A Quickie with Zoe Gilbert

Tell me about your latest book and why we should read it?

Folk tells the interweaving tales of the people of Neverness, a world far from our time and place – and one in which folklore is as real as the rocky coastline and blustery winds. If cruel enchantments, superstitious gossip, and strange goings-on behind waterfalls are your thing, then you should come and spend some time in Neverness.

If someone was to write your life story what would the title be?


What’s the strangest fan question or request you’ve received?

Someone once asked me how one of the characters in Folk – who has a wing in place of one of his arms – manages to go to the toilet. I admit I hadn’t actually visualised this myself, but I think he’d be alright.

If you could co-write with anyone in the world (alive or dead) who would it be?

Alan Garner, for his folklore and dialect knowledge, control of language and connection with the natural world. I’d be more of a disciple than a co-writer!

Tell me something nobody else knows about you (yet!).

My spirit animal is a mouse.

Finally please recommend 3 books that you have recently read and tell me why you’ve chosen these.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Because it is January as I write, and Dickens is what a British winter calls for: hours and hours of humour and horror and the best characters ever created. I want an aunt like Betsey Trotwood, an enemy like Uriah Heep and a friend like Agnes Wickfield.

At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson. Because these are some of the strangest and most haunting short stories I have read, and as with Dickens, I am transported to other worlds when I open this book – ones in which we can follow bee rivers, use fox magic and have uncomfortable sex with aliens.

The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge. Because Bainbridge does black comedy like nobody else and we should all read more of her, lest we forget. In this book, which is short and definitely not sweet, we get to laugh and squirm as a picnic with work colleagues goes horribly wrong. A salutary reminder to stay away from office parties.

Who is Zoe Gilbert:  Zoe Gilbert is a fiction writer based in London, UK. Folk (Bloomsbury, February 2018) is her first novel. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and journals around the world, and have won prizes including the Costa Short Story Award 2014. She teaches creative writing at London Lit Lab and for other organisations including the British Library, Arvon Foundation and Mslexia, and is an associate editor at The Word Factory. She is completing a PhD on folk tales in contemporary fiction, and working on her next novel, all about woods.

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