Downe House School Short Story Competition

A little while ago, I was asked to judge a short story competition at my old school. The girls who submitted stories were aged between 12 and 18, and I lowered my expectations accordingly. When I was sixteen, my prose was purple, my syntax tortured and my themes ranged from bleak to super-bleak. So imagine my surprise when I read a series of crisply written, confident short stories from these young women, on the theme of "A Waving Hand" (Junior competition) and "Some Time After" (Senior competition). Some were witty, some were playful, some were very serious.

Secret Agent Infiltrates Historical Novel

Bestselling historical novelist SHARON PENMAN writes about the origins of her four-book medieval crime series THE QUEEN’S MAN and explains how her fictional creation has taken on a life of his own...

I’d just finished an 800 page novel, When Christ and His Saints Slept, long even by my standards, and I felt I needed a change of pace. Since I read mysteries for pleasure, it seemed only natural to try my hand at one.

Alex Larman on the writing of Blazing Star: The Life & Times of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester...

The trouble with a lot of literary biographies is that they’re often quite boring. Writers, by and large, don’t tend to live terribly exciting lives, and there’s only so many times that you can be told ‘X started another book’ or ‘Y received the prestigious fellowship of Z’ before your eyes glaze over, you put what you’re reading down on page 101, and you bury yourself in a good crime novel instead. And sometimes even those writers who have had more glamorous and exciting – or wicked and depraved – lives don’t translate into grippingly told stories.