Posted on 28 July 2017
Fiona Mozley, 29, who is in the third year of her PhD in medieval eco-politics, was not allowed to tell anyone about her nomination for the £50,000 prize for her novel Elmet.
The novel tells the story of a father and his two children who build a home for themselves in a copse in South Yorkshire.
The family are living on margins of society – with the father a bare-knuckle boxer – who builds the house and then comes into conflict with the landowners.
It is published on 10 August by John Murray.
“I found writing the novel really complemented my PhD study,” Fiona said. “There’s a lot of creativity that has to go into a PhD, even though it is much more rigorous than writing a novel.
“There is a lot of research and analysis, but there is also a creative element as well. But I found writing the novel helped my PhD and vice versa.
“But it was also a nice break from the rigours of a PhD. Whilst there is creativity in both, they are both very different.”
Fiona, who was an undergraduate at Cambridge University, was living in London and working as an intern for a literary agent when she started Elmet four years ago.
Fiona, who comes from York, started writing the novel on a train from York to London as she realised she “missed the landscape of home.”
She continued writing the novel while juggling the demands of her PhD studies at the University’s Centre for Medieval Studies and finished the book last summer.
She added: “‘I didn’t tell my mum and dad that I was writing it until I had signed my publishing contract.
“There is another book in the pipeline, not a sequel to Elmet, but being a novelist is something I wish to pursue.”
Should Fiona win the Man Booker she would be the second youngest winner of the prize.
The current favourite is Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, with Ali Smith’s Autumn also among the front-runners.
There are four US authors on the long list of 13 for the prize, whose rules were changed in 2014 to include any English language novel published in the UK.