales because of the sinister cottage in the woods. And doesn’t Little Red Riding Hood meet the wolf in a wood? Woodland is portrayed as a wild, dark place that is full of danger. The same thing happens in other books from Harry Potter, to Lord of the Rings, to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. So often a wood is a threatening place. Often we get lost there.

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Judging a Gentleman by his Boots

BootsNicola here, musing on the appeal of boots. One of the things I like most about autumn is that I can get my boots out and wear them again after their summer break. I think in an ideal world I would wear boots all the time. I love them. Comfortable, stylish, practical, sexy, they cover just about every option. I was slightly shocked when I discovered I had seven pairs (that said I can’t wear the ones in the photo these days – they are just too high!) It would have been eight pairs but last year I very grudgingly threw away my all time favourite pair of wedge boots which I had worn until they literally fell apart.

A few weeks ago I went to an exhibition at the Victorian and Albert Museum in London called “Shoes, Pleasure and Pain.” The exhibition was stunning with examples of shoes and boots from different cultures going back over 600 years. The power of the shoe or boot is very strong in persuading us that we can be transformed into someone who is seductive and glamorous. It feels as though they have almost magical properties.

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Introducing Kate Forsyth

Anne here, introducing Dr Kate Forsyth, who I first met at a Romance Writers of Australia conference, where she was speaking. I hadn't read her, so before the conference I bought one of her books, Rhiannon's Ride, loved it, and immediately glommed everything she'd written. She's a multi-award-winning author who's written for kids, young adults and adults, and is currently writing historical/fantasy fiction inspired by fairytales. KateForsythPic

Her book BITTER GREENS, a reworking of the fairy tale, Rapunzel, was awarded the 2015 American Libraries Association prize for Best Historical Fiction, and was listed as Library Journal (US) Best Historical Novel, as well as many other awards.  THE WILD GIRL is about Dortchen Wild, who grew up next door to the brothers Grimm and told them some of their most powerful and compelling stories. It's already garnering some wonderful reviews, including a starred review from Booklist.

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