New Kate Mosse novel as historical fiction sales soar

Book-reading has been on a high during the pandemic. Sales of historical fiction in particular have soared.

Kate Mosse. Photo credit Ruth Crafer
Kate Mosse. Photo credit Ruth Crafer

Kate Mosse, whose The City of Tears is published on January 19, can see exactly why.

“Our wonderful independent book sellers have had the best six months in seven years. It is wonderful that in these terrible times, people have turned to books.”

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Especially historical fiction.

The City of Tears is the second in Chichester-based Kate’s four-volume Burning Chambers series. As she says, it offers a novel about “how to survive in terrible circumstances when the world around you is burning.

“I think the reason people are engaging so much with historical fiction at the moment is because they want to engage with enormous issues, but at the same time they want to do it with the benefit of hindsight.

“We live in very, very turbulent times at the moment, and the book also deals with very, very turbulent times in the 16th century – times of fear and powerlessness, times of dealing with an enemy that you cannot see; a book about what happens when you lose people that you love, what happens when you are forced out of your home at a moment’s notice.

“And so we are reading about the emotions we have got now, but at a different time… and that reminds us that the human heart has not changed, that we are all part of the continuing story.

“But I think the other thing is that we are living in a very open-ended period in our history, when people just don’t know what is around the corner, where we feel that things are out of control.

“But in a book, in historical fiction, you get a resolution. There is that sense of a story ending. And that’s why sales of historical fiction are so high. At the end, you can shut the book and know that the story has finished, that the characters have found what they have been striving for. And that is comforting.”

The Burning Chambers is a sequence of novels set against the backdrop of 300 years of history from 16th-century France to 19th-century South Africa.

Book two, The City of Tears, picks up ten years after the first.

In June 1572, for ten, violent years the Wars of Religion have raged across France. Neighbours have become enemies, countless lives have been lost, and the country has been torn apart over matters of religion, citizenship and sovereignty.

But now a precarious peace is in the balance: a royal wedding negotiated by Catherine de’ Medici and Jeanne d’Albret, an alliance between the Catholic Crown and Henri, the Huguenot king of Navarre. It is a marriage that could see France reunited at last.

Meanwhile in Puivert, an invitation has arrived for Minou Joubert and her family to attend the historic wedding in Paris in August. But what Minou does not know is that the Joubert family’s oldest enemy, Vidal, will also be there. Nor that, within days of the marriage, on the eve of the Feast Day of St Bartholomew, Minou’s family will be scattered to the four winds and one of her beloved children will have disappeared without trace . . .

“The book begins with the family that we met in book one deciding whether they should go to Paris for the wedding that everybody hopes will bring peace to France. Anybody that knows their history will be shouting ‘Don’t go!’”

The City of Tears will be launched with A Night In With Kate Mosse, an exclusive Zoom publication event with JoJo Moyes, Lee Child, Ken Follett and others on January 20 at 6.30pm (tickets on ).

It will be available to view up to a week after the event has ended and can be accessed worldwide – a (virtual) front row seat for an evening of conversation, history, women’s voices, adventure and the joy of great storytelling.

There will be readings from award-winning actress Indira Varma (Game of Thrones, Rome, Luther) and guest contributions from novelists, historians and thinkers including Paula Hawkins, Ken Follett, Bettany Hughes, Sara Collins, Anita Anand, Professor Kate Williams, Julia Spencer-Fleming and Madeline Miller who’ll share stories about the real-life women in history that inspire them.

As Kate says, it’s the kind of publication event appropriate for our times.

“The City of Tears should have come out in May, but it was delayed because of the pandemic until January, which is very odd for me – the longest time in my career between finishing a book and the book being in readers’ hands.

“I finished writing the book back in October 2019, and this has felt weird. It has felt like it has been waiting in the wings for a very long time.

“It has meant that I have had to go back and read it! And I did enjoy it. I was really pleased with it!

“Usually you go from writing straight into a huge publication run of travel and events.

“But actually the Dutch and the Spanish held the original publication dates so I was doing interviews in the autumn.

“But it is really strange that it has been published in two languages before the big global English-language publication event.

“And the weirdest thing is that I am going to be doing a big tour… all from Chichester. That starts on January 18. I am doing interviews in New York, Houston, Maine, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Delhi, Vancouver and so on… and it is extraordinary to be doing all that without leaving home. But it does mean that I can do more.

“I don’t regret (doing it this way) because it is what it is. But I will very much miss meeting the readers. It’s not the travel so much and being in different places, though that is fun.

“But it is meeting the readers that matters. There is nothing quite like your book going out there and going to an event and afterwards people coming up and getting their book signed.

“It feels a very private thing until then. The book is only properly finished once it is in the hands of the readers. Obviously, I will be getting virtual feedback, but it is not the same.”

As for book three in the series: “I have never before been working on a new novel when the previous novel has not come out. I am almost not ready to give the characters their continuing stories until The City Of Tears was out.

“But I have been doing the play of (her novel) The Taxidermist’s Daughter (due to be staged at Chichester Festival Theatre later this year) and I have also been writing a non-fiction book, so actually it has not put me behind schedule.

“But I was very lucky that for book three I went this time last year to Tenerife and South Africa. I nearly didn’t go because I didn’t have much time. But now, looking back, I am so grateful that I did. It enabled me to do the research that I needed.”

Kate will start writing book three in February, using notes and sketches she has built up: “It almost felt disloyal to be carrying on writing about these people before The City Of Tears was out there.”

Originally the idea was for a three-book sequence, but during the writing for the first, it became clear a fourth would be needed to take the series through to its end.