Anna Smaill's debut novel wins World Fantasy Award

The Chimes, by the Victoria lecturer and MA in Creative Writing graduate, has won Best Novel at the prestigious Awards.

Anna Smaill's first novel has won another accolade: the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.

The award is presented annually at the World Fantasy Convention, which was held this year in Ohio, USA. Previous winners  include Haruki Murakami, Ursula Le Guin, Gene Wolfe and Fritz Leiber.

The Chimes was previously long-listed both for the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and for the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Award.

The novel is set in an alternative, medieval-style London, where memory and the written word have been outlawed, and the ruling Order uses music, in the form of a giant Carillon, to impose a state of continual collective amnesia on ordinary citizens. A young orphan arriving in the city with only his precious 'objectmemories' to anchor him, finds refuge with a group of outsiders led by the charismatic Lucien, and together they begin to question and challenge the accepted order.

'I'm really happy', Anna says of her win. 'The authors on the shortlist are all remarkable, and to have my novel assessed alongside well-respected writers such as Kazuo Ishiguro is wonderful.'

The Chimes was published by Sceptre in the UK in February 2015. It was singled out as a publishing highlight of the year by Amazon UK, the Huffington Post, The Independent on Sunday, Bookseller magazine and Harper's Bazaar. 'To call The Chimes striking,' one reviewer wrote, is 'to underplay what might be the most distinctive debut of the decade.'

Anna completed the MA in Creative Writing at Victoria's International Institute of Modern Letters in 2001, with a manuscript that formed the foundation of her first poetry collection. The Violinist in Spring (Victoria University Press, 2005) was listed among the Best Books of 2006 by the NZ Listener. She also holds a Master of Arts in English from Auckland University, and a PhD from University College London (2009).

She was a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire for several years, before returning to New Zealand. In 2015 Anna was awarded the Louis Johnson Bursary by Creative New Zealand and was a recipient of an Arts Foundation New Generation Award. She is now a lecturer in the School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies.

Despite the accolades her first novel has received, Anna considers that 'the pinnacle' for a writer is the moment of escape and freedom that occurs when the world of the book reveals itself during the writing stages. 'That is what I hope to achieve in my next novel, too.'