Fast forward six weeks. A late Wednesday afternoon in January. Freezing cold weather. Sitting cross-legged on the floor at home in Sussex (with pale face and white knuckles), my teenage children either side of me for moral support, waiting to watch the film for the first time. Knowing that what Richard Madeley, Judy Finnigan and their guests said live on air about Labyrinth (a novel that had been some fifteen years in the researching and planning, writing and editing, and rewriting) could, would, make all the difference.
And it did. The day after the transmission, more than 50,000 paperbacks were sold, putting Labyrinth at No 1in the UK charts, and there it stayed for six months. It went on to win the ‘Best Read’ category at the British Book Awards. It was the highest selling book of 2006. After that, I no longer had the experience of having to sneak into bookshops to shift the single copy of my novel to the front table before running away; I no longer had to explain that, no, I wasn’t a supermodel; most importantly, I no longer had to go back to an ‘office job’ to pay the mortgage. Because of being part of Richard and Judy’s 2006 Book Club, it was possible for me to be a full-time writer.
The years passed. And now picture this, a day in September 2015. Pleasant, mild weather. Picture this, an older (more wrinkled) novelist standing, with my husband and our grown-up children, in front of the WHSmith in my home town in Sussex. Looking at the poster in the window advertising Richard and Judy’s Autumn Book Club. Feeling the same sense of thrill and gratitude. A literary story come full circle.
Before The Taxidermist’s Daughter, I’d found it impossible to put Sussex down on paper properly. At home in Chichester, I was always first and foremost somebody’s daughter or sister, a friend or a pupil. Later, a work colleague and a wife, a mother and sister-in-law. Never a writer. Then, having learnt how to write in Carcassonne, something shifted. I had the idea for a Gothic thriller, set in 1912 in the village of Fishbourne where I’d grown up, inspired by the folklore, superstitions, woods and hills of Sussex. A story of revenge and dark secrets, set in a creepy old taxidermy museum as the flood waters rose ever higher. A why-dunnit as much as a who-dunnit.
Labyrinth was a love letter to my adopted home of Languedoc. The Taxidermist’s Daughter is a love letter (albeit a rather macabre one) to home home. Sussex home. It’s a novel that means a great deal to me. It’s a novel for my parents, both gone in the past ten years, to my sisters and my family. It’s a novel inspired by my childhood and the landscape where, growing up, I dreamt of being a writer. So for The Taxidermist’s Daughter to have been chosen to be part of Richard and Judy’s 2015 celebration of writing – like Labyrinth a decade ago – means a very great deal.
Kate Mosse, 2015
P.S: I still have the black-and-white cow print coat, in case you’re wondering…