Waters at a book signing in 2006
|Born||21 July 1966|
|Alma mater|| University of Kent |
Queen Mary University of London
Sarah Ann Waters(born 21 July 1966 ) is a Welsh novelist. She is best known for her novels set in Victorian society and featuring lesbian protagonists, such as Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith .
Sarah Waters was born in Neyland, Pembrokeshire, Wales in 1966. She later moved to Middlesbrough when she was eight years old.
She grew up in a family that included her father Ron, mother Mary, and a sister. Her mother was a housewife and her father an engineer who worked on oil refineries.She describes her family as "pretty idyllic, very safe and nurturing". Her father, "a fantastically creative person", encouraged her to build and invent.
Waters said, "When I picture myself as a child, I see myself constructing something, out of plasticine or papier-mâché or Meccano; I used to enjoy writing poems and stories, too." She wrote stories and poems that she describes as "dreadful gothic pastiches", but had not planned her career.Despite her obvious enjoyment of writing, she did not feel any special calling or preference for becoming a novelist in her youth.
I don’t know if I thought about it much, really. I know that, for a long time, I wanted to be an archaeologist – like lots of kids. And I think I knew I was headed for university, even though no one else in my family had been. I really enjoyed learning. I remember my mother telling me that I might one day go to university and write a thesis, and explaining what a thesis was; and it seemed a very exciting prospect. I was clearly a bit of a nerd.
Waters was a supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, joining as a result of her boyfriend at the time.She has politically always identified herself as on the left of the political spectrum.
After Milford Haven Grammar School, Waters attended university and earned degrees in English literature. She received a BA from the University of Kent, an MA from Lancaster University, and a PhD from Queen Mary, University of London. Her PhD thesis, entitled Wolfskins and togas : lesbian and gay historical fictions, 1870 to the present, served as inspiration and material for future books. As part of her research she read 19th-century pornography, in which she came across the title of her first book, Tipping the Velvet . However, her literary influences are also found in the popular classics of Victorian literature, such as Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and the Brontës, and in the contemporary novelists that combine a keen interest in Victoriana with a post-modernist approach to fiction, especially A.S. Byatt and John Fowles. Angela Carter's 'Nights at the Circus' had a huge influence on her début novel as well, and Waters praises her for her literary prose, her "common touch", and her commitment to feminism.
Waters lives in Kennington, south-east London.
Before writing novels, Waters worked as an academic, earning a doctorate and teaching.Waters went directly from her doctoral thesis to her first novel. It was during the process of writing her thesis that she thought she would write a novel; she began as soon as the thesis was complete. Her work is very research-intensive, which is an aspect she enjoys. Waters was briefly a member of the long-running London North Writers circle, whose members have included the novelists Charles Palliser and Neil Blackmore, among others.
With the exception of The Little Stranger, all of her books contain lesbian themes, and she does not mind being labelled a lesbian writer. She said, "I'm writing with a clear lesbian agenda in the novels. It's right there at the heart of the books." Despite this "common agenda in teasing out lesbian stories from parts of history that are regarded as quite heterosexual",she also calls her lesbian protagonists "incidental", due to her own sexual orientation. "That's how it is in my life, and that's how it is, really, for most lesbian and gay people, isn't it? It's sort of just there in your life."
Her writing influences include Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Mary Shelley, the Brontës, John Fowles, A. S. Byatt, and Angela Carter
Her debut work was the Victorian picaresque Tipping the Velvet , published by Virago in 1998. The novel took 18 months to write.The book takes its title from Victorian slang for cunnilingus. Waters describes the novel as a "very upbeat [...] kind of a romp".
It won a 1999 Betty Trask Award, and was shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday / John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.
In 2002, the novel was adapted into a three-part television serial of the same name for BBC Two. It has been translated into at least 24 languages, including Chinese, Latvian, Hungarian, Korean and Slovenian.
Waters's second book, Affinity , was published a year after her first, in 1999. The novel, also set in the Victorian era, centres on the world of Victorian Spiritualism. While finishing her debut novel, Waters had been working on an academic paper on spiritualism. She combined her interests in spiritualism, prisons, and the Victorian era in Affinity, which tells the story of the relationship between an upper-middle-class woman and an imprisoned spiritualist.
The novel is less light-hearted than the ones that preceded and followed it. Waters found it less enjoyable to write."It was a very gloomy world to have to go into every day", she said.
Affinity won the Stonewall Book Award and Somerset Maugham Award. Andrew Davies wrote a screenplay adapting Affinity and the resulting feature film premiered 19 June 2008 at the opening night of Frameline the San Francisco LGBT Film Festival at the Castro Theater.
Fingersmith was published in 2002. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize.
Fingersmith was made into a serial for BBC One in 2005, starring Sally Hawkins, Elaine Cassidy and Imelda Staunton. Waters approved of the adaptation, calling it "a really good quality show", and said it was "very faithful to the book. It was spookily faithful to the book at times, which was exciting."The novel was later adapted again by South Korean director Park Chan-wook into the 2016 film The Handmaiden , which set the story in South Korea in the 1930s.
Fingersmith was named by singer and artist David Bowie as one of his "top 100 books".
The Night Watch took four years for Waters to write.It differs from the first three novels in its time period and its structure. Although her thesis and previous books focused on the 19th century, Waters said that "Something about the 1940s called to me". It was also less tightly plotted than her other books. Waters said,
I had more or less to figure the book out as I went along – a very time-consuming and unnerving experience for me, as I tried out scenes and chapters in lots of different ways. I ended up with a pile of rejected scenes about three feet high. It was satisfying in the end, realising just what should go where; but a lot of the time it felt like a wrestling match.
The novel tells the stories of a man and three women in 1940s London. Waters describes it as "fundamentally a novel about disappointment and loss and betrayal", as well as "real contact between people and genuine intimacy".
In 2005, Waters received the highest bid (£1,000) during a charity auction in which the prize was the opportunity to have the winner's name immortalised in The Night Watch. The auction featured many notable British novelists, and the name of the bidder, author Martina Cole, appeared in Waters' novel.
The Night Watch was adapted for television by BBC2 and broadcast on 12 July 2011.
Also set in the 1940s, The Little Stranger also differs from Waters' previous novels. It is her first with no overtly lesbian characters. Initially, Waters set out to write a book about the economic changes brought by socialism in postwar Britain, and reviewers note the connection with Evelyn Waugh.During the novel's construction, it turned into a ghost story, focusing on a family of gentry who own a large country house they can no longer afford to maintain.
This novel is set in the 1920s, in the social and economic aftermath of World War I.Households are in reduced circumstances and Frances Wray and her mother have to take in lodgers to keep going. The developing lesbian relationship between Frances and lodger Lilian Barber provides a complex backdrop for a murder investigation that takes up the latter half of the book. The Observer said: "The inimitable Sarah Waters handles a dramatic key change with aplomb in her new novel set in 1920s south London". The Telegraph described it as "eerie, virtuoso writing".
Waters was named as one of Granta's 20 Best of Young British Writers in January 2003. The same year, she received the South Bank Award for Literature. She was named Author of the Year at the 2003 British Book Awards.In both 2006 and 2009 she won "Writer of the Year" at the annual Stonewall Awards. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2009. She holds an honorary degree from Lancaster University. She has featured on the Pinc List of leading Welsh LGBT figures.
She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to literature.
Each of her novels has received awards as well.
Lambda Literary Awards, also known as the "Lammys", are awarded yearly by the U.S.-based Lambda Literary Foundation to published works which celebrate or explore LGBT themes. Categories include Humor, Romance and Biography. To qualify, a book must have been published in the United States in the year current to the award. The Lambda Literary Foundation states that its mission is "to celebrate LGBT literature and provide resources for writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, and librarians – the whole literary community." The awards were instituted in 1988.
Tipping the Velvet (1998) is a historical novel by Sarah Waters; it is her debut novel. Set in England during the 1890s, it tells a coming of age story about a young woman named Nan who falls in love with a male impersonator, follows her to London, and finds various ways to support herself as she journeys through the city. The picaresque plot elements have prompted scholars and reviewers to compare it to similar British urban adventure stories written by Charles Dickens and Daniel Defoe.
Emma Donoghue is an Irish-Canadian playwright, literary historian, novelist, and screenwriter. Her 2010 novel Room was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and an international best-seller. Donoghue's 1995 novel Hood won the Stonewall Book Award. and Slammerkin (2000) won the Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction. She is a 2011 recipient of the Alex Awards. Room was adapted by Donoghue into a film of the same name. For this, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Dame Marina Sarah Warner,, is an English novelist, short story writer, historian and mythographer. She is known for her many non-fiction books relating to feminism and myth. She has written for many publications, including The London Review of Books, the New Statesman, Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and Vogue. She has been a visiting professor, given lectures and taught on the faculties of many universities.
Ali Smith CBE FRSL is a Scottish author, playwright, academic and journalist. Sebastian Barry described her in 2016 as "Scotland's Nobel laureate-in-waiting".
The sensation novel, also sensation fiction, was a literary genre of fiction that achieved peak popularity in Great Britain in the 1860s and 1870s. Its literary forebears included the melodramatic novels and the Newgate novels, which focused on tales woven around criminal biographies; it also drew on the gothic and romantic genres of fiction. The genre's popularity was conjoined to an expanding book market and growth of a reading public, by-products of the Industrial Revolution. Whereas romance and realism had traditionally been contradictory modes of literature, they were brought together in sensation fiction. The sensation novelists commonly wrote stories that were allegorical and abstract; the abstract nature of the stories gave the authors room to explore scenarios that wrestled with the social anxieties of the Victorian era. The loss of identity is seen in many sensation fiction stories because this was a common social anxiety; in Britain, there was an increased use in record keeping and therefore people questioned the meaning and permanence of identity. The social anxiety regarding identity is reflected in novels such as The Woman in White and Lady Audley's Secret.
Linda Grant is an English novelist and journalist.
Fingersmith is a 2002 historical crime novel set in Victorian-era Britain by Sarah Waters.
Gail Jones is an Australian novelist and academic.
Affinity is a 1999 historical fiction novel by Sarah Waters. It is the author's second novel, following her debut Tipping the Velvet. Set during 1870s Victorian England, it tells the story of a woman, Margaret Prior, who is haunted by a shadowy past and in an attempt to cure her recent bout of illness and depression, begins visits to the women's wards of Millbank Prison. Whilst there she becomes entranced by the spiritualist Selina Dawes, with whom she becomes obsessed and begins an inappropriate relationship. Written as an epistolary novel, the story alternates as a series of diary entries written by both main characters.
Tara June Winch is an Australian writer. She is the 2020 winner of the Miles Franklin Award for her book, The Yield.
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Bernardine Anne Mobolaji Evaristo, OBE, FRSL, FRSA, FEA, is a British author of eight works of fiction. Her eighth book, the novel, Girl, Woman, Other, won the Booker Prize in 2019, making her the first black woman and the first black British person to win it. In 2020 she won the British Book Awards: Fiction Book of the Year and Author of the Year, as well as the Indie Book Award for Fiction. The novel was one of Barack Obama's 19 Favourite Books of 2019 and Roxane Gay's Favourite Book of 2019. In June 2020 she became the first woman of colour and the first black British writer to get to number 1 in the UK paperback fiction charts, where she held the top spot for five weeks. The novel is currently being translated into 35 languages. Evaristo's writing also includes short fiction, drama, poetry, essays, literary criticism, and projects for stage and radio. Two of her books, The Emperor's Babe (2001) and Hello Mum (2010), have been adapted into BBC Radio 4 dramas. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London, one of fewer than 30 black female professors out of around 20,000 professors overall. She served a term as Vice-Chair of the Royal Society of Literature (2017–2020), the first person of colour to assume the role.
The Little Stranger is a 2009 gothic novel written by Sarah Waters. It is a ghost story set in a dilapidated mansion in Warwickshire, England in the 1940s. Departing from her earlier themes of lesbian and gay fiction, Waters' fifth novel features a male narrator, a country doctor who makes friends with an old gentry family of declining fortunes who own a very old estate that is crumbling around them. The stress of reconciling the state of their finances with the familial responsibility of keeping the estate coincides with perplexing events which may or may not be of supernatural origin, culminating in tragedy.
Kirsty Murray is an Australian author. Murray writes children's fiction with a focus on Australian history. She is known for the Children of the Wind series of children's novels. She is a recipient of the Aurealis Award for best children's fiction.
Sarah Grace Perry is an English author. She has had three novels published, all by Serpent's Tail: After Me Comes the Flood, (2014) The Essex Serpent (2016) and Melmoth (2018). Her work has been translated into 22 languages.
Diana Omo Evans is a British novelist, journalist and critic who was born and lives in London. Evans has written three full-length novels. Her first novel, 26a, published in 2005, won the Orange Award for New Writers, the Betty Trask Award and the deciBel Writer of the Year award. Her third novel Ordinary People was shortlisted for the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction and won the 2019 South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature.
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A library was bursting at the seams when Man Booker Prize short-listed author Sarah Waters visited... [she] signed copies of The Little Stranger, her novel praised by the prestigious literary prize's judges this year.
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