On Thursday 11 September best-selling author Kate Mosse joins us at the Horniman to celebrate the launch of her latest novel, The Taxidermist's Daughter. Ahead of this special event, she talks about some of the inspiration she gained at February's Taxidermy Late.
There's a moment in writing any novel when, suddenly, the book clicks into place. All the thinking and planning, the inspiration, the plotting, none of it matters until the story sparks into life. Anything can make it happen – reading a good piece of research, visiting the location about which you're writing, looking at photographs. For me, it was visiting the Horniman...
Picture the scene, a cold and dark night in February 2014. The event? 'Taxidermy Late', an evening dedicated to taxidermy in all of its glory, centred around the fabulous collection at the Museum. I'd been a regular visitor in the 1990s, when I lived in London and our children were little, but hadn't been back for some time.
It was, simply, a magical evening. For three hours I wandered around, on my own, spellbound. I watched taxidermist Jazmine Miles-Long, I listened to Pat Morris talk about the history of taxidermy and Errol Fuller dazzle the packed downstairs lecture room, I joined the queue to have my photograph taken with a piece of taxidermy from the collection (a duck, as it happens) and stood tapping my foot to the music of the most exciting new band I'd heard for ages, Gabby Young & Other Animals. Their album became the music I listened to before sitting down at my desk each day to write the novel.
That winter's night, the Museum was alive with fun and light, with music and conversation, with women and men of all ages (and two life-sized, breathing, walking, talking kittens, as if they had stepped straight out of one of Walter Potter's tableaux).It was a true celebration of the history, of the craft, of the skill, of the beauty of taxidermy.
Most of all, though, what mattered was that the atmosphere and the passion was the final spark I needed for my novel. Because I was there on that damp February night, my lead character, Connie Gifford, became herself and the story took shape; I knew what I wanted to do and how the novel had to be written. A Gothic novel – set as the flood waters are rising in Sussex in 1912 – inspired by Walter Potter's Victorian Museum of Curious Taxidermy and brought to life by the Horniman Museum more than a hundred years later...
So, where better than the Horniman to launch The Taxidermist's Daughter. I hope to see you all there, in costume or not, for another evening of celebration.
Kate Mosse Talks Taxidermy is on at the Horniman at 6.30pm on Thursday 11 September. Buy your tickets online now (over 18s only).