We’re sitting in the beautiful open-plan house at Les Mosses on the outskirts of Chichester, filled with bookshelves (Kate has read 260 ‘golden age’ crime novels during lockdown) and – over the past few years – filled with their extended family as well. They’ve lived here since 2007 and the house has been specially renovated to accommodate the family – Kate’s parents lived here until her father, who had Parkinson’s disease, died in 2011, and her mother three years later .
During the lockdown, their two adult children, Martha and Felix, were also there. The current occupants are the two of them, an elderly dog, Benjamin, Greg’s brother, and Granny Rosie, Greg’s mother, who has lived with them for 25 years. She appears in the kitchen in her wheelchair, 91 years old and shiny as a button, in time for her midday gin and tonic.
They seem very relaxed but their life is hectic. As well as caring for Granny Rosie and writing, Kate speaks at literary events and festivals, visits bookstores and is planning a solo theater performance next year based on her new book. Greg, who has worked as a performer before, is a theater director, playwright and teacher – he founded and directs the New Writing program at the Criterion Theater in London – and was also responsible for creating a three-dimensional website MosseLabyrinth , based on Kate’s bestselling book.
About a third of Kate’s life is devoted to the Women’s Prize for Fiction, which she co-founded. “Greg has lived through the Women’s Prize since its inception, and our children were born there,” she says. It was initiated in response to the 1991 shortlist for the Booker Prize, which was all-male, and created five years later, funded by an anonymous donor who remains anonymous. It quickly became a famous award – winners have included Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helen Dunmore – despite Kate initially being the subject of much criticism. At the press conference announcing the award at the ICA in 1996, the first question was “Are you a lesbian?” (From a male reporter. Kate replied, “No – are you?”)
Kate and Greg met at school in Chichester, appropriately, on stage. “I was one of the leads in an Offenbach operetta called La Vie Parisienne,” says Greg. “And next to me was my friend John who was telling me about all the girls he liked – which, because he was 16, was all the girls in school. He arrived at the end of her list and added, “But my goddess is Kate Mosse.”
“And he pointed to the orchestra and said, ‘This one.’ And that’s how I was introduced to Kate, a goddess, sawing her violin.
Kate laughs. “I was just concentrating.”
They dated for two years. “So we were each other’s first love,” Kate explains, “and then we went to different universities and broke up in a perfectly normal way.” They fell out of touch. A few years later, Kate was on the train from Chichester, when Greg boarded Gatwick, returning from Paris, where he worked as a translator. One thing leading to another, they got back together. And all because of a sliding door moment – Greg only took this train because he had just missed the previous one. “It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “So lucky – every good thing that’s happened is because of that.”
Chichester is at the heart of their family. Kate’s parents were among locals who pledged £100 each for the Chichester Festival Theater to perform in the early 1960s, which is currently the town’s largest employer, and with which both Kate and Greg are involved. “I was once a snake, on this stage,” Greg says. They’ve all worked on it at various times, and it recently directed Kate’s adaptation of her novel The Taxidermist’s Daughter.