Historical thriller Half Of You, by Carolyn Kirby, has won the inaugural Bluepencilagency First Novel Award. The runner up is a comedy crime novel entitled The Wrong Guy, by Neil McLennan. The Award, judged by literary agent Eve White and best-selling author Saskia Sarginson, is given to previously unpublished and unrepresented writers. Twenty novels were longlisted and six made the shortlist. The winner received £1,000 in cash and an introduction to Eve White, and the runner up won a writer’s retreat at Retreats for You as well as an editorial report from Bluepencilagency.
Set in 1880’s Birmingham, Half Of You follows a young woman’s search for the roots of her scarred personality amid the origins of psychiatry and new Victorian ideas about nature versus nurture. As the dark secrets of her past unravel, Cora must decide if her personality is an unalterable product of biology and her upbringing, or find the strength to change herself. Writer Carolyn Kirby studied history at The University of Oxford and novel writing at Faber Academy. Half Of You was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize 2016 and won second place in the Daniel Goldsmith 2017 First Novel Prize. Carolyn’s previous work has been longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition, the Exeter Novel Prize and the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize.
“The premise of genetics set in 1880’s Birmingham is interesting and Carolyn’s writing was strong.” notes Eve White. Adds Saskia Sarginson; “The setting was great and through the character of Cora, Carolyn created a strong voice. I was completely convinced by the story.”
The Wrong Guy is a pacy, comedy crime novel. Author Neil McLennan calls it camp noir – featuring murder, manicures and a missing husband. It’s inspired and influenced by storytelling that combines humour, heightened emotion and great plot twists. As a lifestyle journalist, Neil has written about everything from cocktails to cottage renovation and has recently moved into scriptwriting, penning episodes of daytime TV drama and film scripts. Neil developed the novel while on the Curtis Brown novel writing course. “It was funny and engaging. The story unravels nicely, the characters are well drawn and the writing is tight. I wanted to read on.” Saskia notes.
Commenting on the success of the inaugural award Bluepencilagency’s Emma Haynes notes “We were delighted with the talent and enthusiasm, receiving writers’ submissions from all over the world. We were looking for a strong opening chapter with an engaging story and a compelling voice. All the shortlisted novels show great promise and we look forward to working with the authors and helping on their journey towards publication.” Adds founder Sara Sarre; “We were impressed at how much undiscovered talent there is out there, the quality of the work was very high. We expect to run the competition again in 2018.”
The other four shortlisted titles are: Lily Beck’s psychological thriller Hannah Backwards, which deals with issues of identity and paranoia concerning a young woman trying to forget her past; SuperTech by James Pierson, a thriller about cybercrime and cyberwar; historical mystery The Accidental Time Traveller, by Sylvia Bluck; and Gill Thompson’s White Stock, a powerful story based on the post-war scandal of children being forcibly shipped from children’s homes in the UK to Australia.
Bluepencilagency is a literary consultancy run by Sara Sarre and Emma Haynes. Clients include published authors as well as aspiring writers. The agency offers editorial and mentoring services as well as advice on submissions to agents. The consultancy also runs workshops at literary festivals as well as bespoke writing retreats.