HUNTER raised author Daniel Davis Wood has described being named as a finalist in the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award as "both an incredible honour and incredibly humbling".
Davis Wood was shortlisted for his second novel, At the Edge of the Solid World, in which a Sydney couple in the Swiss Alps grieve the loss of their first born, while a man in their hometown commits an act of shocking violence that galvanises international attention.
He said he writes around other obligations and the book took six years to complete.
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"It's really just amazing to know that someone out there is paying attention to my work, since I'm always convinced that nobody will," said Davis Wood from Scotland, where he is a carer for his daughter Ivy, seven, who has a disability and other special needs.
"I've never had a book deal in advance of writing and my style makes a lot of demands of the reader, which no doubt some readers will find off-putting, so, ultimately, I write my books with no expectation that they'll ever be published, let alone read, let alone receive recognition through awards," he said.
"[My book is] so big, so unwieldy, so dense, that I'm sure some people won't make it through to the end, and it was published during the age of lockdowns, so in all honesty I expected it to sink like a stone and receive not a word of praise from anyone. I'm stunned, to say the least."
Davis Wood said his book was unlike anything on the shortlist and that he sought to invert the idea of inviting the reader in, by instead sometimes aggravating or deliberately baffling them, even urging them to put it down.
"It doesn't set out to gratify our existing notions of what 'literary fiction' is," he said.
"It's long, it's dense, it offers no reassurance or comfort; it's exhausting to wrestle with the way it provokes reactions from readers, and it's exhaustive in its approach to language.
"I don't want to make it sound bleak - it's shot through with moments of beauty, kindness, and love, even though it's not a cheerful book - but it does present its readers with a host of challenges."
Davis Wood wrote his first story aged eight. He moved from Sydney to Nelson Bay and attended Tomaree High from years nine to 12, plus completed English for the Higher School Certificate at Merewether High.
He said while being a Miles Franklin finalist was never a goal, it was "huge", and he hoped it would make his future work - he has two books in progress - "more of a known quantity".
He said he was feeling "a Zen-like calm" ahead of the winner announcement on July 15.
"I don't expect to win; I didn't expect to be listed," he said.
"Everything that has happened up to this point is a gift and if I'm not the winner, that's fine; it's no loss."
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