Thursday, 28 February 2013

Guest Post: Rapunzel's Red Hair By Kate Forsyth

Welcome to the fourth stop on the Bitter Greens Blog Tour. Today I'm bringing you a guest post by the lovely author of Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth. Bitter Greens is a spectacular novel and there will be a link to my review below. Today Kate will be talking about why she decided to give her Rapunzel red hair. So here we go, over to Kate: 

A year or two ago, I was having lunch with the UK writer Philip Ardagh and telling him about the book I was then researching and writing - BITTER GREENS, a retelling of the ‘Rapunzel’ fairy tale. 

‘Is your Rapunzel a blondie or a foxy?’ he wanted to know. 

‘Foxy,’ I said at once. I knew just what he meant. Many paintings of Rapunzel have the maiden in the tower with beautiful flowing red hair, and that was how I imagined my heroine to look. 

Red hair runs through my novel like a glittering thread. Margherita, my maiden in the tower, has red-gold. So too does the witch who imprisons her. She is a courtesan and muse to the famous Venetian artist Tiziano Veceill (Titian), who painted a particular shade of red-gold hair so often that it is now called ‘Titian hair’. 

Here are thirteen fascinating facts I found out about red hair while researching BITTER GREENS: 

1. Red hair is a recessive gene, which means both parents must carry the gene in order to have a child with red hair. Recessive traits often come in pairs, which means redheads are more likely to be left-handed than people born with another hair colour. (My heroine Margarita is left-handed) 

2. It is the rarest of colours. Only 1-2% of the entire world’s population have red hair.

3. Scotland has the highest percentage of redheads in the world at 13%. 

4. Some say Adam, the first man, had red hair since the Hebrew word ‘adom’ means red. 

5. In Ancient Egypt, redheads were buried alive as sacrifices to the god Osiris. 

6. The ancient Greeks believed redheads would turn into vampires when they died. 

7. In ancient Rome, redheaded slaves were worth more than slaves with any other hair colour. 

8. During the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries (the times in which my novel is set), many women were burned at the stake for no other reason that having red hair. 

9. Hitler is said to have banned the marriage of redheads 

10. Red hair rarely turns grey, and redheads bruise more easily and require greater amounts of anaesthesia 

11. Red hair is thicker than any other hair, but they have fewer individual hairs. A blonde has approximately 140,000 hairs on their head; redheads only 90,000. 

12. So many people find redheads irresistibly sexy that a term ‘rutiluphilia’ has been coined to describe a red hair fetish. 

13. On the opposite scale, so many people have an irrational fear and loathing of redheads that the term ‘ginger phobia’ has entered our lexicon. There has even been a case of murder with the only motive being the murderer’s hatred of red hair. 

That's one really interesting post, Thank you Kate! I actually love some of these facts. 

About the Book: 

Bitter Greens
Release Date: 25th February 2013
Publisher: Allison and Busby
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 542

Synopsis: Bitter Greens is an historical novel for adults which interweaves the Rapunzel fairytale with the true story of Charlotte-Rose de la Force, a 17th century French writer who wrote the version of the fairytale we know best, while locked away in a convent by the Sun King, Louis XIV, for her bold and unconventional views on love and society. 

Charlotte-Rose has scandalized the court by falling passionately in love with a young nobleman, then dressing up as a dancing bear to rescue him from imprisonment. Banished to a strict Benedictine convent by the king, she remembers her life and loves at the magnificent and corrupt court of Versailles. Charlotte-Rose is filled at despair at her imprisonment, but she is comforted by an old nun, the apothicairesse at the convent, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the secret history of a young girl in 16th century Venice, who is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens …

Margherita’s parents love her dearly but the penalty for stealing in Venice in the late 16th century is cruel, and so they agree to give up their child at the age of seven to Selena, a courtesan whose walled garden is famous for its herbs and flowers. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Titian, first painted by him in 1513 and still inspiring him at the time of his death, sixty-one years later. Called La Strega Bella, Selena is at the centre of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition. Selena is determined to never surrender the power that her beauty gives her, and so she turns to black magic and a spell that requires the blood of a virgin. Yet in the decadent world of Renaissance Italy, where courtesans supped with kings, where convents were hotbeds of illicit love, and where a girl’s virginity was sold many times over, how was Selena to ensure her spell would work, not just once, but over and over again? The only way was to build a tower without door or stairs, deep in the forest … and this is where she locks Margherita at the age of twelve. As Margherita grows into womanhood, she sings in the hope someone will hear her. One day, a young man does and climbs her rope of hair into the tower … and so begins a beautiful love story that retells one of the world’s most mysterious and enduring fairytales.

The story of Margherita’s escape from the tower is interwoven with flashbacks that recount Charlotte-Rose’s tragic childhood and her scandalous life at the Sun King’s glittering court, and also the dark and tragic story of the courtesan Selena and how she came to be Titian’s muse. Three women, three lives, three stories, all braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic, and the redemptive power of love.

About the Author: 

Kate Forsyth is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 books for adults and children ,translated into 13 languages. She was recently named in the Top 25 of Australia's Favourite Novelists. Since The Witches of Eileanan was named a Best First Novel by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for many awards, including a CYBIL Award in the US. She’s also the only author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year, for her Gypsy Crown series of children's historical novels. Kate’s latest novel, Bitter Greens, interweaves a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale with the scandalous life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force. It has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’ and ‘an imaginative weaving of magic, fairy tale and history’. A direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, Kate is currently studying a doctorate in fairy tales at the University of Technology in Sydney, where she lives by the sea, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.

Please visit Kate Forsyth's WEBSITE and BLOG for more information. You can also find her on FACEBOOK and follow her on TWITTER.

Thank you to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and Amy Bruno for letting me take part in this tour. Also thank you to the author for writing an incredible book! You guys can find the rest of the tour over here. You can also find my five star review of the novel here.  


  1. WOW this is so cool! What great info! Thanks for the awesome posting!

  2. And I thoroughly recommend Bitter Greens as a novel


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