Debut novelist shortlisted for Orange Prize

Even my editor was surprised, says writer

A first-time novelist who divides her time between writing, running an environmental website and managing an astronomy museum has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Samantha Harvey, 34, declared she was daunted and delighted to be one of just six authors selected yesterday for the final stage of the international prize.

She earned her place with her first published novel, The Wilderness, about a man with Alzheimer's struggling to hold on to his memories and identity.

The list, said to have gone down to the wire, includes Americans Ellen Feldman, Samantha Hunt and Marilynne Robinson, the Irish writer Deirdre Madden as well as the Pakistani/British author Kamila Shamsie.

The bookmaker William Hill has rated Feldman as the favourite at 2/1 with her novel Scottsboro. Madden, who is running with her seventh novel, Molly Fox's Birthday, was previously shortlisted in 1997.

"We were right down to the wire on several of the books and choosing just six was far harder than I had imagined, but we all left the judging room proud of the list we have chosen," said the broadcaster and chair of the judging panel, Fi Glover.

Harvey said it had come as a complete shock when her editor called to say she had been shortlisted for the prize, now in its 14th year, which celebrates fiction writing from women around the world.

"I was flabbergasted. My editor even said 'I am quite surprised' as it is a difficult novel for them," she explained.

"Everybody on the shortlist is quite daunting to me. I don't feel immensely confident. I am quite confused how I could have made it on to the shortlist. I keep thinking surely there must have been a mistake."

The daughter of a builder and a therapist, Harvey grew up in Kent with her older sister. She did not start writing until her late twenties while teaching English in Japan. Inspired by the dedication and diligence her mother showed in penning novels, she decided to put pen to paper too.

"My family is absolutely thrilled. My mum has written a few novels that aren't published. She has been so gracious about it, so pleased."

Harvey began writing The Wilderness while completing an MA at Bath Spa University. It focuses on Jake, a man in his 60s, who has lost his wife, has a son in prison and is battling against Alzheimer's. She researched her novel by speaking to carers and nurses at centres across Bath.

At the moment she is undertaking a PhD while writing another novel, a modern-day take on the life and death of Socrates.

She said: "I think anxiety comes when you have success with a first novel. You think 'Can I do it again?' It is a bit of hurdle to overcome.

"I am very aware this is one novel and a career is made of many novels."

The winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction will be announced in London on 3 June and will receive a £30,000 cheque and a bronze statue known as "the Bessie", created by artist Grizel Niven.

Orange Prize: The contenders

* Ellen Feldman, 67, American, for Scottsboro, about a journalist's fight to save nine black youths from the electric chair in 1930s Alabama.

* Samantha Hunt, 37, American, for The Invention of Everything Else, about a Serbian-born scientist and a woman he meets at the end of his life.

* Deidre Madden, 48, Irish, for Molly Fox's Birthday, in which a playwright reflects on the life of her friend, a celebrated actress, and questions why she never celebrates her birthday.

* Marilynne Robinson, 62, American, for Home, which tells the story of a prodigal son as he returns home to make peace with his past.

* Kamila Shamsie, 35, Pakistani-British, for Burnt Shadows, about a Japanese woman whose world was obliterated at Nagasaki, following her family over 50 years from India to Pakistan, America to Afghanistan.

Arts and Entertainment

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Metallica are heading for the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals next summer

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances Bean Cobain is making a new documentary about his life

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp

TV Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp

Arts and Entertainment
TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches