Speak Up features an interview with the novelist Kate Mosse. In this out-take she talks about the differences in reactions to her work in Britain and the rest of Europe:
Kate Mosse (Standard British accent):
There are two things: in… on the one hand, reactions in terms of press; it is very different. In the UK, it’s obviously in your… in anybody’s home market, for me: because of the Orange Prize, because I present shows for the BBC, I have a public persona, which is separate from being a writer and consequently here, it tends to focus on sales! And, it being what is termed as “commercial fiction” – you know, no author defines their books in that sort of way, these are always press releases and things – so here I have a very different sort of profile, I suppose. In European countries in particular, it is really enjoyable because I simply exist as the author of these books, of Labyrinth and Sepulchre.
Consequently my interviews in Holland and Germany and France and Norway and whatever are incredibly satisfying for me because they are about the text, they’re about the book, they’re not about me. And that is very interesting, particularly with Sepulchre, the reviews in Italy and in France, in Norway, you know, the countries that it’s come out so far… in Germany, particularly in France, actually, are… Sepulchre has been treated as an extraordinarily literary book, that also sold a lot of copies and that’s been very exciting. You read a review in Le Figaro that says that you are, you know, the female version of Umberto Eco, and you’re going, “Yes! Fantastic!” Whereas here, and in America, I’m the female version of Dan Brown! You know, it’s the same book. So, in terms of press reaction, I’m taken much more seriously as a writer in Europe, in America, than I am in the UK.
I don’t complain about that, because my… you know, the sales figures speak for themselves and that’s obviously lovely, however, the thing I would say, which is really interesting, is that my audiences in Japan, Norway, New Zealand, France – just come back from Poland, off to Slovakia on Monday – the audiences are the same. I have a very interesting readership, which is incredibly satisfying for me, in that it is pretty much 50:50 male: female, which is extraordinary, given I’m a female writer and I write female lead characters because the received wisdom is that women read books by women and men tend to read novels by men. That’s not been my experience at all with Labyrinth or Sepulchre, which I suspect is partly the… jackets, that they say very clearly, if you like this sort of esoteric book, if you like history and mystery, as the Italians always say, then you’ll like this sort of book. It doesn’t say “female” or “male readership,” they’re very neutral jackets, quite deliberately so. I also have a very wide age range, so I will always have couples, retired age, couples in the audience. I’ll have quite a lot of women that have come on their own in… who are in book groups, but I will also have, always, teenage boys, and that’s fantastic, you know, I find that really thrilling. So for me, it seems to me, that readers are often patronised, I think, and readers often… they find the stories that they want. So my readership all over the world is quite similar, but the way that I’m profiled in the press is totally different. And that’s just very interesting ‘cause it tends to suggest to me that press stuff is about visibility and readers find out from other readers the books that they want and that actually it’s not the newspapers that are getting people to buy books particularly, it’s readers and websites and they say, “You know, have you read this?” And they pass it on to their brother, or their mum, or whatever.
So that… that has been… and that’s one of the reasons that I travel such a lot, although that eats into writing time, is that I… I get… I really enjoy meeting readers in other countries, and I really like the questions they ask, and you’re absolutely right, that in Europe they ask questions about spirituality, about esoteric things, about the soul and the spirit and things, and they see these things in Labyrinth and Sepulchre, which no British person would ever ask. And that’s why I like travelling in Europe because, for me, that’s how I see things. I like to be able to talk about the spirit of a place. You go to Germany, they talk about reincarnation; in Poland, I’ve just come back from, the last trip I did, late last week, they talk about the spirituality of the tarot cards, they don’t feel the need to say whether it’s… to rubbish it or support it, they’re interested in that… in why anyone might find that spiritually satisfying to do, and so for me I have a different calibre of discussion, and that’s very rewarding for me, as a writer.
(Kate Mosse was talking to Louise Johnson)