Hilary Mantel has won the
Man Booker prize, again. First for Wolf Hall in 2009 and again for Bring Up the
Bodies in 2012. In this exclusive blog post she talks about her surprise at
winning for a second time, and the intimidating prospect of writing the third
book in this prize-winning trilogy.
I'm still stunned. I went to Tuesday's award of the Man Booker Prize
with no clear idea of who would win--except that it wouldn't be me. I didn't lack faith in my book, Bring Up The Bodies. It's just that I'd won so recently in 2009. And
I knew that in the history of the prize, only two authors have won twice. So I expected that Wednesday morning would
see me on the train home to Devon, with the trace of a good loser's smile
fading from my face.
Instead I found myself in front of what
felt like a thousand camera flashes, and within moments of the announcement
live on radio and TV. I still felt disbelieving. Even if you don't expect to win, there's a
moment of anticipation when your heart squeezes small. And often, the chairman of the judges prolongs
the agony, with a long show-biz pause.
But this year's chairman was brisk.
He took us by surprise. Before I had taken in what was happening I was
on the stage, and before I had taken a breath I was making a speech.
I know this was a strong year. I know how
hard these decisions can be, because in 1990 I was a Booker judge myself. So I feel lucky, and honored. All day I've
been talking. Giving an account of myself. Talking about the disaster and
discouragement I've encountered. Trying to explain the unexplainable--how I
write. Trying to explain to interviewers that no writer is ever an overnight
success. Fame may arrive overnight, but there's usually a story behind that
story, and almost always it's a story of prolonged and strenuous effort that is
largely hidden from the world. This is my story. Twelve years of work before I published. Twelve
published books before one of them, Wolf
Hall, shot to the top of the bestsellers' list and gained me a million
I'm still not quite used to that. Previous
books sold a few thousand copies only. Something in Wolf Hall struck a chord with both the critics and the public.
Writing is an unpredictable business, and so is publishing. I don't think any
of us realized Wolf Hall would be
such a huge hit. That book was the first
of a trilogy. Bring Up the Bodies, is
the second. No pressure, then…
I'm not asking myself, at this stage,
whether I can possibly win the prize for the third time. That would be plain
greedy. All my attention, next year, will be concentrated the book itself. It
has to capture and hold the first two books within it, and yet stand up as a
story in itself. Technically, it will be
But I feel I'm writing better than at any
time before. I think these novels have made me extend my range and take bold
decisions. I think the material is full of possibilities. I think there is more
I can do.