Arts / Contemporary

Kate Mosse: the other Kate

By Clarissa Pabi.

Kate Mosse may not canter down catwalks like the other Kate, but she is a model of great importance nonetheless.  A BBC broadcaster, best-selling author, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, co-founder of the “Orange Prize for Fiction” and the “Chichester Writing Festival”, Kate’s contributions to the arts go on ad infinitum.  She is, to me, is an archetypal woman, a mother of two, an intellectual, a champion of creativity, having done so much in so little time she has. Her involvement in the arts started when she was little from having a star role as Aladdin in a junior school production (already crossing the gender barriers) to being part of the Oxford University Dramatic Society; and the rest as they say is

Kate Mosse

Born near Chichester in the 1960’s, Kate attended the comprehensive Chichester High School for Girls and after achieving high grades in humanities subjects English, History, Latin, and Music she went on to read English at New College Oxford. Oxford was an ineffably exciting time for Mosse as she engaged with literature from across the centuries.  After gradating she went into publishing, and became a household name; working at Hutchinson and Random house.  Although much of her work was editorial, Kate had a penchant for writing and went on to be published herself.  Eskimo Kissing, Crucifix Lane and the first two books in her Languedoc Trilogy, Labyrinth and Sepulcure, sold millions. Labyrinth, her most successful novel, was released during the Da Vinci Code phenomenon, and Kate managed to usurp the number one spot of the New York best sellers list. Arguably she made the distinction between commercial and literary amorphous (if indeed there is a difference), as the book was both. In contrast with Dan Brown’s more crowd-pleasing The Da Vinci Code, Labyrinth was elegantly and exquisitely written and structured, and won the Best Read category at the British Book Awards 2006, being the number one UK paperback for six months, and was the best selling book of 2006. One thing I particularly admire about Mosse is that she often spends a lot of time researching and then writing books, as we can see from Labyrinth which Kate spent 10 years researching and 6 writing. It seems that her hard work and determination ethic enhanced by her time at Oxford has transferred itself into her books.  It is almost as if she writes these books in the essay-esque, for the tutors that are essentially her readers, and thus no shoddy work is acceptable. Although Mosse is known most popularly for her fiction, there is a whole other side to her. Labelling her of novelist is to limiting, considering the fact that she writes for The Bookseller, and The Times, The Sunday Times, the Guardian, the Independent and the Financial Times.

‘Labyrinth’ by Kate Mosse

In 2000 Mosse was awarded the accolade for “European Woman of Achievement for Contribution to the Arts”, in recognition of the immense impact she has had on the Arts.  “The European Women of Achievement Awards” are given to women for their outstanding achievement in the arena of “Arts and Media, Business, Entrepreneur, Humanitarian, and Professional”, and so her eminence has been recognized internationally.  The Award also has a political strata, and Mosse is also advises the British Arts Council, on initiatives for encouraging a reading and writing renaissance. If her achievements have been recognized internationally by the EWAA then on a national scale they have also been recognized by her hometown Chichester as she was recently presented with an Honorary Masters from the University of Chichester.

I first encountered Kate Mosse, when I was 15, after reading Labyrinth, and was completely besotted with the book.  Little did I know that four years later I would actually get to work with her in person, being a part of the judging process for the Orange prize for fiction 2009.  Kate Co-founded “The Orange Prize for Fiction”  and is its Honorary Director.  Set up in 1996, The Orange Prize for fiction is a prestigious writing award, the only type in the world to solely recognize women’s writing, the winner receives  30,000 pounds and international acclaim.  In this way Kate in this way has dedicated it to the celebration and preservation of women’s authorship.  She is no stranger to controversy and in it advent the idea to set up such a prize was met by some with criticism and censure. Nonetheless Kate’s setting up of the prize is an important mark for world history.  In way it becomes likes reparations for all the lost female works of writing; and should be meet with admiration not disdain. What strikes me also is that rather just aiming things at woman , Kate has made the prize all encompassing, by trying to include another group of people who have also been marginalized by the society; namely the young.  The Orange Prize is an innovative and is always trying out new initiatives to engage younger audiences with it.  This year Kate had the idea of making a shadow “youth panel” which incidentally was the first youth panel any literary prize has had, and I was lucky enough to be selected for it. Kate chaired the meetings and facilitated our thoughts on the books, and was extremely encouraging and lovely.

I told Kate after our first meeting, that she was one of my favourite writers and that felt like her book was written for me and then apologized for my narcissism. To which she laughed, and later wrote a message in my book which I shall treasure forever. There is something electric and magnetic about her personality, and she is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. The epitome of the word innovator, Kate, is for me one of the greatest women of the 21st century, constantly cultivating creativity and ways for people to write, to read, to talk about reading, and preserving what is inherent in everybody, irrespective of gender, age or nationality, the ability to tell a story.