Hemel-born author’s debut novel praised by Vogue

Author Kate Howard
Author Kate Howard

A born-and-bred Hemel author is celebrating after her debut novel made it into Vogue magazine’s Top Summer Reads chart.

Kate Howard, 41, was brought up in Warners End and studied at Cavendish School before heading off to study English Literature at the University of Sussex in 1995.

The Ornatrix by Kate Howard

The Ornatrix by Kate Howard

21 years on, she has a masters and a doctorate in English Literature under her belt, lives in Seven Dials, Brighton,with husband, and has written her first novel The Ornatrix.

The book, set in 16th century Renaissance Italy, is the result of years of research from Kate, who spent years living in the Mediterranean country.

The plot follows the story of dyer’s daughter Flavia, who was born with a bird-shaped birthmark on her face.

She meets Ghostanza, a courtesan-turned-widow, who makes Flavia her hairdressing and make-up slave – known as an ornatrix.

From here, the young woman is drawn into a world of desire and jealousy that has devastating consequences.

Kate, whose parents Gruff and Margaret Edwards still live in Warners End, says her secondary school English teachers in Hemel had a big impact.

The writer said: “I had really good teachers at Cavendish – they say your teachers are really influential and it’s true.

“But it’s not been easy to transfer my academic writing to fiction and finding my voice as a creative writer.

“The Renaissance period is particularly interesting in terms of social relationships and family dynamics.”

Kate, who returns to Hemel around once a month to visit her parents, says she took 
inspiration for the book’s characters from people she met in Italy, who have been there for ‘generations and generations’.

“There isn’t that fluidity of movement that you get here in Brighton,” she said.

The book has been praised by reviwers in The Times and tipped as a top summer read by fashion magazine Vogue.

The Ornatrix can now be bought online at Amazon.co.uk, in store at Waterstones or WHSmith and ordered in by independent bookshops.