Introducing Katherine Allum and her meticulous and restrained account of life in small-town America

Katherine Allum describes herself as one of those ‘weird homeschool kids’ who, growing up, was rarely seen without pen, paper and a library book. American-born, she moved frequently during childhood and finished her hybrid education in a small town in the desert. She completed her MA at City, University of London, where she wrote the first draft of her debut novel, The Skeleton House, which is now in the running to win the 2023 Fogarty Literary Award.

Read more from Katherine below or tune in next week when Brooke Dunnell interviews her for the Fremantle Press podcast.

Describe your manuscript in your own words.

Tumbleweeds, roadrunners, no stoplights: welcome to St Stephens, the dusty town that Meg has been trying to escape since her teens. She’s anchored to the place by two small kids, a secret, and a husband who everyone thinks is perfect, but every time she reaches for something for herself, he snatches it away. When she puts her foot down on a third kid, gets a job, and is empowered by the same book group that was meant to keep her in her place, her marriage dangerously unravels.

What inspired you to write it?

A question and an image.

The question: What if someone a little like me (introspective writer/debate geek), someone who would have been either my best friend or arch nemesis in school, had terrible bad luck, lacked support, and found herself stuck? What would she do?

The image: Crickets and creosote. A teenage boy and girl on a red quad bike, roaring down a dirt road into nowhere, their pale throats exposed as they holler to the thick indigo desert night. They disappear and the sun rises. There’s a skeleton house, its timber frame silhouetted against the dawn sky.

What does it mean to you to make the shortlist of the 2023 Fogarty Literary Award?

It’s incredibly exciting and a great honour. I’ll be honest: after I got off the phone, rather than jumping up and down (which is what I imagined I’d do if I was shortlisted for a novel prize!), instead I exhaled a huge sigh of relief.

Being shortlisted is validation that (1) I have succeeded in writing something of merit and quality, and (2) my story resonated and connected with other people. I know the calibre of writing that both the Fogarty Literary Award and Fremantle Press attract, and I’m thrilled to be in such fantastic company.

To find out if Katherine has won the award, join us at the Fogarty Literary Ceremony on Thursday 25 May at The Edith Spiegeltent at ECU. Tickets are free and available from Eventbrite:

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