The Daily Mail and Penguin Random House today announced the winner of the First Novel Competition which is now in its second year. Entrants were invited to submit the first 5,000 words of their novel along with a 600 word synopsis. Chosen from over 700 crime and thriller entries, Lizzy Barber from north London has won with her novel My Name is Alice. It will be published in hardback and eBook in late 2018 by Century, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Lizzy will also receive a £20,000 advance as part of the publishing contract, as well as the services of literary agent Luigi Bonomi.
My Name is Alice is based in the US and tells the story of a girl who is trapped in a strictly religious household where she is watched over by her creepy mother. She feels she doesn't belong, has memories of another family in another country, and soon is planning her escape...
This year’s competition was judged by a panel of industry experts. Sandra Parsons, Literary Editor for the Daily Mail, Selina Walker, Publisher of Century and Arrow at Penguin Random House, Luigi Bonomi, Managing Director at LBA and Simon Kernick, bestselling crime writer.
Commenting on the prize Selina Walker, Publisher of Century and Arrow said, “As ever, the response to our competition, which this year focused on discovering a new voice in crime-writing, was overwhelming and the standard of entries uniformly high. We had fun whittling these down to just six shortlisted entries – and these were all great pieces of writing with lots and lots of potential. I particularly love novels about complex family relationships, and My Name Is Alice is right on the zeitgeist. As soon as I started reading I could tell that Lizzy Barber knew how to tell a story. Her characters hold one's attention and the consequent action is deftly set up. Above all, her opening chapter sets the scene and asks questions which promise much much more!”
Luigi Bonomi added, “There is something inherently unsettling about the tone of Lizzy’s writing. There are dark and disturbing secrets here – from an overly religious mother carrying a baggage of demons to her daughter, Alice, with her nightmares. There is a creepiness here that makes you feel that however much you really don’t want to know anymore, you know you just have to.”
Lizzy Barber said, “Winning is, quite simply, unbelievable. In fact, I have said on multiple occasions that I almost need to keep a folder in my email inbox as an 'evidence box', so that I can re-read it and know I haven't just made it all up! I haven't stopped smiling since I won. Somehow it feels like I'm doing something I was always meant to do...creative writing has always been a part of my life (in fact, when I told my Mum the news, she reminded me that I had entered a short story for the Disney Channel when I was about ten and had won a director's chair...this is slightly better somehow!), and it's just amazing to be given the opportunity to make it 'official.'"