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.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

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.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn