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Author Elif Shafak reveals joy of working with Queen Camilla

The British-Turkish writer is taking part in The Queen's Reading Room Festival

Rosalind Powell
Contributing Editor
May 20, 2024
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Award-winning, Turkish-British author Elif Shafak is thrilled to be joining a host of celebrated authors – among them Sir Ian Rankin, Lee Child and Kate Mosse – as well as actresses Miriam Margolyes, Helena Bonham Carter and Dame Harriet Walter next month for the Queen's Reading Room Festival.

It follows the success of last year's inaugural festival, which attracted more than 8,000 visitors to Hampton Court Palace from around the globe. 

"The Queen genuinely loves literature and the art of storytelling," says Elif, 52, whose novel The Architect's Apprentice was one of the first books chosen by the then Duchess of Cornwall for the online book club she established in 2021.

"She loves supporting poets and writers and honours the work, the craftsmanship and the art of storytelling."

Elif Shafak poses at Hampton Court Palace
Elif Shafak poses at Hampton Court Palace where The Queen's Reading Room Festival returns next month

Described as Turkey's most famous female writer, Elif has made London her home for the past 14 years, living with her Turkish-born husband, who works in film and TV, and their two teenage children.

She has met the Queen on several occasions – most recently at Windsor Castle in January, when she was among a group of writers to create a tiny book for the library in Queen Mary's Dolls' House. 

"It was so difficult and my handwriting is quite messy," she says of the Lilliputian challenge. "I really struggled."

Elif Shafak poses at Hampton Court Palace
"The Queen genuinely loves literature and the art of storytelling," says Elif

Their paths have also crossed at Booker Prize meetings and literacy campaigns and Elif considers Her Majesty's support to be "massively important".

"It's so good to have a champion like her, someone who understands the power of literature and is a reader herself."

"It's not an easy world for writers and poets," she adds. "We are living in an age of hyper-information and very short attention spans. The culture surrounding us tells us to consume everything very fast. 

"Books do the exact opposite. You need to slow down and go inwards and connect with the story of someone else. And you realise their dreams are very similar; their joys are very similar. Literature helps us go beyond the boxes we are put into in this life."

Elif Shafak poses at Hampton Court Palace
The author has met the Queen on several occasions – most recently at Windsor Castle in January

At the festival, she will be discussing her latest novel, There are Rivers in the Sky, which follows the journey of a single droplet of water connecting three characters across continents, cultures and centuries.

Her schedule over the next few months is packed with literary events, book signings and festivals, thrusting her into the world as her next novel forms.

"I always have stories in my mind, but right now, I'm reading and trying to listen to what the universe is telling me so I don't rush immediately to the next book."

"As writers, we're always miserable when we're writing. But we're always more miserable when we are between books," she adds with a smile.

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Shot on location at Hampton Court Palace by kind permission of Historic Royal Palaces.

The Queen's Reading Room Festival returns to Hampton Court Palace on June 8th. Tickets are available now.

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