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May We Be Forgiven

AM Homes: I was No Shoo-in but Fiction Prize Means I Can Now Afford New Shoes

American author AM Homes said she might buy herself new shoes after wearing a 10-year-old pair to win the £30,000 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The writer, 51, said the victory cheque would also go towards paying off the loan that funded her during the seven years it took to write May We Be Forgiven. “It’s a great relief,” she said.

“I’m a single parent. I work hard but I end up by wearing shoes I’ve had for 10 years. I might spring for something big. I’m a literary writer and it’s not like the books fly off the shelves.

“Honestly, to pay the home loan and get a new pair of shoes is an incredibly good day for me.”

Speaking at last night’s ceremony in the Royal Festival Hall, Homes — the mother of a 10-year-old girl — said she had long been in awe of the Women’s Prize, formerly the Orange.

“I always dreamed that one day maybe I would win it,” she said. “But a man murders his wife in my first few pages so I wasn’t sure it would be a shoo-in for a women’s prize. This is the first actual book award I’ve won.”

Judges’ chairman Miranda Richardson called the book “a dazzling, original, viscerally funny black comedy — a subversion of the American dream”.

The tale of rivalry between two brothers began as a short story encouraged by fellow prize nominee Zadie Smith. It sees Homes write, like she has before, as a man. “When I write female characters it’s not so much a process of discovery,” she said. “When I write a male character it’s more imaginative.”

She revealed her horror as she researched sections of the novel in which her protagonist Harry uses the internet to find women for sex.

“Everyone thinks I’m so daring and provocative but the truth is I was shocked and mesmerised by what’s out there,” she said.

Homes — known as AM even to friends because “I’m just not a good Amy” — said she was more accepted in Britain than in the US, where she lives in New York and where Americans fear she is mocking them. Sometimes she is.

Her rival Hilary Mantel said she was very glad for Homes, even though the judges’ decision deprived her of the literary triple awards of the Costa, Man Booker and Women’s Prize.

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