London Book Fair Names Its 2019 ‘Author of the Day’ Lineup

In News by Porter Anderson

Recognizing the Brexit deadline that follows March’s London Book Fair, the Author of the Day events include three writers from the Continent.

At the 2018 London Book Fair at Olympia London. Image: LBF

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

International Outreach and a Mix of Genres

Today (January 14), the London Book Fair is announcing the lineup of its “Author of the Day” program for the 2019 fair, which runs March 12 to 14—a month earlier than last year—again at Olympia London.

The schedule of their appearances:

  • Tuesday, March 12: Caryl Phillips, General Trade Author of the Day
  • Wednesday, March 13: Seno Gumira Ajidarma, Indonesia Market Focus Author of the Day
  • Thursday, March 14: Holly Bourne, Children’s Author of the Day

Caryl Phillips, left, Holly Bourne, and Seno Gumira Ajidarma are the London Book Fair’s three Author of the Day writers

The marquee name among the Author of the Day writers is Caryl Phillips, author of A New World Order(Penguin Random House/Vintage, 2010), The Atlantic Sound, (Penguin Random House/Vintage, 2001), and Colour Me Engish (Penguin Random House/Harvill Secker, 2017), and more titles that focus on the African experience of emigration particularly to England and the Caribbean.

Phillips’ A View of the Empire at Sunset (Penguin Random House/Viking, 2018) is a novel based on the late Dominica-born author Jean Rhys (The Wide Sargasso Sea). Phillips, who is originally from St. Kitts, teaches at Yale and is sometimes referred to as being from the “black Atlantic” school of writers who explore identity in diaspora.

In children’s books, the Author of the Day writer selected is the prolific Holly Bourne, whose YA output includes the “Spinster Club” series. In 2018, her first adult novel was released: How Do You Like Me Now?  (Hodder & Stoughton, 2018) and also saw her YA  Are We all Lemmings and Snowflakes? (Usborne, 2018) well received.

In October, The Bookseller’s children’s editor Charlotte Eyre reported that Bourne’s  Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes has been optioned by Duck Soup Films. Previously, Eyre reports, Amber Entertainment optioned Am I Normal Yet? (Usborne) and Ecosse Films has optioned How Do You Like Me Now?

As Publishing Perspectives has reported, Indonesia is the Market Focus nation this year–the London Book Fair’s equivalent of an international guest of honor country—and author Seno Gumira Ajidarma is to be the March 13 Author of the Day, bringing nonfiction into focus on the bill.

John McGlynn’s Lontar Foundation has published English translations of several of Seno’s titles in its Modern Library of Indonesia series. Among them are the 2015 Eyewitness the 2012 Jazz, Perfume, and the Incident.

Seno writes narrative nonfiction, essays, short stories, poetry (as Mira Sato), and novels, and has more than 30 books to his name. In its media messaging, the fair writes, “Much of Seno’s work, both the factual and the fictional, focuses on everyday life and criticizes contemporary social, cultural and political conditions—but he has a great sense of humor, as well, and has published satirical essays, playful poetry, a cartoon novel, and historical fantasies.

“He is well known in Indonesia as a consistent advocate of free speech and freedom of publication, and is the recipient of awards, both national and international, including the Khatulistiwa Prize, Indonesia’s top literary award, the South East Asia (SEA) Write Award, and the Dinny O’Hearn Prize for Literary Translation.

“His work has been translated into English, French, German, and Japanese.”

‘The Month’s Impending Brexit Deadline’

Stefan Hertmans, left, Simone Buchholz, and Antoine Laurain are 2019 London Book Fair Author of the Day writers invited from Europe. Images: LBF, Hertmans photo by Michiel Hendryckx

Considering that March 29 is the date set for the scheduled departure of the UK from Europe in what may be a “hard Brexit,” it’s particularly notable that the fair today is also announcing that three European authors as special guests on March 12 “to discuss their work and how we maintain ties across Europe.”

In this group, the industry-facing fair’s attendees will see:

  • Germany crime writer Simone Buchholz (Beton Rouge, February in paperback)
  • Flemish author Stefan Hertmans (The Convert, Harvill Secker, June)
  • French novelist Antoine Laurain (Vintage 1954, Belgravia/Gallic, June)

In a prepared statement, Jacks Thomas, director of the London Book Fair, is quoted, welcoming “such an outstanding line-up of authors whose audiences encompass millennials to boomers and beyond. Their work reminds us of the timelessness of great literature—from inspirational storytelling to stimulating nonfiction that transcends cultural, social and geographical boundaries.”

Jacks Thomas

To her credit, Thomas doesn’t shy from the Brexitian context of this year’s fair, continuing in her statement, “As we look ahead to The London Book Fair in March, it’s inevitable that our minds must also turn to the month’s impending Brexit deadline and what this will mean for us both economically and culturally as a global industry.

“We extend a warm welcome to those whose work demonstrates the best of the best that the publishing world offers today.”

Previous Authors of the Day writers presented in the program have included Judith Kerr, Marian Keyes, Jeanette Winterson, Boris Akunin, Malorie Blackman OBE, William Boyd, Anthony Browne, Julia Donaldson, Bi Feiyu, Sun-mi Hwang, Peter James, Elif Shafak, Valeria Luiselli, Deborah Moggach, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Ness, David Nicholls, Liz Pichon, Sir Terry Prachett, Axel Scheffler, and Claire Tomalin, Joanna Trollope, and Jacqueline Wilson.


More from Publishing Perspectives on London Book Fair is here, and more on authors in general is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.