How many books have you read during this lockdown period? Have you found yourself devouring novels to transport yourself to another world temporarily? During this time we are more grateful than ever for the creative talents of writers and artists.
Chichester born Kate Mosse OBE (b 1961) is one of the country’s most successful novelists and one of just a few writers working today to be a household name. Growing up in Fishbourne and attending Chichester High School for Girls, she embarked upon a writing career in 1992 after a few years’ working in publishing. Today, her work has been published in more than 40 countries and translated into 38 languages.
With a total of nine works of fiction, and several non-fiction and plays under her belt, she’s best known for her phenomenally successful ‘Languedoc’ trilogy, ‘Labyrinthe’ (2005), ‘Sepulchre’ (2007), and ‘Citadel’ (2012). These multi-million selling historical thrillers-with-a-twist set in the legend-steeped Languedoc region of southern France owe their success to their cocktail of ancient mysteries, folklore, buried treasure, and secrets, stumbled upon by contemporary characters whose stories and present day dilemmas become entwined with history. One of Mosse’s trademarks, loved by her many readers, is her strong, young female characters, with ‘Citadel’, in particular, centring on a group of female resistance fighters in Second World War Carcassonne. The books have been garlanded with awards. In 2006 ‘Labyrinthe’ was the bestselling work of fiction in the UK, the Best Book at the British Book Awards and Richard and Judy’s Best Book of the Year. It has been named as one of Waterstone’s Top 25 Books of the past quarter century. Mosse’s latest book,’The Burning Chambers’, the first of a new quartet set against the backdrop of the French Wars of Religion, immediately became a best seller when it was published last year. The second in the series is due for publication this spring. Mosse doesn’t always reach across the Channel for inspiration, however. Her 2014 mystery ‘The Taxidermist’s Daughter’ is set much closer to home in Fishbourne and makes the most of its Sussex backdrop.
Mosse has always championed the creativity of other women and, in 1996, helped other women to open the notoriously tricky door of publishing success by co-founding the annual Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize, and from 2014, the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction). The prize is now the largest annual celebration of international fiction written by women in the world, a boon for both readers and writers, having helped modern classics such as ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy and ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver to gain wide readerships. She has contributed stories to anthologies to raise money for various causes including Dyslexia Action, the Woodland Trust, the Royal British Legion, and SSFA.
Mosse, who still lives in West Sussex, has close links with her hometown, particularly with its arts scene. In 1998 she became the first female executive director of Chichester Festival Theatre and still hosts pre and post show interviews there. In 2012, she published Chichester Festival Theatre at Fifty to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, and supports the annual Festival of Chichester. Last year she brought her expertise to her local university becoming a visiting professor in Creative Writing and Contemporary Fiction at the University of Chichester.
In a recent edition of ‘Coast’ magazine Mosse talked about the pull of her home town and county: ‘In Chichester we have incredible beaches, incredible sailing and incredible hills. All the things you might want for wellbeing, that link with the landscape, the seascape and the skyscape, are here.’
Kate Mosse was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to literature and women, and was named Woman of the Year for her service to the arts in the Everywoman Awards .
Written by social hstorian Louise Peskett