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Galway writer’s debut shortlisted for prestigious international award


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway writer’s debut shortlisted for prestigious international award Galway writer’s debut shortlisted for prestigious international award

A young Galway writer has seen his critically-acclaimed first novel shortlisted for the prestigious Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize.

Colin Walsh – originally from Knocknacarra and a past pupil of the Bish – is one of six authors shortlisted, for an award which celebrates debut fiction of all forms and is voted for by Waterstones booksellers.

His debut novel Kala was the subject of a bidding war between some of the world’s biggest publishers before Atlantic Books triumphed in a five-way auction for the rights to publish it in Ireland and the UK – while Penguin Random House won the rights for the US and Canada.

The novel has been described as, at once, a gorgeously drawn and richly characterised coming of age story and a dizzyingly propulsive thriller.

Set in the seaside town of Kinlough, on Ireland’s west coast over two timelines, it’s the story of a group of friends who, reunited 20 years after the disappearance of their friend, are haunted by the mystery of what happened to her.

“I’m genuinely stunned with this news,” said a delighted Colin on confirmation of the shortlist.

“Writing a first novel is a years-long leap of faith; you spend thousands of hours with the characters, teaching yourself how to tell their story.

“The book is a private, intimate thing for so long, and it can be jangling to watch it venture out into the world and fend for itself. Kala has only just been published, and to get such support from Waterstones booksellers is beyond a dream to me.

“Honestly, it’s unreal. I’m levitating,” added Colin, who went to Scoil Éinde primary school, the Bish and NUIG.

It’s not his first brush with critical acclaim; his short stories have won him several awards, including the RTE Francis MacManus Short Story Prize and the Hennessy Literary Award.

In 2019 he was named Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year and his writing has been published in the Stinging Fly, the Irish Times and broadcast on RTE Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4.

At the time of signing the book deal, Atlantic’s publishing director James Roxburgh described the Galway writer as ‘a major new voice in literary fiction’ and he said that signing a two-book deal was ‘a major statement of ambition for Atlantic Fiction’.

“Kala made me think of In Our Mad and Furious City meets Mare of Eastown, brilliant on the glorious, woozy experience of being young and getting off with each other, of being fearless and full of big ideas, of the kind of friendships that feel everlasting and unbreakable – and then showing how those childhood friendships often retreat and fall apart, how adulthood brings with it all kinds of fears and narrow ideas, how getting off with each other has its inherent phantoms of jealousy and regret,” he said.

“All of this orbiting a set-up of small-town secrets and bones found on a building site, the kind of perfect crime-noir storytelling that left the publicity director half in awe and half resentful of Colin because she’d entered into a death-pact with the book in which she couldn’t put it down till 3am,” he added.

Colin is joined on the shortlist by fellow Irish author Michael Magee whose Close to Home, set in Belfast at the height of the Troubles, has been described as one of the books of the year.

The winner – to be chosen by a panel of Waterstones booksellers – will be announced at an evening ceremony on Thursday, August 24, and they will receive a prize of £5000 and the backing of all Waterstones shops and

The Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize is a prize for debut fiction of all forms, voted for by Waterstones booksellers. It is unique in that the award is open to all debut fiction, including genre fiction, such as crime, Sci-Fi and fantasy and fiction in translation.

Last year’s winner, The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty, was immediately propelled into the bestseller chart, seeing an impressive sales increase of over 800%, and went on to win both the 2022 National Book Award for Fiction and the Barnes and Noble Discover Prize. The Rabbit Hutch has since also been optioned for screen.

Pictured: Colin Walsh…shortlisted for the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize.

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