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The University of Sussex

 06 March 2002 

Novel success for university academic

A love for India, a desire to write fiction and an academic background as an anthropologist turned out to be a highly successful formula for acclaimed new novelist Katy Gardner.

This week sees the publication of her thriller, Losing Gemma (Penguin), which was not only fought over at auction by major publishing companies, but is soon to be in the bookshops of twelve other countries.

Dr Gardner, a lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Sussex, drew upon her knowledge of Asia to pen the tale of two friends who have a traumatic experience while backpacking in India. "It's not autobiographical," adds Dr Gardner. "Although I back-packed to Kathmandu when I was 18 and I've lived in South Asia, the events in the book didn't happen to me. I just wanted to write a really good story."

The success comes after her first two attempts at writing novels attracted little interest. "The first was about an aid worker," says Dr Gardner. "That didn't get any interest. The second was a thriller set in Brighton, which might have sold eventually. But I knew when I was working on this latest one that I had a good story to tell."

Her only previous non-academic publication was Songs at the River's Edge (Pluto, first published by Virago in 1991), which was a personal account of her fieldwork in Bangladesh. But as an academic Dr Gardner has already had plenty of publishing success. Following her doctoral research in Bangladesh, she wrote her monograph Global Migrants, Local Lives: travel and transformation in rural Bangladesh (OUP 1995). In Development, Anthropology and the Post-modern Challenge (Pluto Press, 1996, with David Lewis) she discusses the issues of anthropology and development. She also has a new academic research book coming out, Age, Migration and Narrative, (Berg), for which she spent time with the Bengali population of East London.

"Although academic and fiction writing are two very different forms of writing, anthropology is all about telling stories," she points out. "I always knew I wanted to write and I thought that becoming a fieldworker would give me something to write about."

Dr Gardner, 37, who lives in Brighton with her husband, screenwriter Graham Alborough and three small children, is now working on her next novel, which she says is about "mothering and obsessive attachment".

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