Authors Anna Mazzola (The Story Keeper) and Zoe Gilbert (Folk) discuss what draws us to folklore and folk tales, and the influence these stories have had on their writing.
Anna Mazzola is a writer who, due to some fault of her parents, is drawn to peculiar and dark historical subjects. Her novels, which have been described as literary crime fiction, historical thrillers and Gothic fiction explore the impact of crime and injustice. Anna’s influences include Sarah Waters, Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood.
Her debut novel, The Unseeing, is based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1837. The Sunday Times called it, ‘A twisting tale of family secrets and unacknowledged desires.’ It won an Edgar Award in the US and was nominated for the Historical Writers’ Association’s Debut Crown in the UK.
Her second novel, The Story Keeper, is out now. It follows a folklorist’s assistant as she searches out dark fairytales and stolen girls on the Isle of Skye in 1857. The Story Keeper has recently been longlisted for the Highland Book Prize.
As well as novels, Anna writes short stories. She also blogs on strange history for The History Girls. She is an accomplished public speaker and regularly speaks at and chairs literary events.
Anna studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before accidentally becoming a human rights and criminal justice solicitor. She lives in Camberwell, South London, with two small children, two cats and one husband.
Zoe Gilbert started writing fiction sometime in her late teens, and after many years, some of it got published. Her work has appeared in anthologies from Comma, Cinnamon and Labello presses amongst others, and in journals worldwide including The Stinging Fly, Mechanics’ Institute Review, and the British Fantasy Society Journal. Some of her stories have won prizes, including the Costa Short Story Award.
She is completing a PhD in Fiction and Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, focusing on folk tales in contemporary fiction. She is also co-founder of London Lit Lab, where she teaches creative writing, and she co-hosts the Short Story Club at The Word Factory.
Recently she has taken part in writing projects in China and South Korea for the British Council, and was commissioned by Microsoft to create a short story book in collaboration with graphic artist, Isabel Greenberg.
Zoe Gilbert lives in South London, where the local woods, both real and ghostly, are inspiring her next novel.
Folk is Zoe’s debut novel and has been longlisted for the 2019 International Dylan Thomas Prize.