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'Outside the tight circle'

9 June 2003

'This process has made me think what I want from a novel, and I realise that one of the things I want is 'news'... It seems to me a reader should expect a novel to take her outside the tight circle of her own knowledge and concerns. News may be from alien places or other eras, properly realised on the page. Or it may be from places and people very familiar, reappraised and reinterpreted, or made strange, so that the reader has to think about their meaning.

'It may be news from the inarticulate, who have not spoken for themselves (or whom we can't hear). Or it may be news from the writer's psyche. What it mustn't be, for me, is false news, where tricks of style dress up lack of content, or where inauthenticity creeps through a text - that is what happens when a writer is either insufficiently observant, or has not imagined their fictional world thoroughly enough. It is not only facts that need rigour; fiction needs it badly.'

Hilary Mantel, one of the panel of judges for the Best of Young British Writers 2003, quoted in the Sunday Times