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27 November 2015

Kate Hamer shortlisted for Costa First Novel Award

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by Leonora Craig Cohen

Exciting times at Curtis Brown Creative, as we heard recently that our former student Kate Hamer, who attended our novel-writing course in Autumn 2011, has just been shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award for her debut The Girl in the Red Coat. The Costa is the only major UK book prize that is open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland, and the prize is worth £5,000, with the overall winner of the Costa Book of the Year receiving £30,000. The winners will be announced on Monday 4 January 2016.

Kate Hamer has already been listed as one of The Observer’s New Faces of Fiction 2015 (along with fellow CBC alumni James Hannah and Catherine Chanter) and The Girl in the Red Coat also made the shortlist of the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. Kate’s book was selected as one of the four shortlisted titles from 116 entries. Lots of people loved her work before she was even published: Kate was awarded a Literature Wales New Writer’s Bursary in 2013 in order to complete her novel.

Published in February 2015, The Girl in the Red Coat tells the gripping story of the abduction of eight year old Carmel by a shady American preacher with links to a healing cult.  It’s been featured in Metro and The Sun, and was said to be ‘pulse-racing’ by Grazia and ‘increasingly addictive’ by Heat. It’s a brilliant addition to the current crop of ‘domestic noir’, with author Matt Haig praising its ‘striking imagery and chilling atmosphere… conjur[ing] mystery with such grace, cool beauty and urgent suspense it never feels like a debut.’ Reviewers have had trouble putting the book down. The Guardian’s Celeste Ng said she read it in two sittings, while Isabel Berwick enthused about it in The Financial Times, saying it ‘keeps the reader hooked — and awake into the small hours.’

Kate finished her novel not long after taking the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course. She had already had some success in other formats, for instance she won the 2011 Rhys Davies Short Story Award and her winning story, One Summer, was broadcast on Radio 4. However, as Kate told the Guardian: ‘I wanted to know more about how the publishing process worked. It can seem daunting and confusing from the outside. It was useful to demythologise it.’ The Girl in the Red Coat was seized upon by Curtis Brown agent Alice Lutyens, who said ‘I had an instant thrill when I read the very first page of the novel, and from then on was gripped like glue till I reached the end.’ Alice predicted ‘this book has the superstar quality to carry all its readers to the very end, and will be a huge success.’

The Girl in the Red Coat was published by Faber & Faber in February 2015. The paperback edition will be launched on 24 December.

As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our three- and six-month novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.

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