‘Quietly powerful’: Maame Blue and Nneoma Ike-Njoku shortlisted for SoA’s Betty Trask Prize & Awards

Published: Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 10:58am

Pictured from left- Nneoma Ike-Njoku and Maame Blue
Pictured from left- Nneoma Ike-Njoku and Maame Blue

Bad Love by podcaster and blogger Maame Blue and a currently unpublished novel The Water House by Nneoma Ike-Njoku have been shortlisted for the 2021 Betty Trask Prize & Awards, as part of the SoA’s £100,000 literary awards season.

The Society of Authors has today (Tuesday 18 May 2021) announced the shortlists for the Betty Trask Prize and Awards, the McKitterick Prize, the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award, the third Paul Torday Memorial Prize, and the second annual Queen’s Knickers Award for illustrated children’s books.

Maame Blue and Nneoma Ike-Njoku join four other writers on the shortlist for the Betty Trask Prize and Awards for a debut novel by a writer under 35, judged by Sara Collins, Elanor Dymott and Vaseem Khan.

Past Betty Trask winners have included Zadie Smith, Irenosen Okojie and, in 2020, Okeychukwu Nzelu.

A fresh narrative voice’

Maame Blue’s Bad Love (Jacaranda) is a deep dive into troubled relationships. Prize judge Vaseem Khan described the novel as ‘An intriguing debut, featuring a fresh narrative voice. This tangled love story weaves from adolescent angst to gradual acceptance of the messiness of human relationships.’ Sarah Collins called it ‘Lyrical, wide-ranging, wonderful’.

Commenting on her shortlisting, Maame Blue said, ‘I’m absolutely ecstatic and a bit shell-shocked – the award itself gives us newbies the chance to have our work recognised by the industry which I’m really grateful for.’

Of her influences, she said, ‘My main influence for my writing is relationships; whether they be familial, romantic or platonic, which I’m sure stems from my brief time working as a psychotherapist. I also fancy myself as a novice traveller (pre-2020) which I think is very Ghanaian. And I’ve been back and forth between Melbourne and London since 2017 when most of Bad Love was written, so love of place is incredibly important to me too.’

‘Publishers will snap this up’

Nneoma Ike-Njoku’s The Water House is not yet published, but had a profound impact on the three Trask judges who read it.

Nneoma Ike-Njoku said of her shortlisting, ‘I was really in disbelief. I think I called my mom in complete shock and could barely get the news out. It is such pleasant news, and so encouraging, especially as so many writers whose work I admire–Maggie O’Farrell, Chibundu Onuzo, Zadie Smith–have been past recipients. I feel so grateful and I’m really excited to keep working on my writing.’

Talking about what influences her writing, she said, ‘I’m influenced by people, relationships, things that seem slightly unusual. I also love being in Lagos, Nigeria. I was born and grew up there, and I always feel so alive there, and most of my stories are set there. Mostly, with stories, I start out with an idea of something that happened and then start to think about how a character might deal with that thing, how it changes them.’

NEED TO KNOW:The winners will be announced online on Wednesday 9 June in an online ceremony presented by Joanne Harris, sponsored by the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS). | Register Now | The Society of Authors’ Twitter: @Soc_of_Authors #SoAwards and Instagram: @society_of_authors