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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 January 2008, 12:52 GMT
Rejected novel awarded top prize
Catherine O'Flynn
Catherine O'Flynn was inspired while working at a shopping centre
A former postwoman from Birmingham whose debut novel was rejected by 15 times by publishers, has won a prestigious literary prize.

Catherine O'Flynn, 37, won the Costa First Novel Award for What Was Lost.

The story, about a security guard who spots a child on CCTV 20 years after she disappeared, was published by Birmingham-based Tindal Street Press.

Her book will now go on to compete against four others for the Costa Book of the Year Prize.

Ms O'Flynn, who won 5,000, was inspired while working at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre in Brierley Hill.

Mystery shopper

She said: "It wasn't until I started writing here at Merry Hill that I found the words just leaking out of me at night.

"And I'm not sure whether it was this place that just inspired me or whether it was something would have happened anyway."

She also worked as a postwoman, a mystery shopper and a box office assistant while writing her debut novel.

The judges said the book was a "superb first novel" and a "cleverly constructed and absorbing mystery".

Her book will compete against novels by comedian AL Kennedy, historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, Jean Sprackland and Ann Kelley.

The winner of the 25,000 prize will be announced at a ceremony on 22 January.

The book was inspired by Merryhill Shopping Centre

Costa Book Award list announced
02 Jan 08 |  Entertainment

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