- LAW (Lucas Alexander Whitley)
Kate Mosse is an author and broadcaster.
The Co-Founder of the Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize for Fiction or OPF) and the Orange Award for New Writers (OANW), she is also a former Executive Director of Chichester Festival Theatre. With her husband, author and teacher Greg Mosse, she teaches creative writing at West Dean College, West Sussex. She is a Trustee of Arts & Business and the South West Sussex Arts Group.
Her short stories and articles have been published in a wide range of newspapers, magazines and anthologies, including: The Observer, the Independent on Saturday, the Independent on Sunday, The Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Harpers Bazaar, the New Statesman and the Financial Times. Her non-fiction books are Becoming a Mother (1993) and The House: inside the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (1995), the book of the award-winning BBC television series. Her novels are Eskimo Kissing (1996); Crucifix Lane (1998), a thriller; and the number one best-selling Labyrinth, an adventure novel set partly in 13th-century Carcassone and partly in present day south west France. Labyrinth has been translated into 37 languages, and has sold over a million copies in English to date. Her novel, Sepulchre (2007), is set in France in 1891 and 2007. Her latest books are The Cave (2009) and The Winter Ghosts (2009).
A regular guest on television and radio in the UK, she presented the flagship BBC 4 series, The Readers & Writers Roadshow, and is the Book Reviewer for The Culture Show on BBC 2. For BBC Radio 4, she is guest presenter of Saturday Review and Open Book.
Kate Mosse is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, won the 2000 European Woman of Achievement Award for her contribution to the Arts, and was awarded an honorary MA from University College, Chichester. She was awarded an MBE int he Queen's birthday honours list in 2013. She and her family live in West Sussex and Carcassonne, south west France.
Kate Mosse studied English at New College, Oxford and went on to work in the publishing industry.
In 1996, she co-founded the Orange Prize for Fiction, which was renamed the Women's Prize for fiction in 2013. This award is open to women of all nationalities writing in English and was devised to give greater publicity to women writers. Although this women-only prize has been the subject of controversy (because it is women-only), it continues to be a valued award. It was originally established as a means to offer a balance to the male-dominated literary awards circuit, as many of the main prizes (such as the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1991 in particular) have often overlooked female novelists.
In terms of Mosse’s work as an author, her first published book is the non-fictional Becoming a Mother (1993) and is concerned with pregnancy and giving birth. It uses the perspectives of mothers and also draws on medical facts to act as a guide through pregnancy. She was inspired to write it after finding there were no such books to help her as a would-be mother and interviewed around 40 women to find out about their experiences. Her second work of non-fiction, The House: Inside the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (1995), is an accompaniment to the popular BBC television documentary series.
Prior to Labyrinth, her two previous novels were considered strong works, but received relatively low-key acclaim. The first, Eskimo Kissing (1996), is concerned with a poignant search for identity through the use of twins and the theme of adoption. Her second novel is Crucifix Lane (1998), which is a time-travel thriller set in London. This also uses environmental issues to drive the plot.
Labyrinth, Mosse’s third novel, is a work of historical fiction which may also be classified as another grail novel. It should be remembered, though, that Mosse began her detailed research before the publication and massive sales of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (2003). The success of Labyrinth may be linked with Geraldine Bedell’s description of it as ‘commercial fiction’ (31 July 2005). It is a lengthy work, over 500 pages, but the plot has a double strand and the movement between the two connected narratives ensures the reader’s attention is maintained. The pace is fast and, to use a clichéd term, is truly a ‘page turner’.
Furthermore, the popularity of the novel may be explained by the way it feeds the reading public’s desire for explanations, as has been argued by Mosse (in interview with Marriane Brace) in her attempt to explain the high sales of (Independent, 15 July 2005). It is also evident in the reading of Labyrinth that this is well-researched and convincing in its historical references and occasional use of the Occitan language; Mosse incorporates the mass of background detail smoothly so that it does not intrude on the action.
The main setting in Labyrinth is Carcassonne, in the southwest of France and where Mosse has had a home since 1990. The persecution of the Cathars in this region in the 13th century is one of the central themes. The narrative is divided into two different time schemes (the 21st and 13th centuries) and these periods are connected with the parallel adventures of the central heroines, Alice and Alaïs. The twin narratives of the past and present collide as Alice is drawn to repeat Alaïs’s history in order to protect the sacred books that lead to the grail.
This novel differs from the standard adventure story, as the central protagonists, both good and evil, are female. Bedell’s review notes this use of female characters: ‘Labyrinth is very much a Girl’s Own Story: a grail quest in which women aren’t helpless creatures to be rescued, or decorative bystanders, but central to the action, with the capacity to change history. The villains, in both eras, are also women’ (Observer, 31 July 2005). Further to this, in her interview with Brace, Mosse explains that she wanted her women to have, ‘lovely frocks, sex and swords and don’t wait to be rescued’ (Independent 15 July 2005). When considering this statement in a more serious context, it is possible to see that the writing of this novel has been at least partially driven by the same impetus for equal gender representation that inspired Mosse to help initiate the Orange Prize for Fiction.
Her more recent novel, Sepulchre (2007), is also set in the southwest of France and similarly draws on two main time frames. This is set in the present and the nineteenth century, and uses Tarot cards as a central plot device.
Mosse’s interest in literature and the writing process is reflected in her roles as author and critic. She is also involved in the teaching of writing, along with her husband (at West Dean College, Sussex), and this desire to make the various stages of writing a novel overt has been made manifest in her website (www.labyrinth.co.uk). This focuses on both the writing of Labyrinth and on the harnessing of the creative process. She describes this as a six-year online experiment to share the various stages of novel writing and to encourage other writers.
Dr Julie Ellam, 2007