In 2007 I was lucky enough to be shortlisted for The Impress Prize for Fiction with The Lady's Slipper. Also on the shortlist was The Courtesan's Choice by Gabrielle Kimm. Quite by chance Gaby and I were staying in the same B&B in order to go to the Awards at Exeter University. We got chatting over eggs and toast, and then again at the awards evening when we realised we were both historical fiction writers. We have kept in touch with each other's progress since then.
Neither of us was the lucky winner of a publication deal, that honour went to Carol Fenlon for her superb book Consider the Lilies.
This is a story that will really stay in your mind. It's bold and challenging, experimenting with language and layout but at the same time it's an intensely gripping read. Carol Fenlon really cares about Vicky, the half-wild child raised in a shed, and her protector Jack, who can never come to terms with his own past."
But what about the others on the shortlist? I thought it might be interesting to pursue some of the other Impress Prize finalists to find out what they've been up to. If you know more, or have any extra news, please get in touch.
"I have a second novel I Will Never Leave Here currently with my agent, it is a ghost story set in Lancashire with the backdrop of the draining of Martin Mere. I am currently writing a crime novel involving a female private investigator and have plans for another novel using the same character. I am also writing a non-fiction history of Skelmersdale New Town, where I live and plan some journal articles from the PhD thesis of which Consider the Lilies was the major part.
I completed my PhD in Creative Writing this year and continue to be a member of Edge Hill university's Narrative Research Group and am on the editorial board of a new literary journal Intellect. I continue to be involved with Skelmersdale Writers Group and have recently been involved in the publication of an anthology Tales From A New Town.
In addition to winning the Impress Prize in 2007, I have had several poems published in small press magazines and won the Jo Cowell poetry competition in 2008. I have had a couple of stories published by Byker Books in their regular anthology series Tales of the Inner Cities but I haven't had much time for short stories or poetry as I am making serious efforts to become a full time novelist. (Not easy!)
The Impress Prize is great for first time novelists. For the winner it is an introduction to a real publishing house, which is independent in the best sense of the word and small enough to nurture the writer through the publication process. Impress are really great to work with, I can't thank them enough for the start they gave me. Winning the prize and being published helped me to get an agent and gave me presence on the regional writing scene, with offers of library and festival readings. It also justified the work I had put in on my PhD thesis and gave me networking opportunities with university professionals and other writers. Even getting on the shortlist can surely bring some of these opportunities your way, so you have nothing to lose by entering."
"I'm still trying to write. I find it more difficult these days since my work life takes up such a lot of time and creativity. After a long break though I have started writing my own personal columns, or blogs, which don't really get shown to anyone, but it's a nice way of keeping the ink flowing!
My literary/creative skills are now mainly being used helping other authors to get published. I work as a Junior Literary Agent at The Marsh Agency and so by the end of the day, once I'm home and have my own space and time, I try to write, but it can be hard. I have had a long period of no writing which I'm pleased to say feels like is just about coming to an end. I have ideas for books all the time and feel like I'm gestating ideas that I'm hopeful will develop in the future, but at the moment I'm just enjoying working with other writers on their work."
"Since the Impress Prize short-listing I have had my book, The Spaniard's Wife, professionally critiqued and edited and think I'm on the edge of a breakthrough. I think it's an even better book and, although, it is still attracting rejections(12 to date), I'm confident that there is a publisher out there who will share my faith in it. I'm looking forward to joining you to prove that Impress can pick them." (Dee's comment - and this from someone who has already been shortlisted for the Yeovil Prize too) Robert has an excellent website here.