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Listen to a short story from THE FOX'S LAMENT below
(Click the circled button and please wait for between 5 to 10 seconds
for the narration to begin)
|[A second audio reading to follow]
Two early reviews of THE FOX'S LAMENT
'Sharp, moving and funny, this is a
wonderfully varied and enjoyable collection of stories. The writing is
delightful, full of invention and insight. The final story, set in some strange
future version of the world, is an absolute gem.'
Christopher Nicholson, author of Among the Summer Snows and Winter.
Howell has curated other authors' writing for more than two decades through the
inspiring literary festival she founded in a small Wiltshire town. While I might
imagine her absorbing the best of all she has heard and read to become what she
is now, I think that would be failing to recognise her innate originality.
There are nineteen short stories in The Fox's Lament and no two
are alike. Each one surprises you up to the last page and sometimes beyond
because it may be another two or three minutes before you say to yourself,
"Ah! Now I see." They seem simpler than they really are, until you
come to the end and look around in surprise at the unexpected place they have
brought you to.
The book takes you from the horrors of working in the felt hat trade,
through the eery pathos of a ghost left at the altar to the stylised humour of
detective with a fondness for alliteration via a crutch called Arnie Arnold.
There is a story for every mood, illuminated by a vivid imagination and
compressed so that there is rarely a surplus word.
James Long author
Lives She Left Behind and Ferney.
"I hail from
an old Mere family and have lived in this small Wiltshire town most of my life.
I attended Mere primary schools and then Shaftesbury High School for Girls. I
trained as a teacher and taught locally, but have also been employed in other
husband and I were both active in local brass bands for many years, including
Mere, Gillingham and Wincanton bands, and in the running of the Mere Solo &
In 1996 I
became a trustee of a newly formed charity – The Mere & District Linkscheme
- which was to provide volunteer transport and care to ten parishes of this
rural community. Charged with finding fund-raising ideas, I founded the Mere
Literary Festival the following year and have organised it, and its writing
competition, for 22 years. About the same time I founded PennyBank Writers – the
Mere & District Writing Group – which meets once a month in Mere.
I have won a
number of short story awards including the Winchester Writers’ Conference,
Wells and Lichfield competitions.
compiled performance readings for both PennyBank Writers and the Mere festival.
One, on Edward Thomas and his links with Wiltshire, was commended by the Edward
Thomas Society and by his daughter. It was revived for the 2017 festival to
mark the centenary of the poet’s death and performed by Mere Amateur Dramatic
In 2016 I,
together with Sue Evans, compiled and published Merely a Festival, the
story of Mere Literary Festival. (Brimstone Press)
My one act
plays have been successful in both the Somerset County and Woolstore Theatre
One Act Play Festivals. I have won Best Original Script on three occasions and
twice been short-listed for the George Taylor Award. My full length play, The
Weatherman’s Harvest, was given a rehearsed reading at The Watermill
Theatre, Newbury, and the Christmas fantasy, Sing Nowell, is published
by Schoolplay Productions Ltd."
|Adrienne — What is the first book you remember reading?
I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. My mother taught me
before I started school at the age of four – but titles escape me.
I read Forever Amber at about the age of ten but also enjoyed Enid Blyton.
Did you enjoy school? What is your most vivid memory of your school years?
I enjoyed school particularly Junior/Primary school in Mere. I was
eager to learn and, as a tomboy, enjoyed the rough and tumble of the
playground and after–school ‘gangs’ roaming Plantation and the Downs.
That didn’t fit quite so well at the next stage, the Girls High School,
where the Headmistress complained, ‘Adrienne speaks to me like she
speaks to the girls in the playground’. My mother did not reply!
At Junior school I got carried away discussing a play my friend and I
were planning and got sent home for talking in class. I refused to go
back claiming that as he
(the Headmaster) had sent me home, he could come and fetch me. Needless
to say, my mother wasn’t having any of that nonsense! Perhaps he was
secretly amused as our Friday afternoon plays were allowed to continue.
What were the first pieces of writing that you produced? E.g. short stories, school magazine, etc.
Those Friday afternoon plays which an amazing and brilliant headmaster allowed at primary school.
Most now forgotten but I remember a dramatization of Bush Christmas
– a novel I’d read and enjoyed. (In deepest Wiltshire, I hadn’t seen or
heard about the film). I made it into a play for the Christmas
entertainment in my last year at primary School. The thing I remember
about it now was that I blacked up with something (boot polish?) to
play the Aboriginal and then couldn’t remove it for the party which
Did you always want to be an author? If not, what did you originally want to be and when and why did you change your mind?
I wanted to be a trumpet player – but neither that nor being an author
were considered ‘proper jobs’ – far too risky in view of the struggle my
mother had had to keep myself and younger brother in full–time
education well beyond the age we could have been working. I went into
teaching which I enjoyed and wrote a number of plays and shows for
Who were your role models? Which writers have influenced you the most? Who do you most admire and why?
I don’t recall having role models.
I studied and mainly taught Religious Education so the language of the
King James Bible must have been an influence. I’ve never worried about
starting a sentence with ‘And’.
Far too many really good writers for me to choose one.
I do admire the many people who write just because they enjoy it and
love working with words. As organizer of the Mere Literary Festival
competitions over two decades, I know there’s an enormous amount of
What’s the greatest influence on your writing?
I think playing a musical instrument (I played in a brass band) helps
in the understanding of rhythm, phrasing, cadences and the final chord.
How words sound when read aloud or in performance is important to me. I
enjoy doing themed readings at events with PennyBank Writers – the Mere
& District Writers Group.
Where do you write?
When my husband and I lived on the outskirts of Mere I had a large
study and a large second–hand office desk. Now I live in Mere on the
site of my grandfather’s old cottage, and have a much smaller study –
fortunately the desk just fits.
Name your favourite literary hero and villain.
Difficult, but I think Death, as the narrator of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, is both a brilliant hero and villain.
What is your philosophy for life?
Two of my grandmother’s sayings– ‘Addie’s Adages’– have stood me in good stead:–
‘Time is of greater value than money’ & ‘Never let the sun go down upon thy wrath’.
Name your top five favourite books.
This is an impossible task so I have chosen five books that have
meaning for me for special or sentimental reasons, and which I still
A First History of England – M.W. Keatinge
Thy Servant a Dog – told by Boots edited by R. Kipling
A Shepherd’s Life – W.H. Hudson
The Story of Mere – edited by J. Rutter
The Fatal Shore – Robert Hughes
Name your top five favourite composers/singers/musicians.
As with books, impossible to choose so, instead, pieces of music I enjoy that have marked stages /events in my life:
I’ll take you home again, Kathleen
Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White – Louiguy
The Holy City – S. Adams
Symphony No.8 ‘The Unfinished’ – Schubert
La Mer – Charles Trenet
Trumpet Voluntary – J.Clarke
The Carnival of Venice – Air & Variations
The Land of the Mountain and the Flood – Hamish McCunn
Love, Love changes Everything – A. Lloyd Webber
+ Most Hymns and Marches
What jobs did you have before you started writing and since?
I was in teaching for a number of years but considered part–time at 4½
days per week and so lost this job when there were financial
cut–backs. I then worked in a local office and in my spare time
began studying writing. I felt I was making progress when this, too,
ended through an illness that went undiagnosed for far too long, wiped much
of my memory and vocabulary, and was the most frightening time of my
life. I won’t bore you with details except to say that my story ‘Sunday
Best’ is based on that experience and I have Bristol Dental Hospital to
thank that I didn’t end up like the character Old Jonah.
Recovery and re–wiring my brain took a long time but once back to
normal life, I started the Mere Literary Festival and PennyBank Writers.
If your house were burning down, what would you save?
The old deeds to the family property and its history box / my husband’s
letters, medals and painting of his ship / the painting of my
grandfather’s cottage / the portrait of his son
who went down on HMS Hampshire – by which time ….
How do you write
each story, i.e. do you block out the narrative first, take each page
at a time, create the central character, build a cast of characters?
I’m glad of the i.e. or I would have been tempted to put ‘with a pencil and from left to right’.
Actually, I do write longhand in pencil on lined paper before typing a paragraph or whatever into the computer.
I think I fall into the ‘take each page at a time’ category. I’m not a
good example as, according to all the ‘How to Write’ wisdom, I do
everything wrong which will explain why I’m very slow. I edit as I go
along (Wrong!) and seldom move forward until the paragraph sounds
reasonable right (Wrong!).
From an initial idea I usually have a title, the beginning and probable
ending in my head and then work out how to get from start to finish. I
chip, chip away – a bit like sculpting – until I get there but, as it’s
not set in stone like sculpture, things can be altered.
I often write myself notes and ‘what if?’ questions about the story or
characters and go away and think about the answers. Once a story is on
the computer and printed out, I read it over and over –spontaneous
improvements often result.
experiences do you feel have informed your writing? Do you have a
connection with or fondness for particular characters or locations?
Stories told by my mother about her childhood and life inspired several stories.
My family have lived in Mere for generations so I have a great sense of
being rooted here and having a connection with the Wiltshire
countryside and people.
What is a typical writing day?
Not got there yet!
What do you do when you are not writing? How do you relax? What are your hobbies?
I’m a member of the Link Scheme, Mere Rivers Group, PennyBank Writers
and Mere Amateur Dramatic Society (MADS) which keep me quite busy.
I enjoy word puzzles and am a keen Countdown fan – I give myself a tick
if I equal the contestants and one star if I beat them which is very
good for one’s morale!
I also like going out with friends and entertaining.
What single thing might people be surprised to learn about you?
Shhhh! It’s a secret!
Are you currently working on a new story (stories)?
I’m currently working on the 22nd Mere Literary Festival (which is to be my last as organizer) and a revival of my play, Katie’s Party, which MADS has chosen for its Autumn production.