Following the announcement of the Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist this week, we're thrilled to have had the opportunity to catch up with this year's Chair, Louise Minchin. Keep reading for a discussion about reading, this year's awards and her new book, Fearless, which celebrates boundary breaking women.

    What do books mean to you?

    Books are a wonderful form of escapism, a chance to dive into other worlds and see things from a different perspectives. I have always loved stories, was a book-worm as a child and still love reading at night, and can spend hours in the bath immersed in a good novel

    Do you have a favourite genre of book to read?

    I love what I would call a gothic thriller, think Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca for example. I have to be careful when I read them so I don’t get too spooked at night. 

    Which book are you reading right now?

    I have just finished Kate Mosse’s brilliant The Ghost Ship which is the third in her series about he Joubert family and I went straight to Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney. It is exactly what I love in a thriller. Essentially a locked room drama set on a tiny island in Cornwall which gets cut off from the mainland during high tide, a spooky house, and a family who have dark secrets and are dangerously set against each other.

    We watched you chat to Kate Mosse at the London Book Fair last week, what a joy that was. Please share with our audience how you came to be involved with the Women's Prize.

    I first met Kate Mosse about 12 years ago on BBC Breakfast when I was interviewing her about one of her books, as soon as the cameras were off she asked me if I would be a judge on the Women’s Prize. I was very honoured but I said no as I knew while I was presenting BBC Breakfast I wouldn’t have enough time to dedicate to the reading. She is very persistent and kept on asking, and the day I said I was leaving the programme I think she was the first person to email asking me again! I couldn’t say no, and then she asked me to be Chair, and again I couldn’t say no.

    Tell us what the Women’s Prize for Fiction means to you.

    The Women’s Prize for Fiction is a chance to celebrate the powerful ambition and creativity of women writers, and to encourage readers to open their books, and be inspired and moved by them as I have been.

    What is it like to be a judge and how have you found your role as chair of this year’s judges?

    Being a judge obviously means you have to commit to a lot of reading, which I have loved as it has meant I have read and really enjoyed books that otherwise I might never have chosen. So it has expanded my horizons.  It has been a great honour to be Chair and although I felt nervous about the onerous responsibility, I have loved it because we have consistently had passionate, robust discussions, all of us have listened with care and respect and when it came down to making hard decisions agreed amicably about the books we wanted to have on the shortlist. With regard to extra responsibilities as Chair, I have to make the announcement on the day who has won, and do lots of the interviews about the books. It is strange to be on the other side of the fence and answering questions not asking them.

    What's been the most challenging discussion you've been party to? We'd love to be a fly on the wall during some of the debates!

    The debates are fascinating and heart-felt but sadly they are confidential so I can’t tell you more than that. What I can say is each book is judged on the book itself not how many it has sold or the reputation of the author or on whether they have or haven’t won prizes before, and that would explain why we have three debuts, two previous winners and another author who has been on the shortlist before. It is down to the quality of their writing. 

    We will be shadowing the Women's Prize Shortlist this year, as I know many people do. What's in store for them, and us? How would you describe the shortlist?

    That is great you are shadowing the shortlist I am so excited for you, you have some real treats in store. These are emotionally powerful, beautifully written books and they are fabulously diverse in settings and in their different points of view, I think you will remember them all. I am really looking forward to reading them all again before we decide which will be the winner.

    So, you have a new book out in May called Fearless. We are very excited about it and can't wait to read it. Tell us all about it.

    My new book is called Fearless, Adventures with Extraordinary Women, it is out on May 25th, you can pre-order now, and each chapter is dedicated to a different courageous women breaking boundaries in the world of sport. To tell their stories I have gone and done the thing they love with them, including re-enacting the Escape from Alcatraz, free-diving under ice, and fearing for my live wild-caving in the Mendip hills. I have learnt so much from all the women about their fierce resilience, determination and courage and hope everyone will be as inspired by them as I have been.

    The Winner for the Women's Prize for Fiction will be announced on the 14th June.