British novelist Hilary Mantel (57), who won this year’s Man Booker Prize for her novel Wolf Hall, took nearly five years to write the novel and is now working on a sequel.

She joked that while a previous Booker winner had said that winning the prize was like being in a “train crash” she felt as though she was “flying through the air”.

She said it took her 20 years to decide to write the book and praised her publishers for their patience.

“I hesitated for such a long before beginning to write this book, actually for about 20 years… When I began the book I knew I had to do something very difficult, I had to interest the historians, I had to amuse the jaded palate of the critical establishment and most of all I had to capture the imagination of the general reader,” she said.

“Under-rated writer”

Ms. Mantel, described by critics as one of Britain’s most “under-rated” writers, made her debut as a novelist with Every Day is Mother’s Day in 1985. She has won several prizes but was never nominated for Booker, regarded as the English-speaking world’s most prestigious literary award.

Chair of judges for the Booker Jim Naughtie, a BBC broadcaster, said: “Our decision was based on the sheer bigness of the book. The boldness of its narrative, its scene setting. The extraordinary way that Hilary Mantel has created what one of the judges has said was a contemporary novel, a modern novel, which happens to be set in the 16th Century. We thought it was an extraordinary piece of story-telling.”

Besides previous winners A.S. Byatt (The Children’s Book) and J.M. Coetzee (Summertime), other contenders included Adam Foulds (The Quickening Maze), Sarah Waters (The Little Stranger) and Simon Mawer (The Glass Room).

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