Award winner for novel on schizophrenia to keep nursing job

by Reuters
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 22:04 GMT

(Adds comments from main book award winner, byline)

By Michael Roddy

LONDON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Registered mental health nurse Nathan Filer won the prestigious Costa Book of the Year Award for 2013 on Tuesday for his debut novel "The Shock of the Fall", but despite his rise to literary celebrity, he is not giving up the day job.

Filer, 33, who also got married last Saturday, said after scooping the 30,000 pound ($49,800) prize at a ceremony in London that he would be reporting for his next nursing shift on Sunday as usual.

"I'm not going to make predictions for the future but I do think there is something to be said to having more to your life than writing and the other work has always been very important to me," Filer said at a press conference, with his new wife Emily watching from the back row.

"I won't decide about the future but I've always written and I'll always carry on writing and that's always going to be part of my life, I'm sure," said Filer, whose book was bought in an 11-way auction by HarperCollins for what the Costa prize said in a statement was "a substantial six figure sum".

The book tells the story of brothers Matthew and Simon hit by a tragic accident and explores themes of loss, grief and mental illness as Matthew slowly descends into madness.

Filer said he had not set out to write a "campaigning book about mental illness or schizophrenia".

"I set out to write about the character and his illness is one aspect of his character and there are many more than that. But certainly I felt having decided that schizophrenia would be part of the novel I felt a responsibility not to propagate the myths surrounding that."

Filer beat novelist and bookmakers' favourite Kate Atkinson, for "Life After Life", biographer Lucy Hughes-Hallett for "The Pike", poet Michael Symmons Roberts for "Drysalter" and author and political cartoonist, Chris Riddell, for "Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse".

"This book stood out in a very good list," Rose Tremain, chair of the judges panel, said in a statement.

"The voice in which the author has chosen to tell his story is perfectly aligned with the subject matter and very well sustained to the end."

The Costa Book Awards, named after a coffee shop chain, is the only major British book prize open solely to authors resident in the United Kingdom and Ireland and recognises books across five categories - First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children's Book - published in the last year.

Filer also is a writer and lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. He is a qualified mental health nurse and for many years worked for the mental health service in Bristol where he still lives. ($1 = 0.6030 British pounds) (Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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