The most surprising story thrown up by the awards is that of 37-year-old Stef Penney, a film writer, whose debut novel, The Tenderness of Wolves, won this year's first novel award. A story of mystery, love and murder in a remote snow-bound settlement in northern Canada in the 1860s, it was praised by judges for its description of a deep winter landcsape.
But Penney, who lives in East London, disclosed today that she had never visited Canada. Because she had suffered from agoraphobia for 15 years, she had a fear of travelling and built up her picture of the country by reading the first-hand accounts of settlers, trappers, explorers and men of the Hudson Bay Company, in the reading room at the British Library.
She said: "I didn't like public transport and to begin with I had to go by car to the British Library. But parking was so expensive that I was forced to overcome my fear of travelling by bus."
The book was turned down by "quite a lot" of publishers, she said before it was picked up by the small house, Quercus. She said of her win today: "It's really hard to believe - it's extraordinary."
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Among the winners of the Costa Book Awards (formerly the Whitbread Awards) announced yesterday was Stef Penney, as Nigel Reynolds reports in The Telegraph.