Rising Star: Gaynor Arnold Author

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The Independent Culture

For the second time in a year, first time author Gaynor Arnold finds herself competing against some of the biggest names in fiction for a major literary prize.

Last year, she was long-listed for the Man Booker along-side Salman Rushdie. This week she – and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison – made the Orange Prize long-list.

'Girl in a Blue Dress', a fictionalised life of Charles Dickens's long-suffering wife Catherine, was turned down by several publishers and one agent before being taken on by giant-killers Tindal Street Press.

It is the second year running that the publisher has been selected by both Booker and Orange. At 63, Arnold has been a social worker for 40 years, and has been writing for pleasure for much of that time.

The two jobs have much in common, she says: "We have to be interested in the relationships between people, and we often focus on the negative side of families." A very Dickensian philosophy.