SHE’S made of the write stuff. An Edinburgh author’s book based around her memories of growing up in post-war Britain has put her in the running for a top literary prize.
Diana Hendry has been short-listed for the Costa Children’s Book award for The Seeing, which tells the tale of three children living in a seaside town who become convinced there are “leftover Nazis” in their midst.
The Stockbridge writer said: “I remember feeling a similar fear as a child, as I’m sure many others growing up after the war did. We hadn’t experienced the war years directly, only through the stories told to us, and it seemed so incomprehensible, like an awful fairy tale. People may have thought the war was over, but its effects continued to resonate and it’s something of a blight on the spirit of my main characters.”
Though The Seeing is set an English seaside town, Diana, who has lived in the Capital for 13 years, has based previous works in Edinburgh and says she finds local beauty spots often help her battle a bout of writers block.
She said: “I live near the Botanics, Inverleith Park and the Water of Leith, where my last book, You Can’t Kiss it Better, was actually set. Those are all good places for an amble when you get stuck, I find.”
The 71-year-old only started writing professionally in her late thirties, while studying at Bristol University.
She said: “As luck would have it my professor’s wife was the author Diana Wynne Jones, who saw my writing and suggested a publisher.”
Since then the writer – once hired by Edinburgh University to teach students how to write essays – has produced more than 40 books for children and adults, plus four poetry collections. She was also awarded the Whitbread Prize 21 years ago for her book Harvey Angel.
She added: “The Whitbread actually became the Costa award. I was trying to remember the other week what I got for winning it – I seem to remember the prize money was much less anyway!”
The winner will be announced on January 5.