A HIGHLAND librarian is set for an increase in her own readership after being longlisted for the prestigious Baileys Prize for fiction.
Clio Gray, who lives in Balintore and combines her writing career with work at Tain Library, is one of 20 female novelists announced on the longlist on Tuesday – International Women’s Day.
Representing a total of seven countries, they include such established authors as Kate Atkinson, Anne Enright and Attica Locke, as well as 11 debut novelists.
Yorkshire-born Gray joins the longlist with her eighth novel, The Anatomist’s Dream, set in Germany in the 1840s.
Set up to recognise the best in women’s fiction and previously known as the Orange Prize, the award comes with a cheque for £30,000 and a bronze figurine known as a Bessie.
Previous winners of the award include Inverness-born Ali Smith, Barbara Kingsolver, Rose Tremain, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadie Smith, Lionel Shriver and Helen Dunmore.
Gray, whose own awards success includes the Scotsman/Orange Short Story Award, heard she had been longlisted when she returned from walking her dogs to find a message from her agent on the answering machine.
"Kind of news that sets you up for the day – although had to go online and double check I hadn’t completely dreamed the whole scenario up!" she added.
The nomination is also good news for her publisher Myrmidon, and Gray thanked the company for putting her book forward for consideration.
"Independent Publishers are the life blood of the industry in many ways, not just gearing themselves towards the mainstream, but taking a chance on more unusual fare," she said.
"They told me they’d nominated the book for a few awards, but the Baileys news came right out of the blue as I’d supposed that it would only be considered for awards in 2015. Nice to be wrong sometimes."
Gray’s other novels include the Whilbert Stroop series of historical crime novels and other books with a crime element set in the 19th century Highlands, and she acknowledged that The Anatomist’s Dream is rather different, even if it does have an element of crime.
"It’s actually one of the first books I ever wrote, but was put away for years until I dragged it back out into the light and completely rewrote it," she revealed.
Gray has just finished the third book in her Scottish mystery series, but is also about to complete what she sees as the sister book to The Anatomist’s Dream with a similar settings and time frame, but different characters.
"Add to that the ongoing You Time Writing Project based in Tain Library – a project designed to encourage new writers to get writing and get their work into print and I’ve not got a lot of spare time on my hands," she said.
She must now wait to learn if the judging panel, chaired by Margaret Mountford from BBC’s The Apprentice and including singer and songwriter Tracy Thorn, broadcaster Naga Munchetty and writers Louise Penny and Elif Shafak, decide to put her through to the six strong shortlist from which the winner will be announced at an awards ceremony held in London’s Royal Festival Hall on June 8.