Publishers HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster came together to celebrate Philippa Gregory’s 30 years as a published author at the Ivy Club in Soho last night (2nd May), with guests including HRH Princess Michael of Kent.
Champagne for the night was gifted from S&S US, to mark three decades since Gregory's debut Wideacre was published. Writer Fanny Blake, who acquired Wideacre whilst she was an editor at PRH imprint Viking, was also present for the evening.
Ian Chapman, m.d and c.e.o of S&S UK, which announced a four-book global deal for Gregory last month, said he was still “smarting” from missing out on the book in 1987: “We are honouring her extraordinary achievements and career so far. I remember years ago when I was at Coronet I read a book called Wideacre…and I just want to say I’m still smarting from the fact that I was unable to acquire it at the time. It’s a wonderful piece of storytelling. Since then her career has gone from strength to strength. Apart from being a wonderful woman, she is a wonderful storyteller and great writer. When you think of the range and scope that Philippa has written and the non-fiction.
"There is non-fiction book that will be really important and significant and will be published in a couple of years’ time and of course she is moving on to a new cycle of novels. Her achievements are astonishing…I doff my cap in admiration.”
Philippa Gregory (centre) with her publishers Kate Elton and Ian Chapman.
Suzanne Baboneau, m.d. of the adult division of S&S UK, told The Bookseller: “This party is a coming together of past and present, almost a retrospective, of an author still very much in her prime. It is wonderful to have so many of Philippa's editors of the past three decades gathered together, to celebrate with Philippa's family and friends. Looking ahead, we know that we shall have plenty more to celebrate, not least her new series of novels and her work of non-fiction, which will look at extraordinary but little known women across the centuries. We feel immensely proud to be Philippa's publishers - she is a joy to work with and a beautiful writer."
Kate Elton, executive publisher of fiction and non-fiction at HarperCollins, said Wideacre, set in the 18th century amid the enclosure of common land by landowners, had "changed the face of historical fiction." HC has just published a special anniversary edition of the novel with a new foreword from Gregory.
Messages of congratulation came from authors Hilary Mantel and Kate Mosse as well as former Radio 4 presenter Sue MacGregor, who said: “You have had a wondrous literary success, huge congratulations.”
Gregory said the party was “the only one I’ve been to in 30 years which has been held by two publishers” and gave special thanks to her husband “who photocopied the first manuscript of Wideacre on his office photocopier out of hours and sent it off without any expectation of anything happening except for a rejection slip coming in the next post.”
In the UK Gregory has sold 5.5 million books for £36.3m through Nielsen BookScan, with her last three titles hitting both the Original Fiction and Mass Market Fiction number one spots.