Kate Forsyth talks about the inspiration behind her new fantasy novel, THE WILDKIN’S CURSE which will be released in May. It just goes to show that when you have a story to tell, even a little newborn babe cannot stop the flow of words and ideas.
The idea for ‘The Wildkin’s Curse’ first came to me about ten years ago, while I was writing my first children’s novel ‘The Starthorn Tree’. I had just given birth to my second son Tim, with my older boy Ben, being two. I had always wanted to write children’s books and so ‘The Starthorn tree’ was the realisation of a lifelong dream. I had been offered a lot of money for it, which was tremendously thrilling. However, no-one had warned me what it was like to try and write with two children under the age of two. Tim was a colicky baby who screamed all day and all night (or so it seemed!) I had had no more than 2 or 3 hours sleep in months, and could only write in the cracks between breastfeeding, swaddling, patting, walking the floor, rocking the pram, playing trains with my toddler and trying (and failing) to keep my house in order. I was so exhausted I felt like I was sleep-walking. When I slept, my dreams were extraordinarily vivid. I would jerk awake, my heart pounding, my limbs jerking, completely disorientated. I dreamt of battles in a dark forest, of flying high through clouds, of rowing in absolute dread-filled silence across a moon-silvered lake, of climbing down the side of a castle wall on a thread no thicker than a hair, of blood falling into water. Because I was constantly moving from being awake and thinking about the book I was writing, to being asleep, and then back to being awake again, the book lived in my dreams and my dreams lived in my book.
As I sat alone during the dark, dark hours of the night, trying to feed my baby son, my mind would drift away on extraordinary adventures filled with menace and magic, beauty and heroism. I’d scribble in my notebook with one hand while supporting my baby’s soft, downy head with the other. A great deal of ‘The Starthorn Tree’ was written at night, when the rest of the world was sleeping, sometimes in a feverish trance-like state, the words and images tumbling through my mind and on to the paper faster than I could scribe them. Of all the books I’ve written, ‘The Starthorn Tree’ is the one that came most fluidly, as if it was being dictated to me by some kind of higher force, or as if I had been able, through my exhaustion and my desperation to write, been able to plug straight into some dark and secret place in my brain, the bog of the unconscious. Yet there were long days when I could find no time to write, and my longing to write would become an illness.
One day I was writing a scene where my four heroes are facing real danger and contemplating the possibility of failure and death. I was writing quickly, my fingers flying over the keyboard, aware I had only an hour or so before my husband came back from a walk with the two boys. I was meant to be sleeping, and was afraid of getting into trouble for writing instead. I wanted to finish my scene. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, one of my characters, a lame boy who sometimes hears voices that tell of the future, begins to prophesise:
Three times a babe shall be born,
between star-crowned and iron-bound.
First, the sower of seeds, the soothsayer,
though lame, he must travel afar.
Next shall be the king-breaker, the king-maker,
Though broken himself he shall be.
Last, the smallest and the greatest –
in him, the blood of wise and wild,
farseeing ones and starseeing ones.
Though he must be lost before he can find,
Though, before he sees, he must be blind,
If he can find and if he can see,
The true king of all he shall be.
This passage sprang almost fully formed out of my head. I had not planned it. I was not expecting it. But at once it seemed completely right and perfect. Like a key turning in a lock and allowing a door to spring open, I saw at once that I must write two more books to follow on from ‘The Starthorn tree’ – one about the children of my four heroes, and the next about their children. I saw in one brief, giddy glimpse the whole story unfurl before my eyes – I scribbled a few notes in my notebook, including the line ‘they must rescue a princess from a crystal tower’.
That is when the idea for ‘The Wildkin’s Curse’ was born. I did no more with it for a long time. I was contracted for other books, I had other ideas and, in time, another child (my daughter). But I never forgot that vision I saw that day. A journey to rescue a princess from a crystal tower. And when I came to write ‘The Wildkin’s Curse’, I was somehow able to connect back with that waking dream, that intense and vivid moment when the story chose to be much bigger and deeper than I had ever expected.