I'm delighted to have teamed up with Clare Christian to co-found the Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses Literary Prize, or ADCI Literary Prize for short. We both believe it will be a game changer in the publishing industry.
So how did the prize come about? Let me rewind the clock a bit. I’m a cliché in that I’ve always wanted to be a novelist but for quite a long time didn’t actually get around to finishing writing a book. My 40th birthday was the catalyst I needed to take the writing plunge and my first psychological thriller, My Perfect Sister, was published by Clare in 2020 – unfortunately slap bang in the middle of lockdown!
According to the charity SCOPE, about one in five of us in this country have a disability, or chronic illness, at some point. Where are we then in fiction? That’s why in My Perfect Sister I included a character called Ian, who has cerebral palsy. But his disability isn’t the story - how he can help his old friend Annie try and solve the mystery of her sister’s disappearance, is.
Soon after publication, I received an email from Clare saying that my book had sparked an idea. How about trying to found a prize for disabled novelists who include disabled characters in their work, and would I like to team up with her?
Of course I would! We then brainstormed, planned, approached possible supporters and sponsors, and were delighted when the Society of Authors welcomed us into their prize stable and secured funding from Arts Council England and other sponsors. The prize was officially launched at the SoA Awards on 1st June in London and is for an outstanding work of fiction, written by a disabled or chronically ill author, which contains one or more disabled characters.
I grew up not seeing anyone like me, disabled and northern, in novels or publishing. I’m a firm believer that you’ve got to be able to ‘see it’ in order to ‘be it’. My second novel, Her New Best Friend, also includes disabled characters going about their everyday lives, if not in everyday circumstances – if they did, the thriller wouldn’t be very thrilling! But it’s important to me that we’re in there and we’re seen.
We passionately believe that this prize will support and raise the profile of the ADCI community; increase positive disability representation in our culture; bring our books to the attention of readers; and show publishers that there’s a huge market out there just waiting to be tapped into.
We don’t ask for any proof of a disability or illness, applicants will self-identify. We welcome self-published, as well as traditionally-published authors to submit when submissions open in August 2022. Next year, we’ll be here announcing our inaugural winner, who will receive one thousand pounds. Two runners up will also win £500 each. I’m going to be one of the three prize judges and can’t wait to get stuck into reading and discovering the wealth of talent out there.