As part of the Debut Author's shadow panel, I was keen to look for innovation and scout out a writer who had potential for greater success to come. That being the case, my focus was on looking for a work that took risks and was different from anything I'd read before. A tall order, I appreciate, but the calibre of the Debut Author's did not disappoint. I read all six books over the course of three weeks, which did lend itself to a frenzy of speed-reading and not the leisurely stroll that I am used to.
Regardless, I loved how different it was to be constantly re-evaluating the book on merit and trying to compare such contrasting work. For all their differences, in our discussions it became apparent that each novel was attempting to strike out and defy barriers of genre, character and chronology of plot. Although these attempts did not always hit the right note, we appreciated the creativity of such intentions and I loved hearing how different these authorial choices were received by different readers on our panel.
My personal favourite was Mary's the Name by Ross Sayers, as I felt it stood out for its observational tone, impish humour and the challenge of deciphering a plot from the perspective of a child in the Scottish Highlands. Sharing this experience with the panel was a real highlight, and I'm greatly looking forward to seeing if the judging panel agree with our assessments too.