Literary giants, fantastically famous telly stars and your favourite columnists have all joined us for live webchats about writing and the arts.
"As a reader, I'd rather read about a time and place I know little about than those I know a lot about, and every writer is guided by his or her inner reader..." David Mitchell, September 2011
David Mitchell was our book club guest when we discussed his acclaimed book The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. And a top-notch literary chat it was, too, about language and translation, communication, literary styles and influences and much more.
"As a writer you have to write the book that's in your head, rather than what people want you to write." Kate Atkinson, June 2011
Author of the wildly popular Jackson Brodie novels, Kate Atkinson joined us for a book club webchat about Started Early, Took My Dog, and answered questions on her writing style, her favourite books and what she thinks of the telly adaptations of her books.
"I once got a letter from a man who said I'd ruined his honeymoon because he and his wife argued about whether Alice dies or not." Maggie O'Farrell, May 2011
Maggie O'Farrell is a firm favourite with Mumsnetters and she was our guest for a thoroughly enjoyable book club webchat about her novel The Hand that First Held Mine, her characters, themes and writing processes, as well as divulging that she's a "committed" Mumsnetter.
"Does The Slap book disturb readers? If so, good. We need to be disturbed."
Christos Tsiolkas, March 2011
Christos Tsiolkos joined us for a deeply satisfying discussion about his best-selling book, his experiences of writing from a female perspective, his views on multiculturalism, the middle classes and his penchant for a certain swear word...
"Given the chance to relax, I would watch Dog the Bounty Hunter, and eat a pasty at the same time whilst in the bath - that would be perfect." Dawn French, November 2010
Comedian, writer and actor, has appeared in some of the country's most long-running, fave shows, including French and Saunders and the Vicar of Dibley. On top of her screen achievements, Dawn's memoir, Dear Fatty, topped the best-selling charts.her first novel, A Tiny Bit Marvellous, was released in November 2010. She joined us to answer your questions about the novel, as well as what goes on behind the scenes, celeb snogs and her favourite jokes.
"Mental illness is just the most interesting thing because we are the only creatures to suffer from it. If we could understand why one in 100 people is psychotic, or broken, we would understand a great deal more about what makes us human, different from other creatures. I did a lot of research for Human Traces and it is all documented at the back of that book..." Sebastian Faulks, September 2010
Sebastian Faulk was our book club guest to discuss his novel A Week in December. We chatted about its themes, characters and his research (as well as incisive questions, such as what was it like being called Sebastian at school).
"I started writing when I was eight and, in all honesty, I knew then that there was nothing else for me. How did I start? I simply picked up a pen and and an old ledger and began scribbling stories, plays, poems, whatever." Anthony Horowitz, November 2009
Best-selling author and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz came to Mumsnet Towers in November 2009. He talked about Alex Rider, the Diamond Brothers, Foyle's War, and his plans for a new set of horror stories called More Bloody Horowitz. He also chatted about his unusual childhood and 'fessed up to shamefully deploying his children to rearrange bookshop displays to his advantage.
"I hardly ever change the action once I've mapped it out in advance, but what does change is how I feel about my characters, and how they feel about each other, and about the things required of them by the plot. That's the exciting part, though - getting to know them, and hopefully making them more complex." Sarah Waters, November 2009
Sarah Waters, the Booker-shortlisted author, joined us to chat about her haunting novel The Little Stranger in November 2009. She had tons of fascinating things to tell us about her research, how she plans her novels, her favourite reads, why she tackled the ghost story genre and the state of the historical novel.
"I always start a novel with character building. I think the most lifelike plots aren't really plots at all but simply what happens when you bring two or more characters together. I build my characters pretty slowly, over about a year, before I actually start writing the novel they'll appear in. Ideally, it should feel when I'm writing that I'm simply giving the most accurate account I can of scenes that are playing out in my head." Patrick Gale, June 2009
The famous author of Mumsnet Best award-winner Notes From An Exhibition (as well as many other fine books), Patrick Gale came to MNHQ in 2009 to talk (with a rather swoonsome crowd) about his latest book The Whole Day Through, his 'girly' taste in novels, how Richard and Judy changed his life and why he thinks most novelists are "basically, mildly mentally ill".
"Many books moved and inspired me as a child. I loved myths, legends and fairy stories in particular. But when I was 10 or 11, I felt children's books no longer 'spoke' to me so I started reading adult books. I devoured Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple stories and read other books that were totally unsuitable for an 11 year old!" Malorie Blackman, May 2009
Author Malorie Blackman joined us to chat about her novels, age-appropriate reading, her inspiration for writing and children's writers. Her first book was published in 1990 and since then she has written more than 50 books, including Noughts and Crosses, Double Cross, Pig Heart Boy, Hacker and Whizziwig. She has won numerous awards for her writing.
"I'd get home from work in the evenings and want to forget all about it but, instead, to my annoyance, I'd find myself writing about it, trying to capture the atmosphere of the place. It was never my intention to write a novel at that stage – I would have considered the idea ridiculous as I'd never written so much as a short story before." Catherine O' Flynn, March 2009
Cathernie O' Flynn was our book club guest for a chat all about What Was Lost. She discussed her inspiration for the novel, the characters' motives and whether or not there was ever a chance for an alternate ending, among other topics.
"I was speaking to a journalist today, and we were both talking nostalgically about the stories we wrote as little girls. When you're an adult professional writer, you never have the opportunity to write completely unselfconsciously, you always have to remember your audience." Jacqueline Wilson, March 2009
The mega-bestselling children's author Jacqueline Wilson was our guest in March 2009. With book sales totalling well over 25 million, she's up there with JK Rowling. She revealed that she started writing at six years old, she gets upset if people don't like her books, she loves wearing loads of rings - and that the book she was reading at the time was so racy, she was embarrassed to take it out in public!
"My inspiration comes first from experience, and then from imagination, and finally from research. When I wrote The Family Way, it was almost entirely built around talking to real women about their experience of pregnancy, miscarriage, birth, infertility, abortion etc – I needed real flesh and blood and female experience to make it work." Tony Parsons, October 2008
Tony has written six bestsellers, including Man and Boy and My Favourite Wife. He made his name as a columnist for the New Musical Express and is still a newspaper columnist. He chatted to us about everything from his literary inspiration to breast implants to his ex-wife Julie Burchill.
"I write novels in order to escape myself (I think most writers do that, to one degree or another) and so writing in the voice of a female character is a way of slipping out of my own gender for a few hours every day. A great relief sometimes, I can tell you!" Jonathan Coe, July 2008
The author of The Rotters' Club and What a Carve Up! joined us (rather nervously) in 2008 to discuss his novel, The Rain Before It Falls. We chatted about literary greats, TV adaptations and his own secret fan club in France – and he confessed at the end that talking to Mumsnetters wasn't "at all the ordeal I was expecting". Phew!
"I think the first time I googled myself there were 11 hits, and all of them were to do with a Father Tim Dowling in New Jersey." Tim Dowling, January 2008
Tim Dowling was a Mumsnet book club guest to talk about his book, The Giles Wareing Haters' Club. He chatted to us about his work for the Guardian, his history with the internet, as well as responding to Mumsnetters' most literary questions about the book's characters.
"With a non-fiction book, I think there is risk of violating reader's trust if one uses tricks to keep the suspense going artifically, as it were." Ben McIntyre, January 2008
The thrilling Agent Zigzag was our book of the month in January 2008, and author Ben McIntyre satisfied our curiosity about how he researched his book - from burrowing around in the National Archives to spending weeks in the basement of MI5 digging up the truth behind the plot.
"Saul Bellow was once asked if novels should have an ethical drive. He said that novels should be, above all things, entertaining. That an unethical novel is a boring one. So I hope that those who read my book find it entertaining. This is me the novelist speaking. But as a citizen, as a British citizen, I take my government to task about its chumminess with the Qaddafi regime." Hisham Matar, October 2008
Libyan author Hisham Matar joined us for a live webchat about his book In the Country of Men. He talked about his surprise at the suggestion that the book might be autobiographical, the clandestine distribution of the novel in Libya and the background to the book's characters, among many other topics.
"It is impossible to care about the opinions of complete strangers - you don’t know them, they don't know you, they're excitable enough to confuse your newspaper persona with the real you - it's really hard to make yourself mind." India Knight, July 2007
Sunday Times columnist, author and mother India Knight was our first arts-themed webchat guest all the way back in 2007. She joined Mumsnet for a chat just after the publication of The Baby, her first book for children, and dived straight in to tackle questions on everything from special needs to Crocs. During the chat, she also revealed that she believes eating grapes in the supermarket is totally acceptable.