Guildford Book Festival 2013 - Kate Mosse, Sebastian Faulks et al

Kate Mosse

Kate Mosse - Credit: Archant

As Guildford Book Festival rolls into town again this month, it brings a whole host of well-known authors with it, from Kate Mosse to Sebastian Faulks. Here Matthew Williams meets best-selling Labyrinth author Kate Mosse and takes a look at some of this year’s must-see highlights

The Mistletoe Bride

The Mistletoe Bride - Credit: Archant

Guildford Book Festival: Need to Know

Kate Mosse

Kate Mosse - Credit: Archant

Established in 1989, Guildford Book Festival is now a key cultural event that captures the imagination of people of all ages, backgrounds and interests. Running from Thursday October 17 to Sunday October 27 this year, events take place across various venues. For more information about this year’s line-up, visit or call the box offices on 01483 444789 or 01483 444334.

Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris - Credit: Archant

Sebastian Faulks

Sebastian Faulks - Credit: Archant


Charlie Hopkinson

Charlie Hopkinson - Credit: Archant

Lesley Pearse

Lesley Pearse - Credit: Archant

What was the inspiration behind your new short story collection?

Joanna Trollope

Joanna Trollope - Credit: Archant

The folklore and legends of France and England, and the spirit of places that exist in forgotten corners of Sussex and Surrey, the Languedoc and the ancient Breton coastline. My parents had an old Reader’s Digest anthology – The Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain – which I read obsessively when I was a child. Forty years later, I’m writing my own version of some of those traditional ghostly tales.

Charlotte Mendelson

Charlotte Mendelson - Credit: Archant

Conn Iggulden

Conn Iggulden - Credit: Archant

Do you find short stories any easier to write than long reads?

It’s a completely different process – with my Languedoc Trilogy, years of research is followed by 18 months of drafting, writing and rewriting. With short stories, it’s about capturing a moment, capturing an emotion, creating a perfect and self contained – and creepy – tale rather than a whole world. I love working on a more intimate and delicate canvas and giving rein to my imagination.

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How did it feel to receive your OBE earlier this year?

The moment I opened the letter – thinking it was a VAT bill – was extraordinary. You can’t believe it. You read the letter over and over again thinking you’ve made a mistake. Then, when it sinks in... well, in my case, I quite literally jumped for joy. It’s a great honour and I feel privileged to be included amongst other such amazing women and men. As it happens, we go to the Palace the day before I appear at the Book Festival.

What do you enjoy most about doing Guildford Book Festival?

It was actually the first ever book festival I attended as an author, with my first (pre Labyrinth!) novel, so I have a great deal of affection for Guildford. This year, I’m here on publication day of The Mistletoe Bride itself and, since this is my first ever collection of short stories, it’s another first and another cause for celebration.

Do you have any favourite memories from festivals past?

Some five or six years ago, I loved appearing with Victoria Hislop. We are both graduates, so to speak, of the 2006 Richard & Judy Television Bookclub and so to do an event together, at Guildford, was a great pleasure. I also enormously enjoyed appearing on stage in 2012 with Simon Toyne.

What do you most love about Guildford?

I live in Sussex, so am often (too often!) driving past on the A3 and looking in from the outside – the wonderful university and sports facilities, the magnificent cathedral up on the hill, all big and bold buildings. What I love therefore is how different the city feels from the inside – wonderful cobbled streets, hidden alleyways and the canal snaking its way through. For me, Guildford is a place of contrasts (and lots of great restaurants too …..)

Surrey has lost a number of independent bookshops recently. How important do you feel they are for the community?

The presence of books on the high street is a powerful statement about who we are, as a community, and what matters to us. We are all bullied these days into thinking that everything is about – and only about – value for money; that the lowest price at any cost is what matters.

There’s no doubt that sometimes online retailers are cheaper, but it is all the additional service one gets from a high street bookseller that matters. We can all choose to support our local bookseller – ordering our books from them and supporting events there.

Authors can support them too, by doing signings when invited and I – like most authors published by Orion – have a ‘find your local independent bookseller’ button on my website, to help people to support the high street.

It’s 200 years since Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was published; are you a fan of her novels?

I enjoy Austen’s work enormously– though I prefer the spiky, self obsessed Emma to Eliza Bennett – but, truthfully, her novels are rather too domestic for me. I’m more influenced by novelists inspired by landscape and big, epic emotions – Emily Bronte, Willa Cather, Rider Haggard – and of course ghost story writers such as Edith Wharton and M R James. For me, story and landscape are inextricably linked and I’m more interested in the things that are hard to explain than the mechanics of everyday life.

Finally, what would be your top tip for aspiring writers?

To write! Five minutes every day is better than no minutes… Don’t wait, but rather scribble, scribble, scribble, so that you become accustomed to writing. It’s like learning to play the piano – unless you practise your scales, you’ll never be ready to play Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto when the time comes: it’s the same with writing. Practise makes perfect.

Kate Mosse will be speaking about her new short story collection, The Mistletoe Bride, on the day of its release at The Guildhall on Thursday October 24, 8.30pm. Tickets: adults, £8; concession, £7; and under 16s, £6.


Our favourite reads...

Here seven leading authors, who are all appearing at this year’s Guildford Book Festival, share their all-time favourite books...

Joanne Harris

The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake

“To me, these books define what literature was meant to be: a true original; uncompromisingly personal; rich, dark, funny and paranoid. In this case, they are also by one of the 20th century’s greatest and most under-appreciated voices. The books came to me as a huge revelation, and I read and re-read them every couple of years. Like all great writers, I find that Peake matures well; as I age I’m constantly discovering new things about his work, and what it shows me about myself. I copied his style slavishly for years before I was able to find my own.”

Joanne Harris talks about her latest novel, Peaches for Monsieur le Curé, at the Electric Theatre on Friday October 18, 7pm. Tickets: adults, £8; concessions, £7; and under 16s, £6.

Sebastian Faulks

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

“I remember reading In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust in a village in the Dordogne in 1984. It was like having another life – someone else’s. I felt as though I had in some previous existence lived in that house, in that village. Every character had the brilliance of strangeness while feeling profoundly familiar, though I was aware that this illusion was harder for the author to create than for the reader to enjoy. I was entranced by the falling rhythm of the prose, which seemed able to encapsulate a life-time within a sentence. Such was their beauty that I insisted on reading out paragraphs to anyone who would listen. Still would, given half a chance.”

Sebastian Faulks will be talking about Jeeves and The Wedding Bells, his homage to PG Wodehouse, at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on Sunday October 27, 7pm. Tickets: £19. Call the box office on 01483 440000 or see

Mark Billingham

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

“I’d read Sherlock Holmes at school and discovered popular fiction in the shape of The Godfather and Jaws but then I read The Maltese Falcon and everything came together. Fizzing, fat-free prose, and still a stunning read more than 80 years on from its publication. Sam Spade – a morally ambiguous “blond Satan” – investigates the death of his partner in the novel that not only introduced the iconic characters of the tough but tarnished gumshoe and the femme fatale, but which pretty much kick-started the hardboiled movement. Chandler and others went on to perfect the style, but it was Hammett’s ball they were running with.”

Crime writing master Mark Billingham talks about his latest novel, The Dying Hours, as part of Crime Night Part One at the Electric Theatre with fellow crime writer Chris Brookmyre on Sunday October 20, 7pm. Tickets: adults, £8; concessions, £7; and under 16s, £6.

Lesley Pearse

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

“I have loved many books over the years, but the one which stands out most is Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. It is a huge sweeping story of how Scarlett O’Hara, a privileged, self-centred Southern belle, survives the American Civil War. I have read it several times, each time getting something new from it. We see what life was like for the wealthy plantation owners in the South and how the Civil War tore the country apart. Rhett Butler is probably the best fictional hero in literature; Scarlett, the woman most of us would secretly like to be. I would say this was the book that inspired me to write.”

Lesley Pearse will be talking about her latest novel, Forgive Me, as part of Happily Ever After: Part One with novelist Katie Fforde at the Electric Theatre on Wednesday October 23, 7pm. Tickets: adults, £8; concessions, £7; and under 16s, £6.

Joanna Trollope

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

“Marianne is, as a fictional character, a considerable achievement. Her fervent embracing of the Romantic creed could easily have made her too exasperating to sympathise with, just as Elinor’s persistent level-headedness could have been equally alienating in the opposite direction. But Marianne’s charm and true warmth of heart, and Elinor’s dry wit as well as occasional glimpses of her real emotional suffering, not only give both girls life, but also as much life today as when they were first created, over 200 years ago. Take away the bonnets and the muslins, strip some of the formality from the dialogue, re-locate the action to modest modern houses, and Sense and Sensibility is, without question, a tale for our times.”

The Austen Project, a new series of six Austen rewrites by renowned authors, will be launched by Joanna Trollope and her retelling of Sense and Sensibility, published in hardback by HarperFiction, on Thursday October 24. Joanna will be talking about her part in the project at the Electric Theatre on Saturday October 26, 6.30pm. Tickets: adults, £10; concessions, £8; and under 16s, £7.

Charlotte Mendelson

The Nice and the Good by Iris Murdoch

“Never ask an author to name their favourite novel, unless you have days to spare. However, for the sake of brevity, let’s choose Iris Murdoch’s The Nice and the Good, which I have loved since adolescence. Few writers understood our private lives better than the unfashionable but brilliant Murdoch: not only the mess and odd meals and clumsy moments, but also our secret despair, our romantic longing, melodramas, hangovers and secrets. It is masterful about both marriage and adolescence, and contains suicide, awkward hugging, waste disposal units, dangerous tides, adultery, sunburn and a dog called Mingo.”

Following the publication of her recent novel, Almost English, Charlotte Mendelson will be appearing as part of the Readers’ Day event at G Live on Saturday October 19, 10am to 4pm. Tickets: £28 (including lunch as well as a goodie bag of books).

Conn Iggulden

The Flashman Series by George MacDonald Fraser

“I have to choose the Flashman series of books by George MacDonald Fraser. I read and loved those long before I’d been published, or even discovered historical fiction could be my genre. Unfolding before my delighted eyes were exciting, racy tales with occasional hilarious moments, military disasters and a central character who is one of the great creations of fiction. Even better, I learned a great deal about the Victorian age as well. Taking the vicious bully from Tom Brown’s Schooldays and writing his later life in the army was an absolute master-stroke. I recommend them to anyone.”

Conn Iggulden will be talking about his latest novel, Stormbird, the first of his new Wars of the Roses series, at the Electric Theatre on Monday October 21, 7pm. Tickets: adults, £8; concessions, £7; and under 16s, £6.