Inside the notebooks of bestselling author Kate Forsyth

A pile of four notebooks with crimson thread and golden scissors resting on top, and two copies of Kate Forstyh’s The Crimson Thread

By Valerie Khoo.

Bestselling author Kate Forsyth has written 48 books, across all age groups and many genres. She is published in 20 countries and her most recent book is The Crimson Thread, a reimagining of ‘The Minotaur in the Labyrinth’ myth, set in Crete during the Nazi invasion and occupation of World War II.

She is known for pouring her ideas into beautiful notebooks as she’s formulating her story, developing her characters and collating her research. Kate says: “I keep a daily journal, which I keep near to hand at all times and I tend to scribble any ideas that come to me into that daily journal. When I can feel that surge of excitement and electricity all through my body, that tells me that I've got a living story to tell.”

The perfect notebook

That’s when the chosen notebook comes into play. She says: “Then I go in search of the perfect notebook. For me, it has to be beautiful. It has to be durable and it has to speak somehow to my project.

“So for The Crimson Thread, I have a beautiful Paperblanks notebook. It was a four-notebook project. It's crimson and it's got a golden labyrinth … marked upon it. So it's absolutely beautiful.”

So what goes into these mythical notebooks which Kate eventually turns into her incredible novels?

Kate says: “All my thoughts, questions,lists of things to do maps, diagrams, lists of reading books, research books that I think I need to buy, photographs of places.”

Using Pinterest and Spotify

In addition to her analog notebooks, Kate also uses Pinterest and Spotify. “I pin photographs of the places I'm writing about,” she says. “And then I stare at them and imagine myself into them.

“I also make a playlist. So on, on Spotify, I have a playlist called The Crimson Thread and I listen to this playlist list obsessively. I listen to it before I go to sleep at night. I listen to it when I'm walking in the morning. As the story grows and changes, I might drop some music out of it because that music is not sparking ideas for me.

“But in general, each piece of music begins to have a scene or character attached to it. And so when I need to write that particular scene, I might play that piece of music over and over and over again – 13 or 14 times in the hour that I'm writing that scene. Anything that transports me out of my body and into the skin of my protagonist.”

A peek inside Kate’s notebooks

It’s a practice that has underpinned Kate’s creative process. Each new novel has its genesis in a carefully selected notebook which houses many of Kate’s ideas and inspiration. Her other novels include: The Blue Rose, a story of impossible love set in Revolutionary France and Imperial China; Beauty in Thorns, a reimagining of ‘Sleeping Beauty’; The Beast’s Garden, a reimagining of ‘Beauty & the Beast’ set in Nazi Germany; Bitter Greens, a reimagining of Rapunzel, and many more.

Kate has allowed us to share some pages from her notebooks:

Two pages from Kate Forstyh’s notebooks, positioned side by side. On the left side there’s a a character’s face and notes about their use. On the right side there’s a mind map drawing possible connections and images from the word ‘red’

Two pages from Kate Forstyh’s notebooks placed side by side. On the left side, a list of plot events that have been colour coded with highlighters and marked off with ticks. On the right side, a timeline tracing significant events in 1941 leading to Crete’s decisions to surrender to the germans.

And here are the actual notebooks with their beautiful gold embossed cover:

Two images placed side by side. In the left are four hardcover notebooks, stacked in a pile, with crimson thread and and a pair of scissors on top. On the right is a photograph of the author, Kate Fosyth, smiling for the camera

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