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International bestseller Holly Ringland to grace Whistler

The Australian author visits on Feb. 29 to discuss her new book, “The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding”
Australian bestselling writer Holly Ringland.

Six years after The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart released to worldwide acclaim, Holly Ringland is dropping by Whistler to talk about her most recent novel. 

The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding tells the titular character’s story as she grapples with her older sister Aura’s disappearance. To find the truth—and some closure along the way—Esther journeys from her native Tasmania to Copenhagen and beyond, following a trail of fairy tales Aura left behind. 

Ringland’s heritage was a key inspiration for this particular project. 

“I descend from Celtic and Scandinavian people,” she says. “My Danish ancestors were farmers who left Denmark in the late 1800s and sailed for three months to settle on stolen land in Australia. They never returned to Denmark. The journeys of the women in my ancestral line are stories I grew up hearing my family tell around Granny's kitchen table.

“In 2017, after I'd sent my publisher the structural edit of The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, those stories of my ancestral grandmothers started calling me. As I often do when I'm curious about the connection between people and a place, I turned to Scandinavian folklore and fairy tales one afternoon and sat with a pen and my notebook open. I scribbled an idea down about selkies, or seal people…then followed that idea to another.” 

Familial legends and tales of Norse shapeshifters led Ringland to 19th-century Swedish writer Helena Nyblom. In turn, Nyblom’s work pushed her to explore the roles of women in the seafaring history of Western tattoos and the relationship between women and seals in Tasmania (also known as Lutruwita in the Tasmanian Aboriginal-derived language of palawa kani). 

“My body tells me when ideas that come are alive. I get goosebumps and prickles down my spine,” explains Ringland. “That happened on this day, when ideas of the sea, fairy tales, women, tattoos and storytelling swirled around me. A young woman named Esther Wilding marched up to my desk and asked me to follow her.” 

Dangerous writing

Ringland didn’t always heed her creative instincts so boldly—or at all. 

The Australian national grew up in southeast Queensland on the territories of the Bundjalung people. She’s wanted to be a writer since the age of three, when her mom Colleen taught her how to read, but did not go for her goal in earnest until some three decades later. 

“I was so afraid of failure and of not being good enough that I couldn’t see beyond fear to any possibility that I could pursue and achieve my writing dreams,” says Ringland. “It took a death in my family to awaken me to how wasteful fear is.” 

In 2014, a galvanized Ringland finally put pencil to paper. She embraced American author Tom Spanbauer’s idea of “dangerous writing”: the act of composing prose or poetry from one’s inner fears. For her, that dark place was the male-perpetrated violence in her past. She’d always written around it, beside it and in spite of it.

No longer. At 34 years old, Ringland used her own research into traumatic experiences as a call to arms. She dared to address questions like: what would become of her and her life if she wrote the thing she was most scared to write? What story would emerge, and how might it live in other people’s hearts if it ever saw the light of day? 

What else can trauma be made into, other than excruciating memories?

11,000 handwritten words filled Ringland’s notebook, eventually taking shape as the first three chapters of Alice Hart: a tale of a young girl who faces generational trauma in her journey of self-discovery. In 2023, the novel landed on Amazon Prime Video as a miniseries starring Grammy and Golden Globe-winning actress Sigourney Weaver. 

‘Many deep breaths’

Ringland never expected any of her works to make such a splash, nor did she expect to live with the difficulties that fame and exposure can bring. Still, having conquered fear before, she navigates her career with vulnerability, self-love, wise boundaries and—when needed—therapy. 

“I take many deep breaths, remind myself there’s no such thing as a silly question when you’re learning, ask for support when I need it, and remember in all the bewilderment to feel the joy of seeing the story that came from my mind and heart find another form,” she admits. 

Above all, Ringland intends to remain true to herself and her source material. 

“You can’t separate creation stories from the lands they come from,” she says. “You can’t take a story from Lutruwita/Tasmania and transplant it onto the Norwegian fjords, or vice versa. As a white Australian writer setting novels in Australian and international landscapes, it’s my responsibility to include these first stories of the land and to pay respect to the stories that still live in the land.” 

Having first set foot in Whistler 20 years ago, Ringland figures she might be the only Australian ever to be rejected for a hospitality job in the village. Nonetheless, she’s excited to return to what she remembers as a vibrant and dynamic community. 

The bestselling novelist will appear at the Whistler Public Library on Feb. 29 at 7 p.m. for a moderated chat and a Q&A session with those in attendance. More details can be found at