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Captain Gorilla's Mandarin

This year's festival kicked off with a wonderful first night event: an unpredictable and occasionally hilariously funny interview with internationally bestselling author Louis de Bernieres in conversation with the wonderful Jemma Woodman.

In front of a packed crowd at the Poly, we were treated to a real glimpse into the creative process: Louis often has three or four novels on the go at any one time, finds walking a wonderful way to inspire creative thoughts, and never suffers from writers block as he only writes when he feels like writing. Sometimes the urge to write grips him with such a passion that he cannot stop - the longest he has ever written for in one spell is for 16 hours!

We spent much of the evening finding out about Louis' brand new novel Light over Liskead, a book that the Guardian has called "a jollier dystopia than the norm" which he described as "the craziest thing I have ever written". It tells the story of a quantum cryptographer who, sometime in the not-too-distant future, relocates to Bodmin Moor to escape from what he feels might be an impending apocalypse.

Along the way we discovered that Louis is rather ambivalent about the idea of rewilding (he likes the thought of bison, bears and wild boar roaming the land, but isn't so sure about wolves...); that he still has a non-smart phone, and that phones are banned at the table chez de Bernieres; that he is fascinated by the idea that everything that is happening may have already happened before; and that when all is considered, whether it's historical writing, or science fiction, what interests him most is exploring the idea of love - of romantic love, of love between parents and children, brothers and sisters, and of the love humans can feel for their pets and animals.

And towards the end of a highly entertaining hour, a very amusing slip of the tongue by interviewer Jemma gave rise to an anecdote about a reader once telling Louis that they had loved "Captain Gorilla's Mandarin".

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