The Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize
We are delighted to announce the shortlist for our inaugural Debut Fiction Prize – an award for exceptional first novels, voted for by our booksellers. Celebrating debut fiction in all its forms, the prize highlights the importance of discovering and championing new talent and acts as an extension of the alchemy of bookseller word-of-mouth recommendation.
The six-strong shortlist represents the exciting scope of contemporary storytelling and takes us from 1970s war-torn Belfast to a future world reeling in the wake of a catastrophe, via modern Lagos’s spiritual underbelly and three contrasting visions of America.
The winner will be announced on Thursday 25 August 2022.
The Shortlist 2022
‘This is a truly global shortlist which broadens horizons and challenges genre. United by a generous capacity to find hope, light, and community in the unlikeliest places, they are all timely and important novels by writers of staggering ambition and talent.’
Bea Carvalho, Waterstones Head of Fiction
Introducing the Authors
Discover our six shortlisted writers
Getting your first publishing deal at the age of 64 may not be unheard of but it is unusual. Then for your debut novel to become one of the word-of-mouth successes of the year is a truly remarkable feat. The former copywriter and science editor enrolled on a creative writing course in London and Lessons in Chemistry, her slyly subversive and delightfully witty debut about a chemist-turned-reluctant-TV-cook, was the sparkling result.
Born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, Tess Gunty read English at the University of Notre-Dame before relocating to New York for her master’s in Creative Writing, and later to the City of Angels. 2022 saw the arrival of her unique and utterly fearless debut novel The Rabbit Hutch which provides piercing yet humorous commentary on life in a decaying Rust Belt town, through the inhabitants of an affordable housing complex.
After working as a professional chef for three decades, Louise Kennedy swapped the restaurant kitchen for the literary journal, with her short fiction appearing in numerous publications and garnering a variety of accolades. 2021 saw the release of her short story collection The End of the World is a Cul de Sac and the following year brought her debut novel Trespasses, a masterly account of forbidden love set during the 1970s Northern Irish Troubles.
Author, academic and owner of a robot dog, Sequoia Nagamatsu was raised in Hawaii and San Franciso and published the short story collection Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone in 2016. He then set to work on his eerily prescient, polyphonic science fiction debut How High We Go in the Dark that explores the human desire to find meaning within tragedy, as a deadly virus starts conquering the world.
In 2015, Eloghosa Osunde was headed for a career in management consulting, when a friend prompted her to apply for a writing workshop in Nigeria. Seven years on, her work has appeared in the Paris Review, Granta, and Berlin Quarterly among others, garnering praise and awards, including the prestigious Plimpton Prize 2021, and her unique, bold and lavishly experimental Lagos-set debut Vagabonds! has taken the literary world by storm.
Tara M. Stringfellow
At 30, Tara M. Stringfellow decided to swap her life as a successful Chicago attorney with a penthouse apartment for a master’s degree in poetry. After graduation, she returned to her native Tennessee and took a job as a high-school English teacher, publishing work in various literary journals and working on a manuscript which became her stunning debut Memphis – a powerful saga about family and community, and a fierce celebration of Black womanhood.
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