Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Debut, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou – blog tour 14th June

Today I am delighted to host the blog tour for Laurie Petrou’s debut novel, Sister of Mine.

TWO SISTERS.  ONE FIRE. A SECRET THAT WON’T BURN OUT.

The Grayson sisters are trouble.  Everyone in their small town. knows it.  But no-one can know of the secret that binds them together.  Hattie is the light.  Penny is the darkness.  Together they have balance.

But one night the balance is toppled.  A match struck.  A fire is started.  A cruel husband is killed. The potential for a new life flickers in the fire’s embers but resentment, guilt and jealousy suffocate like smoke.

Their lives have been engulfed in flames – will they ever be able to put them out?

Stepped in intrigue and suspense, Sister of Mine  is a powerhouse debut; a sharp, disquieting thriller written in stunning, elegant prose with a devastating twist.  And of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies  and Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door will be utterly absorbed by this compulsive novel.

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Well this is certainly an engrossing read and a gripping debut from Laurie Petrou who sets the scene with unwavering tension that continues throughout the entire novel.  You are constantly just waiting for the truth to be spilled, for some further tragedy to occur and everything to come tumbling down.  Our narrator is Penny, abused by her husband and one day she snaps and he dies in a fire.  She shares her secret with younger sister Hattie and it’s only through the course of the novel that we find out what really happened that night.  Their secret begins to eat a whole in their quiet life. Of course secrets always have a way of being found out and this one might just tear them apart.

To be honest I can’t say I liked either sister very much but I was compelled to follow their story, I knew there was more to the fire that killed Buddy, the abusive husband, and of course there was.  The relationship between the sisters is intense, toxic and seems to burn all those who come within reach.  Sister of Mine is a well written debut that has a sense of menace running throughout, an eerie tension that pulls you into the story right until the very end.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

Sister of Mine is published by No Exit Press.

About the author

Laurie Petrou

1-5LAURIE PETROU has a PhD in Communication and Culture, and is an Associate
Professor at Ryerson’s RTA School of Media in Toronto, where she is also the Director
of the Masters of Media Production program. She has given several TEDx talks on
subjects including gender and rejection. Laurie was the inaugural winner of the Half
the World Global Literati Award in 2016, a prize that honours unpublished work
featuring female protagonists, for her novel Sister of Mine. She now lives in a small
town in Ontario wine country with her husband, a wine maker, and their two sons.

You can follow Laurie on Twitter at @lauriepetrou

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Adult Fiction, Crime, Nordic Noir, Thriller

His Sweet by Hildur Sif Thorarensen

When small town sheriff Yolanda Demetriou comes to work that day, she has no idea what to expect from her new case – or the horrors that lie ahead.

What are the diary entries about? And who wrote them? When Sheriff Yolanda Demetrioy receives boxes of notebooks, she has no idea of the horrors that lie ahead.  Will she be able to piece together the information and locate the house where childhood dreams become nightmares? Or will she be too late to save an abducted girl?

In this dark psychological thriller, Yolanda and her team embark on a hunt for a monster, following maddeningly sparse clues in a race to solve a heartless crime.

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Hildur very Kindly sent me a copy of My Sweet to read and review.  It was a pleasure to receive such an intriguing package form Norway.  I do love Nordic Noir and so I was happy to dive in.  So did I enjoy?  Absolutely, I read it in one sitting.  Hildur is an interesting writer and I felt the technique of the using the victims diary entries along with the realtime investigation by Yolanda and her team to tell the story worked really well.

Yolanda is sheriff of Crowswood, Alabama, a small town with small crime.  So when a box of disturbing diaries are handed in that hint at a young child being held captive locally they all pull together to try and find her.  The content of the diaries lead them to believe that time is running out and it’s not long before the big guns from Washington arrive to give a helping hand in the hunt for the girl before its too late.  For Yolanda the case has become personal and she’s so eager to find and save the girl that she may just have put both herself and the victim in even greater danger.

An exciting and interesting new voice in Nordic Noir and one that I look forward to watching grow.

Thank you so much Hildur for sending me a copy.  I really enjoyed reading My Sweet.

My Sweet is now available on Amazon in both paperback and eBook.

About the author

81VyknWQgBL._US230_Hildur Sif Thorarensen was born in Iceland but is currently living in Norway. Although, spending most of her adult years at the University, she’s been writing ever since she was a little girl and alongside Medical studies and a Master’s in Engineering, has also taken a year in Creative Writing.

At the age of eight she started a neighborhood paper with her friend which was filled with short stories about the neighborhood, written by Hildur Sif. The girls sold the paper to the people living in their street and used the profits to buy candy, much to their parents chagrin.

Hildur’s way with words later led her into working as a journalist for a newspaper in the Westman Islands. There she was known as the optimistic girl because of her exuberant, cheerful spirit which always seemed to find its way into her work.

Her first novel was published in Icelandic at the end of 2016 and in English in 2018. Her second novel, My Sweet was published in November 2018.

You can follow Hildur on Facebook at hildursifthorarensen

You can follow Hildur on Instagram at hildursifthorarensen

You can follow Hildur on Twitter at hildur84

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Relationship Stories

The Path to the Sea by Liz Fenwick

Today I’m delighted to hop on the blog tour for Liz Fenwick’s wonderful The Path to the Sea.

Boskenna, the beautiful, imposing house standing on the Cornish cliffs, means something different to each of the Trewin women.

For Jean, as a glamorous young wife in the 1960s, it was a paradise where she and her husband could entertain and escape a world where no one was quite what they seemed – a world that would ultimately cost their marriage and end in tragedy.

Diana, her daughter, still dreams of her childhood there – the endless blue skies and wide lawns, book-filled rooms and parties, the sound of the sea at the end of the coastal path – even though the family she adored was shattered here.

And for the youngest, broken-hearted Lottie, heading home in the August traffic, returning to Boskenna is a welcome escape from a life gone wrong in London, but will mean facing a past she’d hoped to forget.

As the three women gather in Boskenna for a final time, the secrets hidden within the beautiful old house will be revealed in a summer that will leave them changed for ever.

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So, about a year ago I heard a little about this novel at the HQ Stories Summer Showcase. I had the great pleasure of meeting and chatting to Liz about her writing and Cornwall.

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Liz Fenwick, author of The Path To The Sea

Not only was I intrigued by her forthcoming novel but it was such a pleasure to meet such a warm and friendly author (who just also happened to have a giant jar of Cornish fudge to share).  So, when the opportunity came up to take part in the blog tour I absolutely jumped at the chance to read and review the finished novel.

I’m so pleased I did, it’s absolutely wonderful.  What did I love about it?  Well location, location, location.  Beautiful Cornwall.  Liz conjured it up so fabulously, I could literally smell the salt coming off the sea.   Add to that a big imposing house filled with memories and hidden secrets, an estranged family coming together as one lies dying – all these elements are the recipe for an engrossing and scintillating read.

The story unfolds through the eyes of the three women.  Three generations each with their own secrets.  Joan we revisit back in the 60’s on the fateful weekend when her husband dies tragically young.  All through the story we are not quite sure if she implemented in his death.  They were an ideal family and we know she loved him but something happened on that weekend  that would change life forever.  Every family have their secrets.

Diana is Joan’s daughter.  She has very little memory of the weekend her father died but her relationship with her mother has been deeply troubled ever since and she’s determined to get to the bottom of things.   For her there is a dark shadow over Boskenna and she’s not happy to be back.

Lottie has returned to Boskenna to be near her grandmother as she lies dying.  For her memories there are mostly filled with love and warmth but a tragedy still haunts her own thoughts as she returns to the family home.  Her relationship with her grandmother has always been excellent although not so much with her mother, Diana.  But Lottie also has her own distractions; complications bought about by an ex love and also the problems of a soon to be ex husband.  Complications she’s determined to put to one side whilst she tends to her grandmother but life has a habit of getting in the way.

There are so many secrets bubbling beneath the surface that threaten to come to light.  Yet it is almost a relief when all was revealed.  The Path to the Sea is a bittersweet tale but I throughly enjoyed my time at Boskenna.  If I close my eyes I too can hear the waves crashing and the feint sound of music playing in the past as laughter fills the house, before tragedy struck.  But at the end I was left with a sense of hope and a feeling of joy at having been in the company of these three women.

The Path to the Sea is the perfect summer (or winter) read and I thoroughly recommend it.  I shall definitely be seeking out Liz’s previous titles.  Oh the joy of discovering an author’s backlist!  I can’t wait.

Thank you so much to HQ Stories for my inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

About the author

Liz Fenwick

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Liz Fenwick was born Massachusetts and after ten international moves she’s back in the United Kingdom with her husband and two mad cats.  She made her first trip to Cornwall in 1989 and bought her home there seven years later.  She’s a bit of a global nomad but her heart forever remains in Cornwall.

 

 

You can follow Liz on Twitter at liz_fenwick

You can follow HQ Stories on Twitter at HQstories

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Suspense, Thriller

The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott

She thought she would never go back… 

Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago. Her father. Leaving London behind to settle her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, accompanied by the half-sister she’s never taken the time to get to know.
With the past threatening to swallow her whole, she can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her. And when Ailsa confronts the first nighttime intruder, she sees that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything…

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Ooh this was a gripping novel.  Creepy house, strange goings on and an absent father make up for an interesting, and at times unnerving read.  It’s wonderfully plotted and paced, keeping you riveted until the very end.  There is a sense of the paranormal going on and at times I wondered why the hell Ailsa was hanging around there, she’s made of tougher stuff than me that’s for sure.  This is one of those reviews where I really don’t want to give much away as it’s a a joy to see the story unfold before you.  However I will admit I am a bit of a sucker of story where a house is almost a character in itself and Lexie builds up the atmosphere brilliantly here.  I absolutely love a few shocks along the way and The Missing Years certainly saved the best for last.  Lexie had written a fabulous novel that I couldn’t put down.  It’s still making me smile.  A deliciously creepy, thrilling read that will make the perfect pool side companion this summer.

Thanks so much to Anne Carter for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

The Missing Years is published on June 6th by Corvus Books.

About the author

Lexie Elliott

1-4Lexie Elliott has been writing for as long as she can remember, but she began to focus on it more seriously after she lost her banking job in 2009 due to the Global Financial Crisis. After some success in short story competitions, she began planning a novel. With two kids and a (new) job, it took some time for that novel to move from her head to the page, but the result was The French Girl, which was published by Berkley in February 2018.

When she’s not writing, Lexie can be found running, swimming or cycling whilst thinking about writing. In 2007 she swam the English Channel solo. She won’t be doing that again. In 2015 she ran 100km, raising money for Alzheimer Scotland. She won’t be doing that again either. But the odd triathlon or marathon isn’t out of the question.

Find out more about Lexie on her website: www.lexieelliott.com

You can find Lexie on Face book at http://www.facebook.com/lexieelliottwrites
You can follow Lexie on Twitter at @elliott_lexie

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour

The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw

Today I’m so delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw.

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini’s perfect life begins to splinter when her celebrity father becomes more distant, and her mother dies suspiciously during a lightning storm. This death has a massive effect on Emma, but after stumbling through university, she settles into work
as a journalist in Edinburgh. Her past, however, cannot be escaped. Her mental health becomes unstable. But while recovering in a mental institution, Emma begins to write a memoir to help come to terms with the unravelling of her life. She finds ultimate solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe – which offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

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I’ve been so lucky to have been able to review some wonderful books of late and this has certainly continued with The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw.  It is a beautifully poignant tale and one that I was swept away with from the start. Told through the eyes of Emma, we join her in childhood and embark on her journey suffering loses and heartbreaks along the way.  As a narrator she is an incredibly interesting character.  Her world is actually quite small.  The daughter of a famous actor, she is hidden away with her reclusive mother, secluded from the bright lights of the Hollywood lifestyle. Her father visits, seemingly rarely, and although adored by millions, is simply Dad to her.

What’s also interesting is the way that memory is explored within the story.  The villains in Emma’s own story are darkened by her own beliefs and disappointments.  An ‘ordinary’ childhood she did not have.  Her mother is beautiful, swears and drinks a lot and seems to suffer from her own neurosis.  Her father a famous actor who is absent more often than not and who also seems to send her mother into a constant rage.  The characters that surround Emma are given to us how she wants them to be presented but there is much provided between the lines by Charlie that enable us to question and come to our own conclusions.

This wonderful novel touches on so many different themes but the subject of mental health, dysfunctional families and of course the fascinating question of memory were prominent for me. How things are expressed considering whose view point we see it through and the reliability of the narrator are key to interpretation.  I often find a first person narration can be pretty unreliable, especially when our protagonist is remembering traumatic events and what led to them. Yet first person can be incredibly powerful as we get to feel through their words and, I think, one of my favourite viewpoints.  Charlie is very good at it and he brought Emma to life beautifully.

This is an engrossing read and I really liked Emma and I liked how the echoes of her family history fed into her life and personality.  Families give so much history behind us and there is often so much we don’t know about what went before us, yet we can still feel the aftershock rumbling through our own lives, thoughts and feelings.  This is hit on wonderfully in The Space Between Time.

One of the things that drew me to this novel was the theme of the universe.  How we are all connected.  The talk of stars, dark matter and black holes.  Of course this isn’t just a story about science and mathematics but Charlie does use it to bring a wonderful extra dimension that I found absolutely fascinating. I loved how each chapter title was an equation – compared to many I know very little about it all but their presence made me feel that a message was being conveyed throughout this tale… and it was.  One of life, love, family and the universe, and what an absolute pleasure it was to read too.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Charlie for writing such an engaging enjoyable novel.  I’m now very intrigued to go back and read his earlier novel, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead.

The Space Between Time is published by Accent Press on the 20th June and will be available in both eBook and paperback.

About the author

Charlie Laidlaw

1-2Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing consultancy in East Lothian. He is married with two grown-up
children.

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Books that adults should read, Relationship Tales, STEM Fiction, Teen, YA

The Quiet At The End Of The World by Lauren James

How far would you go to save those you love?

Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mudlarking and looking for treasure – until a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence.

Now Lowrie and Shen face an impossible choice: in the quiet at the end of the world, they must decide what to sacrifice to save the whole human race…

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All that history – all that time – wiped away in one moment.  Just like us.  Humans will be as easily lost as these footprints, when the last of us dies.  Our lives are particles on a riverbed being lost by the waters of time.  Here and then gone in a moment.  Nothing, in the grand scheme of things.

For me, this is one of the underlying themes of this book.  It ponders the bigger questions that we have about our very existence with subtlety and grace.  What is it all for? What happens when human beings are no longer here, when WE face extinction? In Lowrie’s world that reality is not too far away but what The Quiet At The End Of The World does, within the pages of this exciting story about two teenagers facing the world alone, is to look at how incredible human beings are. So surely there must be a way that, in the end, we can save ourselves.  The capacity of genius is there within us. We are capable of evolving, moving forward and having a real positive effect on the world in which we live.  Yes we can be selfish, arrogant and our obsession with power is our worst enemy and yet we have this huge potential to be amazing.

If you think that the world is going to end after you’ve gone, then you’re not trying hard enough to find a way to live.

I realise now that every person can make a difference.  However small a change, it counts.

Within this YA novel are characters and situations that young people can relate to. They are facing these massive problems and yet they also experience the same doubts, fears and confusion that we all have felt growing up.  It highlights how these things never really change.  The issues may alter slightly but when it comes down to it there is the same anguish over life, our world and our place within it, as we move through to adulthood whilst getting to know and accept ourselves for who we are.

The Quiet At The End Of The World  explores identity, sexuality and the desire to follow find our own way, no matter what the world throws at you.  Lowrie is a strong female lead.  She’s intelligent, adventurous and determined to make her own place in the world.  She’s fiercely loyal and courageous.  Her relationship with Shen is interestingly explored, the pressure of being the youngest and possibly the last of the human race makes the friendship they have even more precious.  I loved watching how things developed with them.

Their fascination with the world and it’s history is strong from the outset. Whilst out mudlarking one day they stumble across a relic from the past century and with the help of social media records are able to uncover the mysterious owner and discover a little more about the virus that has caused the global infertility.  Gradually they find out more and more, information that becomes vital as a new danger emerges and threatens the very existence of everyone they love and care for.

Author, Lauren James, is a graduate of Chemistry and Physics and through her novels she is making science look cool and relevant.  Her love and knowledge of technology is clear and it’s good to see it portrayed in a positive light. For example the dangers of social media are often (quite rightly) highlighted but these things are now part of who we are and can also be a positive part of today’s world. Lauren doesn’t preach to her readers, she simply shows how our actions, no matter how small, do have a consequence. But she doesn’t condemn, she inspires. As a Librarian, Lauren makes my job terribly easy to find smart, sassy novels for teens & young adults who like their fiction to reflect who they are, or who they aspire to be.

This is a fantastic novel. Lowrie and Shen are normal teenagers in an abnormal world. So much depends on them and although their plight is a story of science fiction it is incredibly thought-provoking. There are so many things within the pages of this story that are so very real. Perfect for teens & Ya, but for all the adults out there – never be afraid to pick up a book such as this. If your children are reading it then it’s important but more than that it will also tap in to that part of you that was young and full of dreams as to what the world could be for you.

The Quiet At The End Of The World is a novel that will definitely be one of my top reads for 2019.

I think about the legacy we’re leaving behind all the time: pollution and plastic and buildings and everything else. As one of the last humans, my choices and decisions are imbued with the full weight of the billions of lives that came before me. It feels like my ancestors are watching me, waiting to see how I ensure their legacy, how I remember them.’

About the author

Screen Shot 2019-03-30 at 09.32.21Lauren James was born in 1992, and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. She is the Carnegie-nominated British Young Adult author of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, The Quiet at the End of the World and The Next Together series.

She started writing during secondary school English classes, because she couldn’t stop thinking about a couple who kept falling in love throughout history. She sold the rights to the novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university.

Her books have sold over fifty thousand copies in the UK alone, and been translated into five languages worldwide. She has been described as ‘Gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘A strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly.

Her other novels include The Last Beginning, named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for young adults by the Independent, and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, which was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. The Quiet at the End of the World considers the legacy and evolution of the human race into the far future.

Lauren is published in the UK by Walker Books and in the US by HarperCollins. She lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2019. She teaches creative writing at university level, and works with Writing West Midlands, providing creative writing courses to children through the Spark Young Writers programme.

You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk, where you can subscribe to her newsletter to be kept up to date with her new releases and receive bonus content.

Literary Festivals, Time to talk

Chiddingstone Literary Festival – A treasure trove for literary lovers in the South East.

Just four years ago the very first Chiddingstone Literary Festival was held in the splendid grounds of Chiddingstone Castle near Edenbridge, Kent, bringing a missing element of unadulterated literary indulgence to the south east. It has gone from strength to strength, each year attracting a diverse range of authors to entertain and inform in the most glorious of settings. ‘The four days of talks, performances and workshops are set in the historic house and grounds and have been carefully curated to ensure there is something for everyone, of all ages and interests.’

Tickets are available to buy either per event or as day tickets and whichever way you choose to buy includes entry into the castle and grounds.

Personally, it already holds some great memories. In the first year I had the joyous privilege of introducing the then Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, to his eagerly awaiting crowd. He then proceeded to hold the audience completely spellbound whilst he chatted and drew his way into our hearts.

Introducing author and illustrator Chris Riddell in 2016

Each year there has been a whole host of authors, illustrators and performers at Chiddingstone. Last year I was thrilled to catch talks by Abi Elphinstone, Philip Ardagh and current Children’s Laureate, Lauren child.

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Author Abi Elphinstone weaves her magic over a full house in the marquee
Talking adventures and catapults…
Philip Ardagh being fantastically funny as always.

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Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child

This year includes another impressive line-up of events with talks and workshops so much so the adult day has increased to two days (Saturday and Sunday), with the family day still making a brilliant bank holiday Monday day out.

Inspiring Creativity

As well as listening and watching there are also many opportunities throughout the event to get creative and last year I was invited to run several children’s creative writing workshops on both the family and school’s days. I have to say, it was so much fun and the atmosphere was wonderful. Work commitments unfortunately mean that I am unable to run them again this year but I will be attending and writing about the event over the weekend.

One of the beautiful rooms within the castle ready and waiting for our budding storytellers

There are of course plenty of workshops available for both adults and children. Why not indulge in a spot of poetry, creative writing or life drawing? For children there is also plenty going on including film making workshops, creative writing and even Wallace and Gromit clay model making workshops with Aardman Animations.

Furthermore, there is a feast of events waiting for you in the Castle grounds across all four days.

‘Our adult events take place on Saturday, Sunday and Monday with the Festival’s most ambitious programme yet – spilling over with riches and diversity. On Saturday we will also hold our Festival Drinks Party at Stonewall Park, kindly hosted by the Fleming family. Come and celebrate our opening day with a glass of wine from Squerryes, delicious canapés, meet some of our authors and enjoy a stroll through the glorious bluebells and rhododendrons.

Bank Holiday Monday is our Family Day, with events for children and adults.We have our festival favourites Pericles Theatre company performing The Little Mermaid and clay modelling workshops with Aardman Animations, who are celebrating 30 years of Wallace & Gromit.You can watch their films, learn how to make an animated film with Press Play, meet the illustrator of children’s classic Giraffes Can’t Dance and enjoy live drawing and funny antics from duo A F Harrold and Emily Gravett.

Tuesday sees the return of our annual Schools Day, with another wonderful line-up of children’s authors and performers including Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Maz Evans, Dan Freedman and poet Joseph Coelho, alongwith a fun-filled show from Really Big Pants Theatre Company.’

There are too many highlights to mention so do check out the website (link here) where you can view the full event programme and book tickets.

I have already booked my ticket to see Joanne Harris but I am already starting to wish I had just gone straight for a day ticket. :). There is just so much going on.

In a previous life I had the great privilege of working with Chiddingstone Literary Festival’s Artistic Director, Victoria Henderson. She has been at the helm since the very start and does an incredible job each and every year. I’m delighted that she has had time to answer a few questions for me ahead of this year’s festival.

In conversation with Victoria Henderson

Chiddingstone Literary Festival is now in it’s 4th year and has extended to a 4 day event. Why did you decide to add an extra day?

Last year’s festival was such a success and we were overwhelmed with the positive response, so we felt it would be a good idea to introduce a 4thday to include the Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend. We also felt that running 7 consecutive events in a day for those who bravely bought All Day tickets was a bit of a big ask, so we’ve reduced the number of back to back events to 5 each day and introduced more time between events so visitors have more time to have a book signed, get something to eat, visit the Castle’s collections and enjoy the Castle grounds. This year we have also added more workshops for adults and children so people can really get involved. We have Life Drawing, Creative Writing, and Poetry classes and a session on How to Get Published, running alongside the author talks and conversations.

Each year from the very first has seen a collection of interesting and varied authors and events. What factors do you consider when putting together your plan ?

We start planning and researching authors about 10 months before the festival. It’s a mixture of following up authors of interest, talking to publicists about upcoming books, browsing through publishers’ catalogues and keeping an eye out for subjects that are topical. On the whole we look for new authors although we’ve had a couple of returnees such as Anna Pasternak who last year gave a fascinating insight into the life and work of her great-uncle Boris Pasternak, and this year is publishing her biography of Wallis Simpson, which has attracted attention because of the recent arrival (and very different treatment) of another American divorcee into the Royal Family. We like to feel that there is something for everyone on offer at the festival so we try to keep the subjects as varied as possible. This year we’re covering cookery, science, history, biography, poetry, fiction, politics and real crime. The family day is a lovely mix of children’s and adults author events with a performance of The Little Mermaid for all the family, workshops from Aardman Animations, Press Play Film and Creative Writing classes.

Do you have a favourite part of the festival?

I love the Schools Day. It’s such a joy to see the reaction of the children as they listen to some wonderful authors who inspire them with their enthusiasm to think about books and reading in a new way. We’ve been lucky enough to host two Children’s Laureate’s – Chris Riddell and Lauren Child – and How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell. We have over 1500 pupils visiting the festival on our Schools Day and it’s an emotional moment watching them empty out of the coaches and minibuses to enjoy a day devoted to the joy of books. A number of the schools make a day of it and set up camp in the grounds, playing games between events, exploring the lake and the woods, visiting the Castle’s Egyptian and Japanese antiquities and enjoying a picnic. They get to meet the authors who sign copies of their books and they go home with lots to fire their imaginations.

What do you feel is the key to the festival’s success?

I think it’s a mixture of the glorious setting of a historic house in the beautiful Kent countryside and the warm and intimate atmosphere we’ve created for both authors and visitors. The festival is a small but beautifully formed event, in the heart of the Chiddingstone community, bringing top quality writers to this idyllic corner of West Kent.

The British weather can be rather unpredictable. Of course Chiddingstone Castle is stunning at any time of year but what is the greatest challenge you face with the festival weather wise?

Don’t tempt fate! We’ve been incredibly lucky over the last 4 years with the weather and have enjoyed some glorious Spring sunshine, including last year’s mini-heatwave which was almost too hot! We had one downpour in the second year during Nicholas Crane’s talk about the British geography and climate which seemed highly appropriate! Almost all the events take place either in the Castle or in marquees with the exception of Pericles’ Theatre Company’s performances in The Orangery, where the audience sits on chairs in the gardens. If it does rain the show goes on – with brollies!

Who are you most excited about seeing at this year’s festival?

I am looking forward to seeing Joanne Harris talk about her latest novel in the Chocolat series, 20 years after the first book was published. We have Giles and Mary, the unlikely stars of Gogglebox who will be very entertaining, and we’re honoured to be hosting Jackie Kay, the Scottish Poet Laureate. We have a conversation between a forensic scientist and a barrister on some of the most sensational dramas played out in court, and two eminent scientists Dr Giles Yeo and Vybarr Cregan-Reid talking about the obesity epidemic and how humans are adapting to the technological age.

After four years, what is your most memorable moment at the Literary Festival?

Memories of the last four festivals include an extraordinary conversation between a former Commissioner in the Metropolitan police and a convicted murderer about the effects of crime on their mental health, meeting Terry Waite in the Green Room and feeling awed by his presence, his height and his astonishing survival in captivity. I remember Rev Richard Coles falling foul of the Bank Holiday train timetables who arrived with only minutes to spare and Chris Riddell spontaneously volunteering to illustrate the winning entries of the children’s Short Story Competition whilst they were being read out on stage, to the delight of the winners.

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Chiddingstone Literary Festival has all the ingredients for a fantastic weekend of everything literary, no matter the weather. It is a real gem for us here in the South East and I urge you to pop online and book your tickets just as soon as possible. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

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