Meeting Kate Forsyth

On Monday night, we held our second online TBYL Event at which we meet the lovely Kate Forsyth. Kate joined us on Facebook, where we were able to enjoy her insightful answers to our fast-firing questions.

In case you weren’t able to tune in on the night, here’s a transcript of our chat with Kate, about her, about her writing, and about her latest novel The Wild Girl

TBYL: Welcome everyone! I wanted to start with something that’s perhaps a little obvious, but interesting… what drew you to fairy tales in such a way Kate?

kate forsythKate: I’ve been fascinated by fairy tales ever since I was a little girl in hospital and my mother brought me a copy of ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’. I was a very sick little munchkin and there was not much escape for me except through the pages of books. I particularly loved tales of adventure and magic and transformation – stories that took me away from my hospital bed and let me do all the things I could not do – run and fly and gallop on horseback and travel to strange and wonderful lands and have strange and wonderful adventures. I particularly loved the fairy tales, I think, because they are stories of triumph, transformation and true love, and so speak to our secret longings and desires. I wanted to be free, I wanted to be well, I wanted to be safe home and in the arms of those who loved me, and that’s what fairy tales promise us.

TBYL: That’s so true Kate, I can completely relate. My love of books started when I was laid up as a kid with pretty nasty asthma. Did you have a particular favourite, either then or now?

Kate: I have quite a few. ‘Rapunzel’, ‘Six Swans’, ‘Beauty & the Beast’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’, ‘The Snow Queen’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, plus many lesser known ones. I love Romany tales, and wove quite a few into my children’s historical adventure THE GYPSY CROWN. I love Scottish fairy tales as well, and drew upon Scottish folklore in my children’s time travel adventure THE PUZZLE RING. Many of my other books draw upon fairy tale and folklore as well – its what I love to do.

TBYL: I’ve seen quite a few films lately that try and do the same thing. Do you enjoy that type of adaption too, or do you prefer it on the page?

Kate: I always prefer it on the page! I so love films too, but a novel is my favourite thing in the world.

TBYL: Kate, could you please tell us a little bit about your research process? It’s clearly very thorough…

Kate: I love to research. I do it with total commitment, even obsessiveness. I want to know EVERYTHING! I’ll read anything and everything I can find on the subject, and search out lost letters and diaries and books, hoping for that elusive lost secret, that hidden fact that will make my novel come to life. It often takes me a very long time, but I’m happy and content as long as I know it will help the novel. To write The Wild Girl, I read up on the lives and works of the Grimm brothers, I studied the Napoleonic Code, I found out how laudanum was made (I could make you some right now if I had a lump of raw opium and some brandy), I found out how 19th century women made soap out of their own urine and ashes from the kitchen fire, and I cooked bread soup from my family, using an old German recipe (its surprisingly tasty).

TBYL: Would you tell us how to make bread soup? I was wondering the whole way through the book!

Kate: I’ll post the recipe on my blog for you – its very simple!

TBYL: Did you have to travel at all for your research or was it mostly done from home?

Kate: Oh no, I always travel. I feel it’s so important! I went to Cassel (now spelt with a K) and to the Grimm museum and the palace – amazing! I like to breathe the air, touch the earth, feel the cold, imagine myself into the place…

TBYL Reader (Jason): Did you have any additional scenes/chapters that were cut for the final edit… say subplots or something that did not make it in the end?

Kate: Oh yes… I thought Jakob might have been gay and I had a few scenes that intimated so… but the novel got too long and I thought I should focus on Wilhelm and Dortchen. I also cut out about 25,000 more words about Dortchen’s childhood.

TBYL Reader (Jason): Do you find making these cuts difficult or is it simply a case of stick to the main story and they either add or distract from the overall clarity of the storytelling?

the wild girlKate: It always hurts but then I know the book is better for the cuts, and sometimes you need to write and write and write to find your story – but end the all that writing is now not necessary.

TBYL: I was fascinated by Dortchen and found myself feeling so sorry for her, whilst at the same time being impressed by her competence and bravery. Did you mean for her to be a heroine in the way that she is?

Kate: Of course! I felt a very strong connection to Dortchen from the moment I read about her. Her birthday is only a week before mine – we’re both Geminis. I thought all the time what it would be like – to be a young woman and not permitted to work, to travel, to love as you please – to live under your father’s domination all the time.

Her life was full of everything I love in a story – romance, tragedy, passion, struggle, and, finally, triumph. Plus, of course, the fairy tales. I never knew that so many of my favourite fairy tales had been told to the Grimm brothers by this one young woman. I was fascinated by her and her tales, and I wanted to rescue her from oblivion. I think we’d have been kindred spirits if we’d grown up next door to each other.

TBYL: How did you first hear of Dortchen?

Kate: I first read about Wilhelm and Dortchen’s romance in Clever Maids: A Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales by Dr Valerie Paradiz, which examines the oral sources of the famous tales. Dortchen’s considerable contribution was analysed, along with many others, and then – in the final chapter – it was mentioned that eventually Wilhelm and Dortchen married. As soon as I read about Dortchen and Wilhelm, I knew I had to write a novel about them. I was utterly electrified by the heartbreaking beauty and romance of their love affair and by the stories she told.

TBYL: One more about character from me and then I’ll hand it over to others… As much as I was fascinated by Dortchen, I was equally horrified by her father. I was also very confused by him. How do you go about painting such a terrible, conflicted character?

Kate: Well, it’s never easy. I struggled with what Dortchen’s tales were telling me. I didn’t want the story to go into quite such a dark place. I had to be true to the inner life of the stories, though. Nothing else made sense. Once I decided to build the story in that way, I tried to write those scenes as quickly as possible, so I could exorcise them from my imagination. I had terrible nightmares. I’d wake in the dead of night, unable to breathe, unable to make a sound, feeling the weight of it crushing me to death. It was never easy. I felt I had to write it away, write myself free, and that is what Dortchen does… though her stories are told, not written. She told stories to save herself, and that utterly pierced my heart.

TBYL: Were Dortchen’s nightmares your nightmares?

Kate: Yes. They were. Strange, I know.

TBYL: Shows an incredible investment into the story. The descriptions of Herr Wild, his clothes, his scent were horribly vivid…

Kate: Horrible is the right word. I felt it, smelt it, suffered it… I don’t know how else you can bring it to life.

TBYL: I think I was lucky that he didn’t not remind me of anyone I knew, otherwise I think I would have found it near on impossible to read a few of the more barbaric scenes!

Kate: I know a few people who found those scenes very difficult (as did I!), but then also found Dortchen’s healing and recovery so beautiful and powerful.

TBYL: Absolutely! I loved the rituals that she used to heal herself. Were these based on your research?

singing larkKate: Oh yes. It took me a long time to work out these scenes. I knew I needed her to go to Old Marie, I knew it had to be to do with the earth, and with old German superstitions. I knew it had to do with cleansing and exorcism because of my own dreams.

TBYL: It was such a relief as a reader when she finally confided in Old Marie…

Kate: In fairy tales, there is often a magical helper who the hero fails to listen to and only when the hero learns to listen does the hero learn wisdom and so triumphs – Old Marie was my magical helper.

TBYL Reader (Kateness): Hello Kate, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions on your work. I am wondering if there are any other tangents of Dorchen’s story that you feel like you might like to go back and explore some more? Are you ever tempted to go back and write the story of another character you’ve met along the way?

Kate: Kateness, I always come up with other ideas of novels when I’m writing – for example, I loved Bettina von Arnim and thought what a fascinating character she’d make… but I feel I’ve done that now, I’ve done that era and that circle of friends and I want to move on now.

TBYL Reader (Barbara): Picking up, in some way Jason’s questions, have you “finished” with Dortchen and the Grimm’s now or do you imagine writing more that picks up their story? Also have you started on a new project?

Kate: Barbara, I’m always working on a new project! So many ideas, so little time!

TBYL: Can you tell us a little about your other work Kate? I’m pretty new to your collection, and I’d like to know where you think I should go next?

Kate: I’d try BITTER GREENS next. It’s a retelling of ‘Rapunzel’, interwoven with the dramatic, true life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century noblewoman Charlotte-Rose de la Force. It’s full of romance, passion, obsession, betrayal, and ultimate triumph – I think you’d enjoy it.

TBYL: I’ll ask my final question for the evening. It might be a bit predictable, but Kate, do you think that you’ll keep writing your fairy tale revisits? What do you have planned next?

Kate: At the moment I’m writing a five-book fantasy adventure series for kids (I tend to alternate between adult and children’s books). Then I plan to rewrite one of Dortchen’s tales, ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ (a Beauty and the Beast-variant), setting the novel in Nazi Germany. That will be another intense, dark, soul-shaking book, but extraordinary to research and write.

At this stage we called it a night, having typed our fingers to the bone. I hope you’ll agree, this Q&A session was a fantastic way to get to know Kate a little bit better, and I can’t wait to read more of her books.

If you’d like to find out more about Kate’s novel, you can visit her website here…

A big thank-you to Kate and to all the TBYL readers who got involved in this event.

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Out Now! TBYL News: All Things Bookish August 2013

This month’s edition of TBYL News: All Things Bookish… is now out, complete with give-aways, new reviews and upcoming events at That Book You Like…

honey brown and cover 2This month we’re enjoying conversations with two talented Australian authors – Kate Forsyth and Honey Brown. It’s a fantastic chance to get to know these authors a little better, and to find out more about how they write, about their titles and a little of what’s next for them! Online author chats are a new addition to TBYL and I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.

Also, there’s lots of new reviews to be read on the TBYL Blog, a chance to win a copy of the intriguing novel Torn, by Karen Turner, and also great new items in the TBYL Store.

Happy reading, enjoy our August edition!

Click here to read TBYL News: All Things Bookish… August 2013

If you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter, you can click here.

This’ll mean that you get our monthly news by email, on the first Monday of the month. Perfect!

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August TBYL Book Club

Today we begin our conversation for the July TBYL Book Club, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl (Random House). Personally, I’m loving it, so much so that I dreamt about it last night!

If you’d like to join in, the discussion is happening now on our Facebook page.

Also, don’t forget that our next TBYL Event is a live Facebook chat with Kate herself. I can’t wait, it’s happening on Monday 5 August, 7:30pm (EST) and you can RSVP here…

And that brings me to our book for August. I’ve been wondering what we should read for the August TBYL Book Club, and I’ve decided on something quick, suspenseful and a little bit scary!

dark horseFor August, I’m inviting you to read with us, Honey Brown’s Dark Horse (Penguin)

“It’s Christmas morning on the edge of the rugged Mortimer Ranges. Sarah Barnard saddles Tansy, her black mare. She is heading for the bush, escaping the reality of her broken marriage and her bankrupted trail-riding business.



Sarah seeks solace in the ranges. When a flash flood traps her on Devil Mountain, she heads to higher ground, taking shelter in Hangman’s Hut.

 She settles in to wait out Christmas.



A man, a lone bushwalker, arrives. Heath is charming, capable, handsome. But his story doesn’t ring true. Why is he deep in the wilderness without any gear? Where is his vehicle? What’s driving his resistance towards rescue? The closer they become the more her suspicions grow.



But to get off Devil Mountain alive, Sarah must engage in this secretive stranger’s dangerous game of intimacy”

I read this book last month and absolutely love it, it had me delightfully on edge the entire time I read it (in two sittings, I might add) and I’d love for you to share it with me.

Now, I can’t say too much more about the mystery that unfolds as Sarah and Heath wait for rescue, I’d hate to spoil the ending for you. It twists and turns with nightmarish frequency and will probably have you worried for Sarah, falling for Heath and waiting for the sky to clear so both rescue and resolution can come.

What I will say is that I’d most definitely recommend Dark Horse as a great winter read, the sound of the rain on the roof will only add to the atmosphere of the novel. Don’t be scared, it’s a fascinating read. You can read my full review here if you’d like to find out more.

I hope you’ll join us on Facebook to discuss Dark Horse. We’ll start the conversation on Monday, 26 August 2013 and carry it through to the Wednesday. If you’d like a reminder, you can RSVP to the TBYL Book Club here…

I can’t wait to hear what you think of this thriller!

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Happy reading!

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TBYL Events: Meet Kate Forsyth

Don’t you love it when the stars align?

During July, the TBYL Book Club has been reading Kate Forsyth’s latest novel The Wild Girl (Random House), a fantastical new take on the brothers Grimm. I’m really looking forward to chatting about the book on the TBYL Facebook page next Monday, 29 July.

kate forsythEven more exciting though, is that since we decided to read The Wild Girl, I’ve been in touch with the lovely Kate and we’ve been able to arrange an online chat on the evening of Monday, 5 August 2013!

That means that the next TBYL Event will be a free, interactive, online chat with Kate Forsyth!

Kate will be chatting on the TBYL Facebook page on the evening of Monday, 5 August 2013 and you can join us at 7:30pm to ask Kate questions, and get involved in in the conversation.

Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of more than twenty books, including The Witches of Eileanan and Rhiannon’s Ride series for adults, and The Puzzle Ring, The Gypsy Crown, and The Starthorn Tree for children. She has won or been nominated for numerous awards. Her books have been published in 13 different countries, including Japan, Poland, Spain and Turkey, and Kate is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology and recently published Bitter Greens a retelling of the Rapunzel story.

It’s going to be a great opportunity to find out a little more about Kate, and about her beautiful brand of fantasy!

If you’d like to make sure that you don’t forget to tune in, you can RSVP to the event here…

I hope you’ll join us!

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July TBYL Book Club

This month, I’ve had fun encouraging you all to read a little differently and enjoy a couple of action/adventure titles, and Intrepid Month, featuring Defender and Hunter has been fantastic.

We were lucky to hear from author Chris Allen on Monday night, and I’m sure you’ll agree that his insights into writing, publishing and reading were both entertaining and informative. I’ll be posting a summary of the online event ‘Meet Chris Allen’ in the days to come.

If you’d like to find out more about Chris Allen and his books, visit his website here.

the wild girlTonight, as we wrap up the June club, I’m pleased to announce the July TBYL Book Club book. It’s an intriguing title, suggested by a TBYL reader and one that I’ve not read myself. I’m excited to experience it with you.

This month, we’ll be reading Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl (Random House)…

Growing up in the German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in the early nineteenth century, Dortchen Wild is irresistibly drawn to the boy next door, the young and handsome fairy-tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm.

It is a time of war, tyranny and terror. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Forced to live under oppressive French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save the old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.

Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories, such as ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Frog King’ and ‘Six Swans’. As she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen’s father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream. 

Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales…

Will you join us? If you’ve read The Wild Girl (or other Kate Forsyth novels), what should we expect?

If you’d like to join in the conversation, it’ll happen at our Facebook page on Monday, 29 July until Wednesday, 31 July 2013. If you’d like to check out a sample of Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl you can do so here…

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I can’t wait to read this novel, and I hope you’ll get involved in the July TBYL Book Club!

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A good question: How to Be A Woman

A couple weeks ago, I read this month’s TBYL Book Club book, Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman (Random House).

Now, straight up, I’m going to say that I really enjoyed this book. I found it humorous, pragmatic, realistic and revealing. I’ll also say, that I know plenty of people who didn’t like this book – a few of whom didn’t push past the first couple of chapters.

And that is why I’m so looking forward to chatting about this book at the end of August…

How to Be a Woman is ‘part memoir, part rant, Caitlin Moran answers the questions that every modern woman is asking’

“It’s a good time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven’t been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain…

Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should we use Botox? Do men secretly hate us? And why does everyone ask you when you’re going to have a baby?”

I’m sure that most of us have pondered on one or more of these questions at one time or another, and Moran attempts to cast a little light on what these questions mean to women, both cosmetically and politically. Her illuminations are often irreverent, but I think always intelligently considered. Avoiding the ‘militant’ or ‘academic’ approach of many feminist writers, Caitlin’s approach to exploring issues that are so often labeled as fickle or unimportant is refreshingly practical:

“I have a rule of thumb that allows me to judge – when time is pressing, and one needs to make a snap judgement – whether some sexist bullshit is afoot. Obviously it’s not 100 per cent infallible but, by and large, it definitely points you in the right direction.

And it’s asking this question: ‘Are the men doing it? Are the men worrying about this as well? Is this taking the men’s time? Are the men told not do this, as it’s ‘letting the side down’? Are men having to write bloody books about this exasperating, time-wasting bullshit? Is it making Jeremy Clarkson feel insecure?”

As she says, it’s not a fool-proof test, but it’s interesting set of questions to ask.

Some people I know have found the book a little ‘ranty’ and it does have that about it, but I like the author’s humour, and I found this memoir a nice change from the fiction that I most often read.

As our August book at the TBYL Book Club, we’ll start our conversation about the book on Monday, 28 August over at the club. Join the August Group to join in the conversation, and if you’re around, pop online at 8pm Monday for a live chat. As something a little different this month, I’ll be posted a few questions each day, Monday through to Wednesday. We’ll wrap up the ‘official’ conversations on Wednesday night, although people are of course welcome to hang around for the rest of the week if you want to keep talking.

I am really interested to hear about what you enjoyed, disliked, agreed with or disagreed with. I hope you’ll join us…

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Dark, cold, dragony night

I really like going out with my kids, it’s one of my favourite things.

I’ll admit that Oscar can still be a little bit of a handful, but he’s a showman, so what can you expect? Evan on the other hand is pretty much at the perfect hanging out age – good company, old enough to be really interested in what we’re doing, but still just young enough not to be (too) embarrassed to be seen with his daggy old Mum.

I’m making the most of it, because I know it probably wont last for very much longer, and so when I saw that Christopher Paolini, author of the Eragon series (Random House) was coming to Melbourne I thought it would be the perfect night out for Evan and I. Presented by the Melbourne Writers Festival, and the Wheelers Centre it promised to be a fun-filled, fan-filled evening and despite the cold, dark, wet, wintery night, it delivered.

I’ve got to say that I’ve not read any of the Eragon series myself. Sorry. But Evan has read the first three, and is half way through the forth (and final?) in the ‘four part triology’. And, although I’ve not read them myself, I do understand their appeal. They’ve got it all, heros, villains, dwarven languages, battles and journeys and of course lots of dragons. This combination of elements has seen an army of dedicated, extremely loyal fans build around the Inheritance Cycle. Standing in line for the book signing, with hundreds of readers with arms ladened with multiple copies of the four huge tomes, you could be left in no doubt that these people where committed – to the story, and to whatever this inspiring author was ready to do next.

Personally, I was fascinated by the fact that Christopher was only 15-years-old when he wrote the Eragon, the first in the series and couldn’t wait to hear more about what exactly brought that impressive feat about. In short, home schooled, living in Anchorage, Alaska and bored out of his brain, Paolini decided that the only thing to do was to get his head out of other people’s books, and bury himself in creating his own. With family support; as editors, publishers and publicists, Eragon was born and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s the great self-publishing success story…

Christopher was a very entertaining speaker, and Evan genuinely enjoyed every minute of the event. There were plenty of backstories, in-jokes and teasers, all of which had the audience on the edge of their seats in the hope that they might find out a secret or two about this world they’d clearly immersed  themselves in.

Further, his story is inspiring. In my opinion, it’s fantastic for kids like Evan (and grown-ups too) to hear of someone putting themselves out there, backing themselves and having great success to show for it. I hope it reinforces in Evan’s mind that anything is possible, even if it’s a little out of the ordinary.

I can’t wait until the next of these events comes up, I’m looking forward to another night out with the kid. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the calendar…

In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy watching Evan enjoy reading.

 

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For right or wrong: The Light Between Oceans

I thought I’d better hurry up and write my review of this novel, before everything that can be said, has been said. It would seem that everyone is talking about The Light Between Oceans – it’s swept through blogs, book clubs and TV shows, as some books are wont to do.

M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans, with a moral conundrum such as it has at its heart, was always going to be popular.

“1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife, Isabel, live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world.

Then one  April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant – and the path of the couple’s lives hits an unthinkable crossroads.

Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds…”

In short, this novel is full of many types of heartbreak, all of the particular brand that are felt sharply by those readers who are partners and parents. The thought of the loss of a child sends shivers down my spine, a shared worst-nightmare for many of us, and as such, parts of this novel were very unsettling.

Perhaps fortunately, The Light Between Oceans has more to offer than just the central moral dilemma. It paints a haunting picture of lighthouse life, the tyrannies and attractions of isolation and an affecting sense of the ocean expanse surrounding our main characters, Tom, Isabel and Lucy.

I found it a fascinating capture of the mind of a returned soldier:

“The cruellest joke was on the fellows everyone called ‘lucky’ because they got to come back at all: back to the kids spruced up for the welcome home, to the dog with a ribbon tied to his collar so he could join in the fun. The dog was usually the first to spot that something was up. Not just that the bloke was missing an eye or a leg; more that he was missing generally – still missing in action, though his body had never been lost sight of….Something missing.”

Tom’s ‘burden of guilt’ was ever present; why had he survived service while so many others did not? How could he have let his family fall apart, his mother disappear? How could he take Isabel into his Janus Rock isolation? And of course, there was Lucy…

Interestingly, at the same time as wishing that Tom would stop being so hard on himself, I found myself staggered by Isabel’s apparent lack of guilt. She was so able to reconcile her ‘decision’ with her own logic, her own version of events, that it was almost horrible.  Throughout the novel, her grief sadly clearly leads to her undoing.

This is Stedman’s first novel, and for that she should be congratulated. Critic’s views of her writing have been a little mixed, but to me she’s guilty of nothing much more than a few clunky pieces of dialogues from time to time. Apart from this, her storytelling is compelling and her picture of 1920s Western Australia is endearing.

I feel a little like I’ve read around Australia this last twelve months, and I’m pleased to have added this to my literary travels.

Highly recommended.

Buy your own copy of The Light Between Oceans at the TBYL Store!


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Shortcut to Japan

I’ve spent most of my energy allocation on the day-job today, and as a result of a morning in the city office being a grown-up, I’d decided that proper blogging wasn’t going to happen today.

Nonetheless, as I was browsing Twitter on the train I came across an interesting and topical link from @randomhouse. I thought I’d share it with you as a bit of a shortcut post.

If your interest was sparked by my review of Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, then you might like to check out the post from site Flavorwire, who’ve produced a great list of 10 Contemporary Japanese Writers You Should Know.

Hope it gives you a few new reading ideas.

Has anyone read any of these authors?

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