A host of literary talent travelled from far and wide for the 26th King’s Lynn Literary Festival, but it was a welcome return for one author who grew up in North Wootton.
Monisha Rajesh was born at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 1982 and spent her early years in the town before her family moved away and she attended boarding school in India.
Thirty years are moving away from the town, both Monisha and her parents were thrilled to return to Lynn to join old friends and new readers at the Fiction Festival.
The journalist-turned-author was presenting her first book in the Saturday session, a non-fiction read called Around India in 80 Trains, which was published last year.
Our reporter, Lucy Ruthnum, caught up with Monisha after the weekend.
Lucy: How was your first visit to the King’s Lynn Fiction Festival?
Monisha: It was brilliant! A really good weekend. This Festival was one of the best organised I have been to and it was lovely to see so many people turn out for it.
L: How did the crowds respond to your first book?
M: We sold out of almost all the copies before my session even started! I felt really bad, but it was great to see such a reaction.
People were so lovely about the book. When you write a book you tend to have your audience in mind but this was great because I had the chance to meet older readers and many of them had lived in or went to school in India. They all remembered the train journeys I wrote about.
L: What do you remember of your early years in Lynn?
M: My dad played cricket at Castle Rising club where he met Tony Ellis, chairman of the festival, that was how he became a close family friend. My dad used to come back and play at the club every summer, but this was the first time I’ve been back in ages.
When my parents and I came for the weekend we drove down our old road and had a look at the old house. It was so strange to see it again. Lots of people came to the festival to see my parents, so it was really lovely to come back.
L: Has this visit encouraged you to return to the Festival?
M: I’d love to come back, perhaps as a fiction writer next time, because it is just such a great event.
I’ve just started writing a novel as a fun project and would love to come back with it. I’ve always been in awe of fiction writers and thought I would try my hand at writing a novel – it is just as hard as I thought it would be! I’m also planning to write Around the World in 80 Trains, which seemed a logical step after the first book.
L: What were your favourite authors from the Festival?
M: Lawrence Norfolk was great on stage and really lively. He was so animated when he spoke, he and Tracy Chevalier were so passionate it made you want to pick up the books straight away. I think that’s why Lit Fests are so fun, because you discover books and writers you didn’t know about. We all came a way with a stack of books to read!