JK Rowling and Mantel jump in at Bath


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The Independent Culture

Two stars of the literary world – JK Rowling and Hilary Mantel – have signed up to attend The Independent Bath Literature Festival in March.

“All the authors have to muck in and drink the same lukewarm white wine,” says artistic director James Runcie. “Whether they are first-time novelists or world famous writers, [they] get £150, which is the Society of Authors' recommended rate. We are a democracy here, but at some festivals authors speak to 11 people in exchange for a pack of biscuits. We try to treat all our novelists well.”

Harry Potter creator Rowling will talk about her new novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, while Mantel, who just won the Man Booker Prize for the second time for Bring Up the Bodies, her sequel to Wolf Hall, will talk about her work in progress, and the conclusion to her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. Other novelists at the festival will include Sandi Toksvig, Jim Crace, Helen Dunmore, PD James, Kate Mosse and Rachel Joyce.

Heated lunchtime debates tackling national and global issues will resume in Independent Voices, with topics including “Is it too late to save the planet?” and “How to report from the world's trouble spots without getting killed”. In one event, “The Wisdom of Psychopaths”, renowned psychologist Kevin Dutton will use the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience to show that there is a fine line separating a brilliant surgeon from a serial killer. Another event will explore what can be done to stop the “pornification” of women in our society and in the media. Mosse will chair a debate with Independent journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and sexual-health worker Ali Morris. Elsewhere retired ballerina Darcey Bussell joins a discussion on human anatomy.

“I'm interviewing Mantel and Rowling and giving a talk on Keats's last letters because often what people write at the end of their life makes you view their previous work entirely differently,” says Runcie. “In an age of increasing immediacy it's important to spend time discussing issues at length with people who know what they are talking about. This festival is more of a conversation than a spectacle.”

1-10 March 2013 (www.bathfestivals. org.uk)