Alan Titchmarsh fires thunderbolts towards Henley Literary FestivalBy Phil Creighton
September 23, 2011
Gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh says that every now and again he is struck by a thunderbolt.
This time the thunderbolt gave him inspiration for his latest novel, The Haunting, a tale of love and betrayal which flickers between the past and the present.
Far removed from his usual comfort zone of gardening books, Alan’s novel takes the reader to the Hampshire countryside and introduces schoolteacher Harry Flint, a man whose life becomes tainted by a drowning and disappearance some two centuries earlier.
“It is about a man whose marriage is broken up and he goes on pursuit of his family history. It’s quite haunting really”, says Alan, who is on a coffee break from filming his latest television series.
A man who rarely has time to think, let alone produce best-selling literature, the green-fingered television presenter claims he brewed on the novel for a while.
“When I’m filming all day every day for long periods at a time it is very difficult to find the time to write but during the winter months I often spend days at a time concentrated on writing my novels as well as my gardening books.”
The Haunting was released last week, just before Alan takes centre stage at the River and Rowing Museum as part of the Henley Literary festival this month.
The museum is home to Ratty’s Refuge water vole garden, which Alan himself opened two years ago.
At his festival appearance on Friday, he will be talking about his novels, non-fiction work, magazines, flower shows and television programme, as well as how he divides his time between all these – there is quite a lot to talk about when you are Alan Titchmarsh.
So does he enjoy writing?
“It’s very strange going from being very sociable and presenting on TV to leading quite a solitary life writing. I enjoy it of course, but it is something that you do very much on your own”, says Alan.
He has written more than 40 gardening books and is known to millions through the popular BBC TV programmes British Isles: A Natural History, How to be a Gardener, Ground Force and Gardeners’ World. A gardener, broadcaster and a novelist, there is little the television personality can’t do.
His first novel, Only Dad, was published in 2001, and running parallel to his fiction work Alan published a series of gardening guides, the How to Garden series in 2009. He’s also written two autobiographies, the latest Nobbut A Lad: A Yorkshire Childhood, as a follow-up to Trowel And Error.
Alan, a father of two, lives in Hampshire with his wife, animals and his organically grown garden. He was made an MBE in the millennium New Year Honours list for his services to horticulture and broadcasting and holds the Victoria Medal of Honour, the Royal Horticultural Society’s highest award.
Speaking about his writing in general, the friendly Yorkshire man says, “I tend to write optimistic stories, full of vivid imagination.
“I love writing and I’m always telling stories. I don’t write huge great life-changing novels. People tend to think if your story isn’t riddled with angst there is no point in writing it really but I completely disagree. Perhaps I’m just terribly optimistic.”
He also seems to be his harshest critic: “Every time I write a book I’m raising the bar but I am of course never totally satisfied with it,” he says.
Has he any plans for another book? He laughs heartily, “I have already got another one coming. It’s a gardening one, containing everything from dry-stone walling to creating a wild flower meadow.”
Alan claims The Complete Countryman is a practical guide to the countryside exploring the heritage of rural Britain, including its landscapes and wildlife.
For those wondering where to find British butterflies or how to make a wildlife pond, Alan will explain. He even mentions looking after a pig.
Celebrating the British countryside and its delights and treasures, lavishly illustrated, this information-packed book is set to be released in October.
Alan Titchmarsh will be speaking as part of the Henley Literary Festival at the River and Rowing Museum on Friday at 6.30pm.