PERTH writer Josephine Wilson has won the country’s top prize for fiction, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, for her book about a retired widower, Extinctions.
Wilson, a first-time nominee who teaches creative writing at Curtin University, already has a good idea how she’s going to spend the $60,000 cash prize.
“I think it will go on the ‘Big M’, the mortgage,” Wilson told AAP.
“I’ll use it to live on and it will allow me to focus on writing my next work. I hope it will make me feel incredibly positive about the potential of my next book because it’s always scary when you’re writing, you think you might be going nowhere with this and reaching nobody, so it’s really very wonderful.”
Wilson wrote Extinctions over seven years as part of her PhD at the University of Western Australia.
It was also awarded the inaugural Dorothy Hewett Award for an unpublished manuscript and is her second novel after she published Cusp in 2005.
Wilson was one of five first-time nominees on the shortlist for the award, which is in its 60th year and is given to a novel of the highest literary merit that presents Australian life in any of its phases.
Extinctions focuses on the life of retired engineer Professor Frederick Lothian, whose wife has died and whose family life is in a state of flux.
“My book is essentially about a family who have endured a great deal and the main character is moving into that period, is facing his own extinction if you like,” she said.
“But I don’t think it’s a story just for older people because I think everybody’s going to die. I was interested in the idea, not just in how we begin life but how we end it.”
Wilson was given the award on Thursday evening in Sydney at the State Library of NSW while the four other authors on the shortlist, Philip Salom, Emily Maguire, Mark O’Flynn and Ryan O’Neill, were awarded $5000 each.