Lydia Syson began her career as a World Service Radio Producer after receiving a Double First in English at Oxford, and an MA in Critical Theory at Southampton. In 2003 she was awarded a PhD from Birkbeck, London, for a thesis about Timbuktu. Her biography of Britain’s first sex therapist, Doctor of Love: James Graham and His Celestial Bed (2008), and her writing for young adults have been widely and enthusiastically reviewed in the major newspapers and journals. She has written on subjects ranging from the Spanish Civil War to the Paris Commune. Lydia was brought up in London and Botswana and now lives in Camberwell with her family. Her first adult novel, Mr Peacock’s Possessions, is set in C19th Oceania and launches in paperback at the festival. In 2018 it was chosen as a book of the year in both The Times and The Sunday Times and featured in the Radio 4’s Open Book on Islands in Fiction.
Monisha Rajesh was born in King’s Lynn in 1982 into a family originally from Chennai but now here or scattered around India and the US. She spent most of her schooldays in England and at a boarding school in India. After graduating in French from Leeds, she taught English at High School in Cannes before doing a postgraduate course in journalism at City University. As a journalist she became a Features Writer contributing to the London Evening Standard, The Guardian, Time Magazine and the New York Times, and worked as an Arts and Travel writer for The Week. She has also contributed to cricketing journals. Her first book, Around India In Eighty Trains (2012), is followed by Around the World In Eighty Trains, to be published this year.
Simon Mawer was born in 1948 and spent his childhood in retain, Cyprus and Malta. He is author of two non-fiction books and ten novels, the first of which, Chimera, was published when he was 40. Later books include Mendel’s Dwarf, The Fall (2003 – winner of the Boardman Tasker Award and longlisted for The Booker Prize) and Swimming to Ithaca (2006). The Glass Room, published by Little, Brown in 2009, was on The Booker shortlist and is considered by some the best novel in English this century. His current novel is the gripping and flawlessly constructed Prague Spring (2018). Simon Mawer lives in Italy.
Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She holds a BFA Drama (Directing) from Carnegie Mellon University and studied screen-writing at the University of Southern California, and was a finalist for the Nichol Scholarships in Screenwriting honoured by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She is a graduate of the UEA Creative Writing MA course. In 2006 Kelleigh was the recipient of the Abroad Writers’ Fellowship in Provence. After ten years’ research, she wrote Swan Song which has won and been short-listed for a number of awards and was chosen as a The Times’ Book of the Year. Swan Song. The book deals with the social fall from grace of Truman Capote when he reveals Society’s confidential tales, published in excerpts and so he is ostracised by his swans. “A whirlwind of a first novel. The character of Truman shimmers through the novel in a wonderful blaze of eccentricity and excess.” (Rose Tremain).
John Fuller was born in 1937 at Ashford, Kent, the son of poet and Oxford Poetry Professor, Roy Fuller. He began his teaching career at Magdalen College, Oxford. Fuller has written more than 50 books, including more than 20 collections of poetry, since 1960 when he won the Newdigate Prize at Oxford, and the most recent collection being The Dice Cup (2014). He has won many other awards including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial prize and the Forward Prize (1996). Among his nine works of fiction is Flying to Nowhere which won the Whitbread Award and was shortlisted for the Booker in 1983. His new novel is The Clock in the Forest. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
The distinguished poet, novelist and critic, John Lucas, is Professor Emeritus at the Universities of Loughborough and Nottingham Trent. He is the author of many academic works and has published seven books of his own poetry. His novels include The Good That We Do (2000) and 92 Acharnon Street (2007), the latter blending fiction, memoir and social history. Both The Guardian and The TLS chose his Next Year Will be Better: A Memoir of England in the 1950s (2010) as their Book of the Year. His latest fiction is a book of short stories, The Hotel of Dreams and Other Stories (2018).
George Orwell (1903-1950) was the author of two novels, Animal Farm (1944) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), that were of great interest worldwide, both of which achieved huge sales on publication and have continued to be read to this day. Orwell died on the 21st January 1950 aged 46.
Richard Blair was born in May 1944 and was adopted by George and Eileen Orwell. Eileen was to die within ten months and Orwell moved in May 1946 to Jura, in the Hebrides, along with his sister Avril, Richard and the housekeeper Susan. Richard recalled the island as a lost idyll despite gashing his head and contracting measles. George Orwell was desperately trying to complete Nineteen Eighty-Four. He gave Richard a cigarette to try to dissuade him from smoking. Richard was violently sick. The weather was icy and wet; father and son sat in the car eating boiled sweets. His father by now was most unwell and had to go into hospital, where his chief concern was his separation from Richard. Orwell left provision as to what was to become of Richard should Orwell die, which he did. Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in 1949 – 70 years ago.
Chris West has published a number of works of fiction including his four Inspector Wang novels set in contemporary China, where he travelled as a student. Death of a Blue Lantern was nominated for Best First Novel at the World Mystery Convention. More recently, Hello Europe is a history of the continent through the eyes of the Eurovision Song Contest. He chairs an event at the festival.
Rachel Hore lives in Norwich and is the author of nine novels, including the best-seller A Gathering Storm (2011) and The House on Bellevue Gardens (2016). Rachel is a reviewer of fiction for The Guardian. She teaches publishing at UEA and is married to writer DJ Taylor. Last Letter Home (2018) is Rachel’s newest title and we are delighted she will once again chair events at our festival.
Professor Chris Bigsby is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Society of Arts. He is an award winning Academic, Novelist and Biographer, and is the Professor of American studies at UEA, and Director of the Arthur Miller Centre there. He has published more than 40 books including the Biography of Arthur Miller in two volumes (2008 and 2011).