Meet the authors involved in our 2023 fesitval programme
Anya Bergman became interested in the witch trials of Vardø and the vivid folk tales of the north while living in Norway. Travelling to the Steilneset memorial, in which Louise Bourgeois and Peter Zumthor commemorated those persecuted as witches, she became fascinated by their stories. Now resident in Ireland, she is currently undertaking a PhD by Published Works at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland where she also lectures as well as tutoring for Jericho Writers. She is working on her next novel, which unites the fates of two very different women against the tumultuous backdrop of the French Revolution.
Anya's Book Recommendation:
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent had a huge impact on me when I began work on The Witches of Vardo. It inspired me to write about dark times in northern lands as well as tell history from a feminist perspective while reclaiming a sense of agency for the protagonists. I also met Hannah Kent and found her a very inspirational and generous author to talk to. The book is beautifully written and completely compelling.
Jenny Colgan is one of Scotland’s greatest exports. In a career spanning over 25 years she has sold over 9 million copies worldwide. A former stand-up comedian, Jenny’s books are celebrated as ‘Feel Good Fiction’ in many of the countries where they are published. And after many years of ‘romantic fiction’ being pigeonholed or side-lined, Jenny is at the forefront of writers who are now directly addressing just why things haven’t progressed since the time of Austen, what the genre truly means and why it is, and always has been, so important for so many. She is married with three children and divides her time between a castle on the coast of Fife and a flat in Edinburgh’s West End. She is the author of numerous Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling novels and has won various awards for her writing, including the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance, the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award and the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year Award.
Things Jenny likes include: cakes, far too much Doctor Who, wearing Converse trainers every day so her feet are now just gigantic big flat pans; baths only slightly cooler than the surface of the sun and very very long books, the longer the better.
Jackie Fraser is a freelance editor and writer. She's worked for AA Publishing, Watkins, the Good Food Guide, and various self-published writers of fiction, travel and food guides, recipe books and self-help books since 2012. Prior to that, she worked as an editor of food and accommodation guides for the AA, including the B&B Guide, Restaurant Guide, and Pub Guide for nearly twenty years, eventually running the Lifestyle Guides department. She's interested in all kind of things, particularly history, (and prehistory) art, food, popular culture and music. She reads a lot, (no, really) in multiple genres, and is fascinated by the Bronze Age. She likes vintage clothes, antique fairs, and photography. She used to be a bit of a goth. She likes cats.
Jackie's Book Recommendation:
I really admire the balance of humour and seriousness in Mhairi McFarlane’s books, and she writes such great dialogue. I recommend her books to people all the time, and Between Us (her latest) is brilliant! If I was allowed to choose two I'd also pick Cotillion by Georgette Heyer which is one of my favourites. It's a great one for 'friends to lovers' and also 'fake relationship', and is effortlessly witty.)
Mike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham, where he now lives with his wife, kids and greyhound. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology, he moved to London to pursue a career in journalism and worked as a features editor and agony uncle. He has written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, the Guardian and Cosmopolitan.
Mike became a full-time novelist in 1997 following the publication of his Sunday Times top ten bestseller My Legendary Girlfriend, which was hailed by the Independent as ‘full of belly laughs and painfully acute observations’, and by The Times as ‘a funny, frank account of a hopeless romantic’. Since then he has written eighteen novels, including The Man I Think I Know, selected as a World Book Night title, and Half A World Away, selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages. In 2021, Mike was the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Mike's Book Recommendation:
I first encountered Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë at sixth form as it was on my A Level English syllabus. To be honest I wasn't thrilled, my tastes at the time leaned more towards contemporary fiction but then I read and fell in love with it instantly. As a seventeen year old I loved the extremes of emotion the characters experience and the passions they expressed so much that I committed huge swathes of it to memory and would quote them whenever the opportunity arose! And even now, all these years later it's still one of my all time favourite books.
Niamh Hargan was born and raised in Derry, Northern Ireland. She studied Law and French at Queen’s University, Belfast, followed by a master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh. She is a solicitor and a member of the New York Bar, and now practices entertainment law, acting as production counsel for leading film and television producers around the world.
An alumnus of Curtis Brown Creative, Niamh’s first novel, Twelve Days in May, was published in April 2022 and her second, The Break-Up Clause, is forthcoming in 2023.
Niamh's Book Recommendation:
Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane is an all-time favourite. The thing about this romcom is it’s very romantic, and it’s very funny. It’s also so cleverly plotted, and has that perfect mix of escapism and believability. A complete classic of the genre, in my opinion, and one that absolutely made me close the last page and think ‘ugh, i’d like to write a book like this.’
Sally Hinchcliffe was born in London but grew up all over the world in the wake of her father’s diplomatic career. She spent many years working at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew developing research systems for taxonomists until a two-year sabbatical in Eswatini gave her the impetus to take her writing seriously. After completing an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, her first novel, Out of a Clear Sky, was published by Macmillan in 2008. She moved to south-west Scotland to work as a writer and freelance editor full time, when she is now out exploring rural Dumfries and Galloway on her bike. Hare House is her second novel.
Sally's Book Recommendation:
Catherine Hokin is the author of several novels inspired by World War Two, including the Hanni Winter series. She writes books set primarily in Berlin, which is her favourite city, a never-ending source of inspiration and also, very conveniently, where her son lives. Her novels cover the period from 1930 up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and deal with the long shadows left by war.
She is from the North of England but now lives very happily in Glasgow. She loves to travel and, if she’s not at her desk, she can usually be found in the cinema.
Catherine's Book Recommendation:
My choice would be Ithaca by Catherine Webb. I have always loved these myths which I studied at school, but even then I felt that half the focus was missing. Catherine Webb's re-telling moves the women from the periphery of what were traditionally male stories brilliantly to the centre and it's fabulous.
Milly Johnson was born, raised, and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. A Sunday Times (London) bestseller, millions of copies of her books have sold across the world. Milly writes from the heart about what and where she knows and highlights the importance of community spirit. Her books champion women, their strength and resilience, and celebrate love, friendship, and the possibility of second chances. She is an exceptional writer who puts her heart and soul into every book she writes and every character she creates.
Milly's Book Recommendation:
I read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte at school and for me it was the book that had everything: a strong heroine I could relate to, a smouldering, imperfect, kind hero with solid values, love rivals, a beautiful house, a touch of the supernatural, triumph over adversity and a gloriously happy ending. And it had a strong Yorkshire connection. It was a book that made me burn to write and make readers feel about my books the way I felt about this one. On the strength of this book, when I could afford a house, I moved to Haworth hoping to be smitten by a Bronte muse. It worked. Living there for years gave me a scrapbook of experiences to write about. And being pregnant there inspired my first book which got me my publishing deal. So the impact on me was far-reaching, to the extent that I think there is a little bit of Jane Eyre in all my novels. This book might be labelled a classic now but it is every bit the best example of romantic fiction I can think of and all its ingredients exist in the contemporary and romantic stories which bring readers so much pleasure today.
Nina Kaye is a contemporary romance author who writes warm, witty and uplifting reads with a deeper edge. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and much adored side-kick, James. In addition to writing, Nina enjoys swimming, gin and karaoke (preferably all enjoyed together in a sunny, seaside destination). Nina has previously published The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating and has also been a contender for the RNA Joan Hessayson Award.
Nina's Book Recommendation:
That Night In Paris by Sandy Barker. It's the second book in her Holiday Romance Series, which is the very definition of 'armchair travel'. It's packed with beautifully described holiday destinations, great humour and the will-they-won’t-they moments that romance readers love. The story is about a young woman called Cat, who books an impromptu European coach trip in desperation after she has a few too many wines and sleeps with her flatmate. And what a decision that turns out to be when she bumps into her long-lost teenage crush in Paris.
Lily Lindon is a writer and editor living in London. She studied English at Cambridge, where she was part of the Footlights comedy group. She was a fiction editor at Penguin Random House, then at The Novelry. Her debut novel Double Booked (‘the bisexual romcom of your wildest dreams,’ DIVA Magazine) was translated into multiple languages and optioned for screen. She won a Comedy Women in Print Prize for ‘Funniest Sex Scene.’ Yes, she is single.
Lily's Book Recommendation:
Lily likes to recommend Wild Things by Laura Kay to her friends. Laura is an author Lily is great friends with and the pair have done several events together. Laura's books are queer and hilarious, with messy main characters and show the importance of queer representation in romance writing.
Sara Sheridan is a Glasgow-based writer of over 20 books including cosy crime noir mysteries set in 1950s Britain and historical novels based on the real-life stories of late Georgian and early Victorian explorers. She has also written non-fiction, as well as books for children. Sara has been named one of the Saltire Society's 365 most influential Scottish women, past and present.
Sara's Book Recommendation:
The book I’d recommend is The Collected Short Stories of Lorna Moon - she was just extraordinary and I love love love her short stories - they are highly highly skilled and you can see how she went on to become a Hollywood scriptwriter in the golden era. PLUS if she was a man obvs she’d be super famous for the shorts alone.
Kim Sherwood is an author and creative writing lecturer. Born in Camden in 1989, she has taught at the University of Sussex, UWE, and in schools, libraries and prisons, and now lectures at the University of Edinburgh, where she lives in the city. Her first novel, Testament, published in 2018, won the Bath Novel Award and the Harper's Bazaar Big Book of the Year, was shortlisted for the Author's Club Best First Novel Award, and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. In 2019, Kim was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award.
Kim is currently writing a trilogy of Double O novels for the Ian Fleming Estate, expanding the James Bond universe with new heroes for the 21st century. The first title, Double or Nothing, was published by HarperCollins in the UK and William Morrow in the US. Her latest literary novel, A Wild & True Relation was published by Virago in February 2023.
Kim's Book Recommendation:
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Stacey Thomas is a contributor to Bad Form Review. She is an alumna of the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course where she was awarded the Clare Mackintosh Scholarship for Black Writers. In 2021, she was announced as one of the three winners of HarperCollins’s inaugural Killing It Competition for Undiscovered Writers.
Stacey's Book Recommendation:
The book I'd like to shout about is Witch Child by Celia Rees. I first read it when I was a teenager and fell for the 17th-century setting and the witchy protagonist Mary who escapes a witch hunt only to get caught up in another one in the New World.
Eva Verde is a writer from East London. Identity, class and female rage are recurring themes throughout her work. Eva's love song to libraries, I Am Not Your Tituba forms part of Kit De Waal's Common People: An Anthology of Working-Class Writers. Her words have featured in Marie Claire, Grazia, Elle and The Big Issue, also penning the new foreword for the international bestselling author Jackie Collins Goddess of Vengeance. Eva lives in Essex with her husband, children and dog.
Eva's Book Recommendation:
A book that changed my life was Fay Weldon's Growing Rich. I came to it first when it was adapted for TV and I was about thirteen. The story follows Carmen, Annie and Laura - three stifled teens on the cusp of leaving school while being tempted by the devil in East Anglia, and was so up my street that I made my mum take a speedy visit to WHSmith's to buy me the paperback. I still have that well-read edition, and have been a Fay fan ever since, loving her honesty, sixth-sense knowing, and the fearless way she captured domestic frustrations in fiction, something I'm continually fascinated by in my own work. To say she was inspiring is an understimation.