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Folkestone Book Festival launches with Christmas lights for 10 days of literary talks and events including Sandra Howard

By Angela Cole

Organisers of this year’s Folkestone Book Festival hope their line-up will be uplifting and help beat the winter blues.

The 10-day festival, which launches on Friday, November 17 with the Creative Quarter Christmas lights switch-on, features author talks, thought-provoking discussions, music, fun family events and inspiring works, with many focusing on the possibility of change and beating the odds. Here, author Sandra Howard, talks about her work ahead of her appearance.

She’s a former model of the 60s, who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, and is now Baroness of Hythe, married to former Folkestone and Hythe Conservative MP Sir Michael Howard.

Sandra Howard will be at the Folkestone Book Festival
Sandra Howard will be at the Folkestone Book Festival

But despite having many a tale to tell from the world of celebrity – and she is, after all, one herself – Sandra Howard is embarrassed by the attention.

Quick to stress that the title of baroness is down to her husband, she says: “I am just Sandra Howard.”

She is extremely fond of Folkestone and Hythe, and the couple divide their time between their homes in London and in Hythe.

Which means appearing at the Folkestone Book Festival is perfect for the author, where she will be discussing her sixth novel, The Consequence of Love.

“It is wonderful to be in Folkestone,” she says. “It means so much to me.”

The Consequence of Love looks at lost loves, deceits and second chances.

“It is seven years since the other book and I always wanted to know what happened to the people in it,” she said. “It is me that decides, of course, but the characters become real in your mind and they take you down paths that you didn’t necessarily think they would. It is one of the wonderful things about fiction. I really was curious about what had happened to the characters – and one or two readers really wanted to know. I’m now working on the next one!”

Her fifth book, Tell the Girl, was fiction but drew heavily on her own experiences, and included a picture of her on the cover.

“It was quite cathartic. I have been in certain places at certain times,” she says, “but I left out the juicy bits. I’d have found that embarrassing.”

Her life back in the 60s included a heady mix of some world-famous names. There was a dinner party at Frank Sinatra’s house, where everyone ate in front of the TV – a new thing to do at the time – and Sandra found herself next to another starlet, one Marilyn Monroe.

She says of the period now: “I used to go and stay in Washington, but I was only 21. If I’d been a bit older I might have been better. I wish I’d been more aware of it all at the time.”

But she is keen to stress she was not famous herself, back then as Sandra Paul. “In the 60s names didn’t come into it so much. Models weren’t known for their names, except a few.”

Married four times, and a mother three, Sandra now relishes being an author, and enjoys the interaction with people.

Sandra and Michael Howard in 1992
Sandra and Michael Howard in 1992

“I never have a problem being faced with a piece of paper or a laptop. I work in bed with pencil and paper and I have to write things down at night as I rarely remember them in the morning.

“I love doing events like the Folkestone Book Festival, as there will be questions from the audience. I also blog and I love Twitter, it has got a lovely unknown thing about it. With Facebook they are your friends and you know who they are, but with the Twitter world it is so much further than your personal little circle.”

She will be in discussion on Wednesday, November 22 at Folkestone Quarterhouse at 12.30pm. Some tickets, £7, are still available.

LIGHTS

The lights in the Creative Quarter being switched on heralds the launch of the Folkestone Book Festival.

This year it will be on Friday, November 17 and will be carried out by Tracy Chevalier, author of the internationally best-selling Girl with a Pearl Earring.

There will be festivities and Tracy will be holding a discussion with The Guardian’s Claire Armitstead, exploring her fiction and latest book, New Boy, a re-telling of Othello set in 1970s Washington DC, later in the evening, which is now sold out.

Tracy Chevalier
Tracy Chevalier

THIS WEEK'S PROGRAMME

In a packed programme, politics mixes with wellbeing, and gripping drama sits alongside history and cookery.

The opening weekend sees political columnist Steve Richards discuss the rise and rise of political outsiders on Saturday, November 18.

Peter Snow and his wife, Ann MacMillan
Peter Snow and his wife, Ann MacMillan

Broadcaster and author Peter Snow and his wife, Ann MacMillan, the granddaughter of David Lloyd George, who worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, will be talking about War Stories: Gripping tales of courage, cunning and compassion, on Saturday, November 18.

Comedian and writer Francesca Martinez, who has mild cerebral palsy, will be discussing What The **** Is Normal?! on Saturday, November 18 at 6pm while leader of the Liberal Democrats and former business secretary Vince Cable talks about his debut novel, Open Arms, a gripping political drama set in Whitehall and the slums of Mumbai, on Sunday, November 19 at 3pm.

Inua Ellams will be at Folkestone Book Festival
Inua Ellams will be at Folkestone Book Festival

Award-winning poet Inua Ellams will use anecdotes in his performance on Monday, November 20, An Evening with an Immigrant, when he tells how he fled Nigeria as a child, to performing solo shows at the National Theatre.

On Wednesday, November 22, historian Henry Hemming tells the story of Maxwell Knight, the maverick MI5 officer who recruited two women in the 1930s to penetrate the British Communist movement, leading to the exposure of a Soviet spy-ring.

DETAILS

The Folkestone Book Festival 2017 at Folkestone Quarterhouse runs from Friday, November 17 to Sunday, November 26. For details of all events and to book visit folkestonebookfest.com or call 01303 760750. You can buy individual tickets for events or a festival pass for £120, which allows access to all events.

Historian Henry Hemming will be at Folkestone Book Festival
Historian Henry Hemming will be at Folkestone Book Festival

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