Librarian wins £10k Cheltenham Literature Festival First Novel competition

Librarian wins £10k Cheltenham Literature Festival First Novel competition

A Bristol librarian has won the inaugural Cheltenham Literature Festival First Novel competition with her “clever, pulsing story”, scooping a book deal with Borough Press.

Rebecca Pert has been revealed as the winner of the search for a "literary superstar", launched in August, for her debut novel Goodbye Horses about a daughter of a Thalidomide survivor growing up in the Shetland Islands.

Pert has been praised for her “dark and haunting story of isolation and obsession” by organisers of the competition, run in association with Borough Press and literary agency LBA.

As well as representation from Luigi Bonomi at LBA and the book deal, Pert also won £10,000 as the winner of the novel competition, which was judged for "quality and commercial potential".

Charlotte Cray, commissioning editor for Borough Press, has acquired world all language rights to Goodbye Horses from Bonomi. It will be published by the HarperCollins imprint in hardback in summer 2019 and Pert will discuss her book at the Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival later this year.

Pert works at the University of Bristol Library and previously studied English Literature and Creative Writing at Cardiff University.

She said: “I’ve always been drawn to dark stories and this novel has been brewing in the back of my mind for many years, slowly fleshing out and gathering detail. I can’t wait to work with Luigi Bonomi, who has such a wealth of knowledge and experience, as well as the wonderful team at the Borough Press, who publish exactly the sort of page-turning, intelligent books that I love to read.”

Pert revealed that she was “so grateful to everyone involved in the competition for this life-changing opportunity”.

Bonomi added: “Rebecca Pert’s dark brooding tale leapt out at me from the very first page.  This is an assured and polished debut that grips you and doesn’t let go.’

Cray said: “Pert’s clever, pulsing story gripped me in seconds, she drags you to the very darkest corners of female friendship – a deliciously psychological book that I cannot wait to see readers respond to.”

Nicola Tuxworth, head of programming at the Times and the Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival said: “As a long-standing champion of fresh new writing talent, the Literature Festival is thrilled to have played a part in Rebecca’s success with Goodbye Horses."

She added: "We look forward to welcoming her to the festival in October and presenting her work to our fiction-loving audience.”