Imagining the Past: Episode 14: A French Affair: In Conversation with Kate Forsyth and Natasha Lester

The allure of France has often inspired historical novelists to conjure the romance and tumult of its history. Kate Forsyth’s novel, The Blue Rose, transports the reader to the perils of the French Revolution and the exotic world of Imperial China. Natasha Lester’s The French Photographer deals with more recent history of World War II France and America.

In this week’s episode of the Imagining the Past podcast, Jackie Ballantyne chats to Kate and Natasha about why they were drawn to set their books in France, and how they discovered new stories to tell about a country that continues to fascinate.

This episode of Imagining the Past was recorded at the 2019 HNSA Conference.

Our Speakers

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel aged seven, and has sold more than a million copies since. Her 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’ set amongst the passions and scandals of the Pre-Raphaelites; Bitter Greens, a reimagining of ‘Rapunzel’ which won the 2015 ALA Award for Best Historical Fiction; and The Wild Girl,  the story of the forbidden romance behind the Grimm brothers’ famous fairy tales. Kate also has a doctorate in fairy tale studies and is an accredited master storyteller. Kate is the HNSAustralasia Patron

Before becoming a writer, Natasha Lester worked as a marketing executive for L’Oreal Paris. She returned to university to study creative writing, completing her first novel, which won the TAG Hungerford Award for Fiction. Her first historical novel, A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, was published in 2016, Her Mother’s Secret in 2017 and The Paris Seamstress in 2018. The French Photographer is her latest book. She is now an internationally bestselling author, having decided that playing with words is more fun than experimenting with lipstick colours. Natasha also loves to collect vintage fashion, travel, dream about Paris, and have fun with her three children. She lives in Perth.

Jackie Ballantyne is an award-winning Australian/New Zealand author. In 2005 her story, ‘I saw them make sausages out of Aldo Falzone’s horse’, was runner-up in the Middlesex University (UK) Literary Prize for Fiction. Her first novel How to Stop a Heart from Beating was published in 2007 by Random House New Zealand and continues to be a favourite with the Book Discussion Scheme in that country. Her second novel, The Silver Gaucho, published in 2014 by The Doby Press, NZ, was shortlisted for the International Rubery Book Award in 2015. Jackie now lives in Melbourne and is currently working on another novel.

Greg Johnston has edited and hosts the Imaging the Past podcasts sessions from the HNSA 2019 conference program. It is a treat for those who couldn’t attend our conference at Western Sydney University in October last year to hear some of the panel discussions such as this one. It’s also a chance for HNSA 2019 attendees to catch up on the sessions they missed because they couldn’t be in two rooms at once!

G.S. Johnston is the author of three historical novels – Sweet Bitter Cane (2019), The Cast of a Hand (2015), and The Skin of Water (2012), and a fourth novel set in contemporary Hong Kong, Consumption (2011). The novels are noted for their complex characters and well-researched settings. After completing a degree in pharmacy, a year in Italy re-ignited his passion for writing and he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. Feeling the need for a broader canvas, he started writing short stories and novels. Originally from Hobart, Tasmania, Johnston currently lives in Canberra, Australia.

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