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Three Stellar Authors Kicking off the Festival Lineup

Becky Grace

13 Mar 2024

From Mayhem to Memoir, Austen to Alex vs Axel: Meet the First Authors Joining Us for the Festival

Gill Hornby

Bestselling author Gill Hornby intricately intertwines her passion for storytelling with astute observations of human relationships. Her writing, marked by wit, depth, and emotional acuity, continues to resonate deeply with readers, earning her acclaim and a dedicated following. She is celebrated for her novels including The Hive, All Together Now, and the captivating Miss Austen which delves into the complex bond between Jane Austen's sister and her world-renowned sibling.

Godmersham Park returns to the life of the celebrated Regency novelist with an elegant, atmospheric account of a young governess forming a firm friendship with the literary genius.

On 21 January 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take up the position of governess. At 31 years old, she has no previous experience of either teaching or fine country houses. Her mother has died, and she has nowhere else to go. Anne is left with no choice. For her new charge - twelve-year-old Fanny Austen - Anne's arrival is all novelty and excitement.

The governess role is a uniquely awkward one. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and to balance a position between the 'upstairs' and 'downstairs' members of the household is a diplomatic chess game. One wrong move may result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let down her guard.

When Mr Edward Austen's family comes to stay, Anne forms an immediate attachment to Jane. They write plays together, and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not merely pretty, charming and competent; she is clever too. Even her sleepy, complacent mistress can hardly fail to notice.

Meanwhile Jane's brother, Henry, begins to take an unusually strong interest in the lovely young governess...

And from now on, Anne's days at Godmersham Park are numbered.

Godmersham Park was Waterstones Fiction Book of the Month for January 2023. Her upcoming novel, The Elopement, is due for release in 2025.

Maria McErlane

Actor, writer and broadcaster Maria McErlane spent years as a columnist on the Sunday Times; she has written for the Sunday Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday, the Evening Standard and had a monthly column for Esquire magazine. Her television credits are many, including The Fast Show, Killing Eve, Eastenders, Fat Friends, HIGNFY, Holby City and ten years as the voice of Eurotrash. She has worked as a broadcaster on BBC Radio 2 and is well known for her weekly contributions on the long running Graham Norton show as an agony aunt in the ‘Grill Graham’ slot. Her memoir, Bumps in the Road, is her first book.

For Maria, navigating life in all its glory has been accompanied by a steady stream of bicycles. No rule book, just a love of the new and a passion for the open road. Maria details a warm and witty, sometimes difficult ride through childhood, friendships, wealth, fame, reinvention, love and loss. Each bike, each revolution, has contributed to her own evolution and the lessons she has learned along the way. Bumps in the Road gives us the same honesty and humour Maria employs for the many listeners seeking advice in her thirteen years as an agony aunt with Graham Norton. The wheel goes up and the wheel goes down. Happy or sad, life is full of joy, mishaps and annoying obstacles. It’s important to get back in the saddle, keep pedalling up that hill and freewheeling down the other side!

Sam Copeland

Sam Copeland is a magical storyteller and literary wizard! As a children's author and literary agent, he waves his pen like a wand, conjuring captivating tales that whisk readers away on thrilling adventures. With boundless imagination and a huge dose of humour, Sam crafts characters that leap off the page and worlds that sparkle with wonder. From mischievous monsters to daring detectives, his books are cherished by young readers everywhere. When he's not crafting enchanting stories, Sam can be found sharing his wisdom with aspiring authors, helping them bring their own magical tales to life. Sam will be joining us as part of this year's festival schools' programme to talk about his latest hilarious book Alex vs Axel.

Alex is a normal, everyday kid, living in a normal, everyday city. Axel is a monster-slaying hero, living in a world of magic. Unfortunately, when the two boys mysteriously swap places, each of them ends up being mistaken for the other. With zero experience of heroism, Alex is thrust into an epic quest to defeat the evil Felonius Gloam, who has stolen the Book of Lifetales and is using it to unravel the very fabric of the world of Aërth. Meanwhile, Axel is faced with double maths, a gran who's six months behind on the rent, and a crucial chess tournament he's got to win – when he doesn't even know how to play. Can the two boys complete their Impossible Quests and find a way back to their own lives, or will they both discover they don't have a life to come back to?

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