Katie Tallo - Women's Novel Competition 2013 winner

Katie Tallo, Gone Monday

This is the first time I’ve tried to write a novel, and this is the first writing competition I’ve ever entered. I wrote most of the novel at a table in my writing buddy’s house, overlooking a lake. Every day for months we’d sit down opposite each other and write for three hours; then take a break and write again for another two hours. It took me two years – I rewrote it ten times before I showed it to anyone, then I paid for feedback from a professional ‘novel doctor’. I’m still rewriting it.

I work as a freelance film-director for a corporate client base, but I also make social issues documentaries. I studied English Literature, then enrolled at a technical college and got a technical qualification in film and television broadcasting – because I wanted to get my hands on a camera. It means I write my fiction in scenes; I can’t help it; I can even hear the soundtrack!

Steven King’s advice (in On Writing) is to stick your characters in a situation and let them tell the story. I wanted to write about the anguish of being ‘in lust’ rather than in love. Then the set-up came to me: not boy meets girl, but boy puts girl in the boot of a car. And I started wondering how a couple would get into that situation. So I put Jimmy in the car and let him speak. He was trapped in the front and Julep was locked in the boot, so they could hear each other but couldn’t escape. I decided to explain the back-story of their relationship in bits and pieces, in a nonlinear way, because that’s how memory works. And I wrote it in first person present tense so that I could showhow their voices changed over the years: from when they first met as teenagers to when Jimmy crashes the car when they’re in their thirties.

There was a moment when Jimmy’s voice suddenly starting speaking to me. It was a wonderful feeling, like, ‘this is me, my tone, my kind of book’. I’m always trying new things, changing direction creatively. I think I’m ready to be a novelist now.

Katie Tallo is 50 and works as a freelance film-director for screen and broadcast media, in many genres, including documentary, drama and animation as well as marketing and PR. She is married to a barman and has one grown-up daughter.

What did the judges say?

‘It was very very assured all the way through, quite flawless. I had such a strong image of that car’
Kirsty Lang

‘As I got further in, I became more intrigued’
Val McDermid

‘It’s gritty and raw; it has pace and psychological tension; the writer takes you with her at top speed’
Charlotte Robertson

Congratulations to the finalists and shortlisted writers

  • Mahsuda Snaith, The constellation of Ravine Roy
  • Stacey Sampson, And the grass won’t pay no mind
  • Alexis Boddy, Searching for you
  • Jennifer Gray, The lightning tree
  • Sarah Perry, La Scarpetta
  • Linda Moser, Somewhere North of Heaven
  • Liz Monument, Frozen
  • Mary Morris, A field of marshmallows
  • Rosemary Garner, ArkWrite
  • Faye Davies, Valentina
  • Kelsey Florence Lynne, A different daughter
'I really love @Mslexia's little ms. It's so...perky'