Debut Nigerian novelist Oyinkan Braithwaite won the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year award at tonight’s British Book Awards for her novel My Sister, The Serial Killer.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the British Book Awards – aka The Nibbies – and excitingly, the Crime and Thriller Book of the Year category is this year supported by Stylist. The eight Book of the Year winners were decided by separate panels, with judges including star food critic Jay Rayner, author and broadcaster Loyd Grossman and Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, head of editorial at gal- dem. A separate panel went on to choose the overall Book of the Year, where The High Low podcast co- host Pandora Sykes was judging alongside TLS editor Stig Abell and former MP Luciana Berger.
Stylist spoke to award-winning writer Braithwaite about her win.
Congratulations. What does winning this award mean for you?
I couldn’t have imagined it in my wildest dreams but each and every time [I win an award] it feels like another pat on the back. I didn’t write the book to get published – it was an exercise for myself because I’m terrible when it comes to finishing stories, so I wasn’t thinking about what agents, or publishers or readers will think when I wrote it. I had no expectations.
Is the pressure on now for the next book?
I mean, it is ridiculous how different it is, not only because of the success of this book but also because as a black writer in some ways the pressure is different. Expectations are placed on you that you’re not 100% ready for. I am asked questions that were so far from my mind when I was writing My Sister, The Serial Killer and now I’m asking, what do I do with this platform I have?
The pressure of recent times has made it catapult but even before the coronavirus pandemic, before the protests – and not just Black Lives Matter, there have been a lot of protests about sexual assault and rape in Nigeria – even before then there was the pressure of being an African writer in an international world. You are often asked questions about Africa and I really have to point out that I haven’t even been to all the states in Nigeria. I can’t even speak for Nigeria as a whole, let alone Africa.
British Book of the Year: 2020 winners
The critically acclaimed, prize-winning first novel from Candice Carty-Williams, Queenie, won the prestigious Book of the Year accolade.
In a double triumph, Bernardine Evaristo was named Author of the Year at this year’s Nibbies, while also seeing her Booker-winning novel, Girl, Woman, Other, take Fiction Book of the Year.
For the overall Book of the Year trophy, Carty-Williams’s Queenie beat Girl, Woman, Other and further stiff competition including Three Women by Lisa Taddeo and the bestselling crime novel My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.
Candice Carty-Williams said: “I don’t quite know how I feel about winning book of the year; I’m proud of myself, yes, and grateful to the incredible team that helped me get Queenie out of my head and onto the shelves. I’m also sad and confused that I’m the first black AND female author to have won this award since it began. Overall, this win makes me hopeful that although I’m the first, the industry are waking up to the fact that I shouldn’t and won’t be the last.”
At their meeting on 4 May, the judges, chaired by The Bookseller’s Alice O’Keefe, decided Queenie – published by Trapeze – was the best demonstration of all three tenets that make a successful Book of the Year: the quality of the writing; the innovative publishing vision; and excellent sales.
O’Keeffe said: “Our Book of the Year needs to be something quite special and Queenie stood out from the very beginning. In her debut Candice Carty-Williams introduces readers to a vibrant, fresh, unforgettable black heroine grappling with life, love, race and family in contemporary London. By turns funny, wise and heartbreaking, this is an exceptional first novel. Trapeze’s publishing strategy was also a masterclass in how to launch an author; from the now iconic jacket in multiple-colourways to the unmissable marketing and publicity campaigns that got everyone talking, and propelled Queenie into the bestseller lists.”
Queenie was shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year, Foyles Book of the Year and won Blackwell’s Début Novel of the Year. It was named one of The Times, Guardian, Sunday Times, Daily Mail and Evening Standard’s Best Books of 2019.
The British Book Awards Books of the Year, which uniquely celebrate books that have been both well-written and brilliantly published, were awarded across eight shortlists tonight, with each winner in the running for the overall Book of the Year trophy. Queenie won Début Book of the Year, supported by the Zoella Book Club, before going on to take the overall trophy.
Bernardine Evaristo beat joint Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood to Fiction Book of the Year, supported by the TLS, with Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton) while Margaret Atwood won Audiobook of the Year, supported by Times Radio, with The Testaments (Penguin Random House), beating her own book The Handmaid’s Tale (Penguin Random House) to the top spot.