Brisbane author Emily O’Grady, 26, has won the 2018 Vogel Literary prize for her criminal thriller, The Yellow House.
The prize includes a $20,000 for the author as well as a publication by Allen & Unwin. It is awarded annually to the best writer aged under 35 who currently has no published books.
The book takes its inspiration from a ten-year-old girl living on an abandoned farm with her family when she discovers that her grandfather is a serial killer.
Emily O’Grady said that she was excited to join such a powerful list of past winners including Tim Winton and Kate Grenville and continued to say that she felt “delusional” in writing her first book as you can think that “nothing will come of it”.
The judges of the award labelled The Yellow House as an original and compelling piece with the right balance of horror, tension and beauty.
O’Grady said that her interest in the topic of her book comes from an early age saying that she has always been interested in serial killers. She continued to say that true crime was a big interest and that the particular case of Matthew Milat, great-nephew of Ivan Milat, had always stuck with her.
Matthew Milat is known for murdering his childhood friend. She then quoted what Matthew Milat had said at the time of the killing, “you know my family, you know my last name Milat, I did what they do.”
Even though Emily O’Grady clarified that her book is, in fact, fiction, she says that she took inspiration from that particular case for The Yellow House and was curious about how the families of these perpetrators react.
Building on this, she came to the idea and curiosity of how a ten-year-old may handle the situation. Using a child as her narrator, O’Grady said that she “liked the idea that the reader knows more than the narrator does.
Emily O’Grady started writing this book eight years ago, getting a whole 40,000 words out before throwing it away and starting all over again before completing a draft of The Yellow House in 2015.
Her advice to young authors was simple, patience.
“I think you have to be very patient”, she said, “you can’t just whip up a book in one year.”
She continued to say that she believed a lot of young writers, particularly, can get bored of their idea and constantly chop and change but encouraged them to “stick to something you know is good”.