Are you wondering who's who on the year's shortlist for Best Unpublished Manuscript? Or what their manuscripts are about? Well wonder no more, let us introduce you to the five writers who are receiving support to develop their manuscripts and are in the running for the £7,500 research travel grant. We're sure they won't be unpublished for long...
Read on to meet the authors and their manuscripts:
Dan Cross (UK/Colombia) - CAESAR OF MERCENARIES
1288, Italy. The War of the Sicilian Vespers has left noble families stripped of their birthright, kings feuding for power, and a new danger rising in the east.
Roger de Flor and his brother grow up under the tutorship of their templar mentor to earn fame as renowned ship commanders. When Roger learns they are to be inducted into the Order, he believes he will finally win back his family’s lost noble status. But war exposes the corruption within his brotherhood and Roger is forced to choose between honouring his oaths and fulfilling his own ambitions. As former allies hunt him to the ends of the known world, Roger learns to play the game of politics and war. But in this era of gods and kings, the price of freedom must be paid in blood.
Dan left a lucrative career in IT to follow his dream of becoming a struggling writer. Mission accomplished! Just ask his bank manager. He manages his own writing and editing business, has a bachelor’s in psychology and is an amateur historian. He is fascinated by the antiquities and medieval eras, and thoroughly enjoys crafting exciting stories with morally ambiguous characters out of the gaps in history.
Dan lives between the UK and Colombia with his wife and their dog. Like his characters, he is an avid globetrotter and has travelled Europe, Asia and the Americas. He will visit Australia after the spiders have left.
Newton Fisher (UK) - THE DIFFERENCES
In the year 1842 young gentleman scientist Francis Perrin is approached by an elite group of Victorian scientists called “The Cadre” to help them find new sources of power for the Empire. Perrin has a story of an African God called Oklo who can create steam from just rock and water. But if the Cadre are interested in Perrin then others, desperate to claw back some advantage from the Empire are too. Plunged into a world he doesn’t understand and is utterly unprepared for, Perrin must learn fast if he is to survive and find the truth about what Oklo really is.
Newton Fisher has had stories swirling around his head for as long as he can remember. Until recently this has escaped in the form of two of the highest forms of fiction, Pantomime and PR. The Differences is his first attempt at a proper story. It is the initial instalment of the 'Steam' trilogy with the strap line 'With enough power you can move anything.' You can find him most days in the library staring at a blank screen or writing a blog about the trials and tribulations of creating something out of thin air.
You can follow Newton Fisher's writing updates on his blog: lighthouseindesert.wordpress.com
Linda Spurr (UK) - PATHWAY TO THE GODS
Two thousand years ago Arabia was one of the richest places on earth – thanks to frankincense, worth as much as if not more than gold. Nashwa al Jamal’s dream is to follow her father and brothers into the trade. But women are banned from touching the trees of the Gods; the penalty death. From the frankincense groves in the hills to the souks in the town, from the salt flats of the desert to the fortress at the harbour, Pathway to the Gods brings alive Nashwa’s quest to fulfil her dream - but only too late, she realises at what cost.
Linda has dreamed of writing historical novels ever since she started reading them. Her love of writing took a detour into journalism, on local and evening newspapers, followed by a 20-year career in international broadcasting. Now, she teaches creative writing in and around Watford in Hertfordshire. Linda uses pictures as writing prompts in her classes and it was one of those – an Arab man holding a falcon – that led to a Creative Writing MA, a visit to Oman and her debut novel Pathway to the Gods.
You can find Linda's website at www.letsgetwriting.co.uk
Bill Swiggs (Australia) - BLOOD ON THE WATTLE
It is the year 1853 in colonial Australia and nineteen-year-old Toby O’Rourke’s world is changed forever when his parents are brutally murdered and he and his brother, Patrick, are cast out of the only home they have ever known.
On the goldfields of Ballarat, Toby finds a little peace for his tormented soul in the form of Annie Hocking, a woman to stand by his side through the lawlessness of the diggings and the killing ground of the Eureka Stockade. Toby is given a chance to return to the life he once knew, but to do so, he must hunt down and kill the man who murdered his parents.
Bill grew up in Esperance, Western Australia and joined the Royal Australian Air Force at 19 as an aviation firefighter before discharging and becoming a police officer. He now works as a firefighter for a defence contractor. Bill developed a love of reading and writing from an early age as there was no television reception in the town, and enjoys the solitude that comes with being a writer. He finds there is a soul-soothing force in creating worlds and characters for others to enjoy. Bill lives near Donnybrook, Western Australia, with his wife Rhonda, where he divides his time between working, writing, flying and his grandchildren.
Alex Usher (USA) - KATIE HOPE AND THE ETERNAL EMPRESS
9-year-old Katie Hope is bored and lonely living out in the country. One morning, she chases her dog, Louie, into a cave on her parents' property, and winds up trapped in an alternative reality - a world of strange creatures and beings, all under the rule of a single young empress. But Empress Fiona has a problem. Her eternal youth depends on a fresh supply of blood from young female tributes, and there has not been a single baby girl born in the kingdom in more than a generation. Sensing Katie's otherworldly presence, Fiona sets out to find and capture the young visitor. What the immortal empress doesn't know is that she and Katie have something in common, and it could shift the balance of power in the land of Raea for the first time in a millennium.
Alex was born in Moscow in the waning years of the Soviet empire. He immigrated to the United States, with his family, at the age of 4, and settled on the East Coast. Alex showed an interest in creative writing from a very early age, leading him to a degree in English Literature from the University of Maryland. Alex completed law school in 2009, but chose not to pursue the law, becoming an investment analyst and financial newsletter writer instead. He splits his time between the hill of Central Pennsylvania, and Baltimore. Aside from writing, Alex enjoys traveling, cooking and woodworking.