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Fiction Focus

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Fiction Focus is a brilliant way to discover an exciting new author and pairs the Festival team’s pick of the year’s debut novelists with established authors.

Literature Festival Manager Charles Haynes explains:

We read up to five novels a week for several months to find the authors for Fiction Focus.

…It’s the fun part! Once we’ve found the ones we absolutely love, we contact authors that we think would pair well with them, as it’s really important that they believe in them too.

Getting respected authors on board is the most fulfilling thing

…To hear them say, “I don’t need a platform of my own – it’s interesting to participate with people who are unknown and exciting” is fantastic.

Programming debut author Rachel Joyce with Sue Townsend last year was amazing

…Rachel’s book (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry) was passed round the team very quickly when it first came out, and we thought it was really exciting. By the time October came round, it was already a hit and had been long-listed for the Man Booker, so it was great to have that stamp of approval.

Finding the right partner is vitally important

…It means we can get both authors the audience we think they deserve. This year, Kate Clanchy’s writing reminded me of the earlier work of Penelope Lively (winner of the 1987 Man Booker) so I called Penelope to tell her about it. She said, “I love to encourage new writers: send me a copy of the novel, and I look forward to coming back to you and saying that I’d like to support the event.” And she did!

The events feel quite informal: very different to a solo event

…There are two participants and an interviewer, who asks each about their careers to date. Although there’s an obvious contrast, they’ll quickly find common ground, saying “Oh, that happened to me when I had my first agent” and so on. The events become very warm, very quickly and there’s a lovely atmosphere to them.

This year, we’ve partnered with the Desmond Elliot prize for new fiction

…It’s a great sign already of how this series is being appreciated and respected by outside bodies. We’ve paired the winner, Ros Barber (The Marlowe Papers) with writer and historian Charles Nicholl to talk about the real-life intrigue in historical fiction.

We’re not saying that the authors are the crème de la crème of literary fiction, or that they’re the best commercial thriller ever written

… We’re saying that we – the team behind the Literature Festival – think that these are great books and that we believe our audience would love them, and that’s why we’re trying to share them. Come along in the autumn and see if you agree.

Find the full Fiction Focus programme online from early August, and book ahead with Festivals’ Membership from 27 August.