The Hove Book Festival

Elaine Roberts had an insightful and entertaining couple of days.

all-300x144_2Dorothy Koomson gave us something special when she introduced us to her brainchild, the inaugural Hove Book Festival, which ran from Thursday 3rd April to Saturday 5th April 2014, it was celebrating her love of reading and really good story telling. The event opened in the intimate venue of Hove Library where Melanie Whitehouse, who runs the Book Lovers’ Supper Club evenings in Ditchling, interviewed three very different authors, Simon Toyne, Bethan Roberts and Dorothy Koomson. Each read passages from their books:
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Simon Toyne read from his first book of a trilogy, Sanctus.
Bethan Roberts read from My Policeman.
Dorothy Koomson read from The Flavours of Love.

They continued entertaining us with stories of how they became writers and where they find their inspiration. Dorothy believes her books fall into a new genre, which she may have invented, the emotional thriller. Though her books often have a crime in them, her stories are not about solving the crime, but about how the crime affects the characters around it.

The Hove Book Festival had something for everyone with a Big Book Quiz, involving authors Lynn Truss, Tom Bale, Joanna Rees, Mark Barrowcliffe and Alexandra Hemingsley with Sarah Gorrell from BBC Sussex and Surrey radio asking the questions. The festival brought Stripy Horse to the seaside for 3 to 5 year olds, with award winning children’s authors Karen Wall and Jim Helmore reading from their first story, encouraging the children to discuss it. Saturday afternoon saw writers and readers alike fill the Hove Town Hall Banqueting Room, to listen to a series of “How To” talks. I attended all the Saturday afternoon talks for £12.

Elly Griffiths, while entertaining, gave valuable insight into the way she works and how she came to have a forensic archaeologist as her main character. Her top tip was to send the manuscript to at least six agents at a time, tell them that’s what you are doing, and ask them to respond in a week, otherwise you’ll assume they are not interested. Apparently this worked for her, she had three agents wanting to see more within that week, but I have to say I’m not sure I’m brave enough to take that line. However, if you’ve done something similar, I’ll be interested to know whether it also worked for you.

Jo Dickinson, the Publishing Director of Adult Fiction at Simon and Schuster, explained how publishing has evolved since she started in the business as an Editorial Assistant. Jo acknowledged it’s subjective. Her best advice was don’t give up; many famous authors got a lot of rejections before someone gave them a chance. To refer to their submission guidelines please visit

Lizzie Enfield and Araminta Hall talked to us about how to find our elusive writing voice. They advised to free write ten or twelve times in a month and assume no-one will read it, this will help find your own unique style of writing, your voice. They also suggested writing about an inanimate object but in the first person, so you become the object. Pour yourself into your writing as if no one will ever read it and you will produce some of your best work.

The day and the festival ended with Eleanor Moran talking about writing for television and how you can put together a story for the small screen.

This has been a very small resumé of the Hove Book Festival, but I’m already looking forward to next year’s, the tickets were excellent value. What struck me most was how open all the authors were to sharing their experiences and happy to answer any questions that came from the floor. They had respect for people already in the business, as well as those striving to be part of that world; they were all normal people like you and me. Dorothy should be pleased her brainchild was a success and as a budding writing I came away inspired to keep trying and never give up.

For more information on the Hove Book Festival:


3 thoughts on “The Hove Book Festival

  1. You have encapsulated the event beautifully, Elaine. You mention you are already looking forward to next year’s festival, Perhaps we can journey together as you’ve certainly made me want to take part in what sounds to be a most informative and rewarding experience – and fun with it!

  2. Thank you Natalie, I did enjoy the whole experience. When you’re trying to get published I think there’s a tendency to look in awe at published writers but they all had wonderful stories of how they were once trying to get an agent or publisher and received, in some cases, many rejections so I think it’s important not to lose sight that even some of today’s famous and prolific writers were rejected at some stage.

  3. We saw Katie Fforde at the London Book Fair and I believe she said it took her eight years to get her first book accepted! It just goes to show…never give up.

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