BBC Radio 4 presenter Jenni Murray and Kate Mosse faced a packed house from the stage at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. Their interview began with a chat about Mosse's first experiences of storytelling; she shared her memories of her dad's exciting storytelling sessions when she was a child with the audience, and said that it was probably his passion for stories that had inspired her to write.
When Muray asked Mosse what category her novels sat in, Mosse - who is the co-founder and director of the (soon to be no longer called) Orange Prize for fiction - explained that she was just thrilled to have been allowed to sneak in to the festival: “Everybody knows that crime writers are the nicest gang. They are the only gang that you want to be part of at Crime Fest, and I read an enormous amount of crime, and would loved to have been able to write crime but it’s just not what I can do. Truthfully, I think of my books as adventure.”
Mosse added that when most writers sit down to write, they are not fixated on the end result such as covers and where their book will sit on bookshelves. What they are focused on is the writing process - whether a sentence works, or whether they’ve created a character that their readers will care about.
Mosse's natural flair for storytelling shone through her vivid yet brief description of her ten-year journey from buying a house in Carcassonne, France, to writing her breakthrough novel Labyrinth, which was set in that region. According to Mosse, the key to writing adventure is to keep up the momentum. In her novels there is a timeslip, an historical component followed by a modern component. Mosse explained that she writes the historical part of the book first and the modern second, and that these two parts become the first draft. The second draft is created when she blends these two parts together. On finding her characters, Mosse likened the experience to standing on an empty stage. She knows that there are characters waiting in the wings; she waits for them to come out and stand next to her, and then take her with them on their journey.
As Murray moved the interview on to the topic of Labyrinth being filmed, Mosse spoke about the lack of strong female roles for older actors, especially in theatre, and questioned where the equivalent of Shakespeare’s King Lear was for women. Mosse confirmed that she had been asked to write a play, and initially, she had written it with a male lead and good supporting roles for women, but due to her feelings about the lack of strong leading roles for women, her perspective shifted and she now has an idea for a play featuring a strong female lead. “We have the world’s best actors who are women at the moment,” she said. “With this play there are particular women for whom I would like to write, and I’m really excited about that, but it is three projects down the line.”
The interview drew to a close with Mosse sharing the harrowing background research for her new novel Citadel, due to be published on 25 October, and good news regarding the not-yet rebranded Orange Prize for Fiction. “It’s been incredibly exciting that we were approached by 18 different companies when we said that the sponsorship was available,” said Mosse. “We’ll be making a choice in the next week and announcing it in September.”
Pam McIlroy blogs at pamreader.blogspot.co.uk.