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Fiona Mozley On Making The Man Booker Shortlist With Her Debut Novel

Sep 16, 2017
Originally published on September 17, 2017 9:42 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Fiona Mozley started writing her first novel on her phone while riding the train between her home in York, Northern England, and an internship in London. It's the story of a father and his two children who live out in the margins of society in a house they built with their own hands in the Yorkshire countryside. Her book, "Elmet," was published last year. And this week, "Elmet" is one of six books shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, one of the world's most prestigious literary awards. Fiona Mozley joins us from York.

Congratulations, and thanks for being with us.

FIONA MOZLEY: Thanks very much, Scott. Lovely to meet you.

SIMON: Paul Auster, George Saunders, Mohsen Hamad, Ali Smith - you are with some of the greatest names in literature in this award. How does that feel?

MOZLEY: It feels pretty daunting. But those of them that I've met so far have been very lovely indeed, so it hasn't been too bad.

SIMON: Where's this story, which, to say the least, has some dark passages - where does that come from?

MOZLEY: I really wanted to talk about the landscape that I grew up in and the idea of owning a home. It was something that came to me while I was living in London away from home and paying rent and sort of wondering what the relationship between a person and a place was. And I suppose those were the issues that I wanted to explore. And then the characters came to me as I was riding that train, as you've mentioned.

SIMON: I understand you didn't tell your friends and family for some time that you were working on this novel.

MOZLEY: I really didn't think I would finish it. And when I started, I didn't mention it to anyone. And it just became a secret project that I pursued in the evenings and weekends. And as I got closer and closer to finishing, I felt that if I did tell someone then, it would make it even less likely to happen. So I kept it quiet.

SIMON: You're still working at a bookstore?

MOZLEY: That's right, yes. I'm doing a Ph.D. at the University of York, but I work in a bookshop a couple of days a week. And I also think that it's important for writers to do something other than write. I like that working at the shop brings me into contact with people. And yes, I'm surrounded by books, so it's not very different from writing perhaps. But actually, the human contact is necessary, I think.

SIMON: Fiona Mozley - her book is "Elmet." And it has been shortlisted for this year's Man Booker Prize. The winner will be announced on October 17.

We'll certainly look for your name. Thank you for speaking with us.

MOZLEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.