Archives: Festival Authors

Kate Hughes

Kate Hughes

Going Zero

When a ripped beanbag sent thousands of tiny polystyrene balls flying through her garden, Kate Hughes made a decisive break with the throwaway society.

The English journalist greened every aspect of her family’s life. She and her husband ditched plastic and shunned supermarkets. They cooked all meals from scratch and made their own cleaning agents. They bought second-hand clothes and washed them naturally. Reaching deeper, they switched to renewable power, pulled their savings out of dirty banks, and ran an electric car. 

They and their two children are now going beyond the ‘zero waste’ goal of avoiding sending anything to landfill.  

Told with refreshing humility and humour, this is the inspiring story of an ordinary family that rebelled against the waste of a lifestyle wrapped in plastic. Packed with handy tips, it reveals much about what makes a fulfilling modern family and how readers can empower themselves to preserve the climate, forests and seas. And, revealingly, how that can lead to a more relaxing life. 

Hannah Bourne-Taylor

Hannah Bourne-Taylor in conversation with Georgie Fenn

Fledgling

When lifelong bird-lover, Hannah Bourne-Taylor, moved with her husband to Ghana seven years ago, she couldn’t have anticipated how her life would be forever changed by her unexpected encounters with nature and the subsequent bonds she formed. Plucked from the comfort and predictability of her previous life, Hannah struggled to establish herself in her new environment, striving to belong in the rural grasslands far from home.

In this challenging situation she was forced to turn inwards and interrogate her own sense of identity. However, in the animal life around her and courtesy of two wild birds in particular, Hannah found a source of solace and a way to reconnect with the world in which she was living.

‘Fledgling’ is a portrayal of adaptability, resilience and self-discovery in the face of isolation and change, fuelled by the quiet power of nature and the unexpected bonds with animals she encounters. Hannah encourages us to reconsider the conventional boundaries of the relationships people have with animals through her inspiring and very beautiful glimpse of what is possible when we allow ourselves to connect to the natural world.

Full of determination and compassion, Fledgling is a powerful meditation on our instinctive connection to nature. It shows us how even the tiniest of birds can teach us what is important in life and how we can embrace every day.

Susanne Masters

Susanne Masters

Wild Waters

Some 71% of the Earth’s surface is water. Even on dry land we’re irrevocably and closely connected with aquatic life. It provides us with oxygen, food, medicine and materials. Wild aquatic life infiltrates our lives in myriad surprising ways. Every other breath we take is filled with oxygen provided by ocean-dwelling microscopic plants. A variety of seaweed provides a means to test whether people are infected with viruses including Covid-19. Robotic design takes inspiration from a pike’s ability to accelerate with more G-force than a Porsche.

‘Wild Waters’, by Susanne Masters, celebrates the breadth of wildlife found in and around our varied waterways, from oceans and rivers to rock pools and ponds. Armchair explorers will find a fascinating account of how aquatic plants and animals enrich human life. Swimmers, paddleboarders, dog walkers, families and anyone with a passion for the great outdoors can learn about local wildlife, including when and where to look for different species without causing any harm.

Zoë Somerville

Zoë Somerville in conversation with Mary Guiver

The Marsh House

Part ghost story, part suspense novel, ‘The Marsh House’ is the haunting second novel from the author of ‘The Night of the Flood’, in which two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by a mysterious house on the North Norfolk coast.

December 1962. Desperate to create a happy Christmas for her young daughter, Franny, after a disastrous year, Malorie rents a remote house on the Norfolk coast. Once there, the strained silence between them feels louder than ever. As Malorie digs for decorations in the attic, she comes across the notebooks of the teenage Rosemary, who lived in the house thirty years before. Trapped inside by a blizzard, and with long days and nights ahead of her, Malorie begins to read. Though she knows she needs to focus on the present, she finds herself inexorably drawn into the past…

July 1931. Rosemary lives in Marsh House with her austere father, surrounded by unspoken truths and rumours. So, when the glamorous Lafferty family move to the village, she succumbs easily to their charm. Dazzled by the beautiful Hilda and her dashing brother, Franklin, Rosemary fails to see the danger that lurks beneath their bright façades…

As Malorie reads Rosemary’s diary, past and present begin to merge in this moving story of mothers and daughters, family obligation and deeply buried secrets.

Roger Morgan-Grenville

Roger Morgan-Grenville in conversation with Mike Drummond Smith

Taking Stock

We are thrilled that Roger Morgan-Grenville has agreed to return to Mere again this year with his new novel ‘Taking Stock’.

Since highland cattle ransacked his grandmother’s vegetable patch when he was six, Roger Morgan-Grenville has been fascinated by cows.

So at the age of 61, with no farming experience, he signed on as a part- time labourer on a beef cattle farm to tell their side of the story. The result is this lyrical and evocative book.

For 10,000 years, cow and human lives have been intertwined. Cattle have existed alongside us, fed and shod us, quenched our thirst and provided a thousand other tiny services. Yet most of us know so little about them. We are also blissfully unaware of the de-natured lives we often ask them to lead.

Part history, part adventure and part unsentimental manifesto for how we should treat cows in the 21st century, ‘Taking Stock’ asks us to think carefully about what we eat and to allow nature back into food production.

Andrew Hunter Murray

Andrew Hunter Murray in conversation with Louise Sturdy

The Sanctuary

Ben is a young painter from the crowded, turbulent city. For six months his fiancée Cara has been living on the remote island of Sanctuary Rock, the property of millionaire philanthropist Sir John Pemberley. Now she has decided to break off their engagement and stay there for good.

Ben resolves to travel to the island to win Cara back. But the journey there is a harsh and challenging one and, when he does arrive, a terrible shock awaits him. As Ben begins to find his way around Pemberley’s perfect island, he knows he must also discover what has made Cara so determined to throw her old life away? And is Sanctuary Rock truly a second Eden, as the mysterious Sir John claims or a prospect of Hell?

Andrew Hunter Murray is a writer and since 2008 he has been one of the team behind the BBC show QI. Andrew also writes jokes and journalism for Private Eye magazine and hosts the Eye’s in-house podcast. In his spare time, he performs in the award-winning comedy show Austentatious, which plays in London’s West End and around the UK. His first novel, ‘The Last Day’, was a Sunday Times bestseller and one of 2019’s 10 biggest fiction debuts. 

Sally Page

Local author Sally Page – In conversation with Nicola Liddicoat

The Keeper of Stories

When Janice starts cleaning for Mrs B – a shrewd and tricksy woman in her nineties – she meets someone who wants to hear her story. But Janice is clear, she is the keeper of stories, she doesn’t have a story to tell. At least, not one she can share.

Mrs B is no fool and knows there is more to Janice than meets the eye. What is she hiding? After all, doesn’t everyone have a story to tell?

Gillingham author Sally Page’s debut novel, ‘The Keeper of Stories’, has been described as the most charming and uplifting novel you will read this year. Sally combines her love of history and writing with her abiding interest in the stories people have to tell. How do we get to know one another? What is the role of stories in our lives?

The Keeper of Stories’ has consistently been in the Top 5 book sales on Amazon, has already sold over 125,000 copies over the past four months and is available in 6 countries.

Natasha Solomons

Natasha Solomons

I, Mona Lisa

Listen to my history. My adventures are worth hearing. I have lived many lifetimes and been loved by emperors, kings and thieves. I have survived kidnap and assault. Revolution and two world wars. But this is also a love story. And the story of what we will do for those we love.

In Leonardo da Vinci’s studio, bursting with genius imagination, towering commissions and needling patrons, as well as discontented muses, friends and rivals, sits the painting of the Mona Lisa. For five hundred tumultuous years, amid a whirlwind of power, money, intrigue, the portrait of Lisa del Giocondo is sought after and stolen.

Over the centuries few could hear her voice but now she is ready to tell her own story, in her own words – a tale of rivalry, murder and heartbreak. Weaving through the years, she takes us from the dazzling world of Florentine studios to the French courts at Fontainebleau and Versailles, and into the twentieth century.

Natasha Solomons is the author of five internationally bestselling novels, including ‘Mr Rosenblum’s List’, ‘The Novel in the Viola’, which was chosen for the Richard & Judy Book Club, and ‘The Gallery of Vanished Husbands’. Natasha lives in Dorset with her son, daughter and her husband, the children’s author, David Solomons with whom she also writes screenplays. Her novels have been translated into 17 languages. When not writing in the studio, Natasha can usually be found in her garden.

Kate Morgan

Kate Morgan in conversation with Jonathan Fuller QC

Murder – The Biography

The crimes. The stories. The law.

The stories and the people involved in the history of murder are stranger, darker and more compulsive than any crime fiction. There’s Richard Parker, the cannibalized cabin boy whose death at the hands of his hungry crewmates led the Victorian courts to decisively outlaw a defence of necessity to murder. Dr Percy Bateman, the incompetent GP whose violent disregard for his patient changed the law on manslaughter. Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in England in the 1950s, played a crucial role in changes to the law around provocation in murder cases. And Archibald Kinloch, the deranged Scottish aristocrat, whose fratricidal frenzy paved the way for the defence of diminished responsibility. These, and many more, are the people – victims, killers, lawyers and judges – who unwittingly shaped the history of that most grisly and storied of crimes.

‘Murder – The Biography’ takes the reader on a dark and macabre journey as it explores the strange stories and mysterious cases that have contributed to UK murder law. The big corporate killers, the vengeful spouses, the sloppy doctors, the abused partners and shoddy employers – each crime a precedent that has contributed to the law’s dark, murky and, at times, shocking standing.

Kate Morgan qualified as a solicitor in 2008. She worked as a senior in-house lawyer in the water industry for a number of years and is currently a company secretary. Kate’s first book, ‘Murder – The Biography’, was published in April 2021.

James Crowden

James Crowden

Cider Country (Longlisted for the 2021 Andre Simon Food & Drink Award)

Cidermaking has been at the heart of country life for hundreds of years. However, the fascinating story of how this drink came into existence and why it became so deeply rooted in the nation’s psyche has never been told. To answer these questions, James Crowden traces an elusive history stretching back to the ancient, myth-infused civilisations of the Mediterranean and the wild apple forests of Kazakhstan.

Meeting cider experts, farmers and historians, he unearths the surprising story of an apple that travelled from east to west and proved irresistible to everyone who tasted it.  But the nation’s love-affair with cider didn’t fully blossom until after the Reformation, when thirst for knowledge about the drink was at its peak. This infatuation with experimentation would lead to remarkable innovations and the creation of a ‘sparkling cider’, a technique that pre-dated Dom Pérignon’s champagne by forty years.

Turning to the present day, Crowden meets the new generation of cider makers and unearths a unique philosophy that has been shared through the ages. In the face of real challenges, these enterprising cider makers are still finding new ways to produce the mystical golden drink enjoyed by so many.

Spanning centuries and continents, ‘Cider Country’ tells the story of our country through the culture, craft and consumption of our most iconic rural drink.