In the last eight years, the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize has gained a prestigious reputation for uncovering new talent, with regular interest from the publishing industry. The Prize is a unique opportunity, and a catalyst, for unpublished female writers aged 21 and over to launch their literary careers. Since its foundation in 2010, the Prize has been a starting point in numerous entrants’ success stories.
Most notably, perhaps, is Gail Honeyman’s success with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. After first appearing on the Fiction Prize shortlist in 2014, it was published last year, and has since seen critical acclaim. Eleanor Oliphant won the 2017 Costa Book Awards ‘First Novel’ Award, and was a 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards Best Fiction Nominee. In 2018, Gail won the Audie Award for Fiction, the British Book Awards’ Book of the Year 2018, and was Waterstones Fiction’s Book of the Month in February.
Other Fiction Prize authors also published debuts last year, and also saw great success. Laura Marshall’s Friend Request was a Sunday Times Top 10 List bestseller, and a number one eBook bestseller; it was also shortlisted for the Bath Novel Award. Emily Midorikawa’s A Secret Sisterhood (written with Emma Claire Sweeney) was widely acclaimed, with a foreword by Margaret Atwood. Frances Maynard’s The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr was equally well-received. It was also shortlisted for the 2016 Mslexia First Novel Competition, and a runner-up in the 2014 Good Housekeeping First Novel Award.
So far this year, Fiction Prize authors Claire Askew and Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott have had their own success stories. Claire’s August debut All the Hidden Truths was named The Times’ September Book of the Month; Kelleigh’s Swan Song was pre-empted by Hutchinson in a six-figure deal. Swan Song was published by Penguin Random House/Hutchinson in July 2018 and has since won many accolades including winning the 2015 Bridport Prize and being named one of The Times' Books of the Year 2018. It was longlisted for the Women's Prize in April 2019 and the rights to Swan Song have been sold for television to Balloon Entertainment (Skins, Clique), with Kelleigh adapting the novel as a limited series. Laura Marshall has published a second novel this year too, Three Little Lies which was also widely acclaimed and an iBooks' Book of the Month.
This year’s success for Fiction Prize authors isn’t over yet. Lesley Sanderson’s The Orchid Girls will be published this November, and is already highly anticipated. Sara Collins’ debut, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, is set to be a lead title in the UK and the US next spring.