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Success story Hilary Mantel


Success story Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel is an intriguing example of an author who has written for many years and only recently achieved a breakthrough. Not only did she win the Booker Prize last autumn, but her book Wolf Hall has become the fastest-selling Booker winner since records began in 1998.

The book has now sold 196,463 copies in the UK alone and it is being widely translated. Its subject is Thomas Cromwell and the book describes his meteoric rise.

Mantel didn't achieve success easily. She is the author of eleven other titles, produced over a 25 year writing career. She says that winning has been like ‘being borne along on a huge wave’ and she is one of the few Booker winners to admit openly how much winning the Prize has meant to her: ‘I have always been willing to admit it is the one prize that we are all after. You fall into autumn nightmare any year that you are publishing, when you are waiting for the longlist and shortlist; it generates terrific tension.’ Winning is liberating because no-one expects you to win twice: ‘You no longer think to yourself, "when, if ever, will I win?’

An additional reason for her joy at winning is that she had thought the book would be disqualified as a historical novel: ‘I thought, surely the prejudice against historical fiction is too great.’ But of course it is the quality of the writing, not when it is set, which made it win the Prize. This is part of historical fiction being popular at the moment than it has been for many years, with many fine writers turning to it and a ready audience.

Her book is now available for a wider audience in paperback in the UK, and her many fans will be glad to know that once the hubbub dies down, she’ll be back at work on a sequel, The Mirror and the Light.

Our last Success Story: Evie Wyld

To encourage historical fiction writers: Writing Historical Fiction