Last year, this was a new book prize. This year it’s established and very much in step with the hundreds of other initiatives worldwide that are doing their bit to highlight the issue of violence against women. I’ve found out more about the subject in the last 12 months, and most of it has been uncomfortable and saddening. All the more reason to run a book prize that openly refuses to reward violence against women.
I’ve had an amazing wave of support behind this project from the start, confirming that it’s timely and wanted. Fictional depictions of violence against women in books, films and television exaggerate, fetishise and normalise what happens to women in the real world. They also skew our idea of who commits these violent crimes by fictionalising rapists and serial killers into stereotypes so that we fail to recognise that it’s ordinary men, most often known to their victims who rape and kill women.
As a writer, I don’t underestimate the challenge of devising a thriller with no female victims, yet I also know there are so many other stories to tell! Last year’s entries were an inspiration and proved beyond any doubt that there are writers creating exciting, complex work which swaps those clichés for more original ideas.
In answer to demand, I’m also developing course and discussion materials to help writers, editors, teachers and book groups explore the issues this prize sets out to tackle.