Regina author Dianne Warren says she almost fell off her chair after finding out she was the first winner of the Glengarry Book Prize, Saskatchewan's largest-ever literary award.
"I really was not expecting it," said Warren, who won the $20,000 prize for her latest novel, The Diamond House.
"There are so many good books and so many good writers."
Warren was announced earlier this month as the inaugural winner of the Glengarry Book Prize, a new award given by the Saskatchewan Foundation for the Arts and donor Claire Kramer. It's open to established professional fiction writers who have a connection with Saskatchewan.
Warren's winning novel, The Diamond House, is set in Regina and tells a story that spans almost a century and explores the hopes, dreams, regrets and frustrations that are part of life.
Warren said there are many ways that women's ambitions can be blocked, and she was interested in exploring the small things that have a great effect on a person's life.
At the heart of her novel is a woman named Estella Diamond, who "assumes that she will have the same status as her brothers when it comes to the family business [a brick factory]," said Warren, a previous winner of the Governor General's Award for her novel Cool Water.
"But she finds out that she doesn't, and that affects the rest of her life."
Estella, the daughter of a very conservative mother, also finds letters between her father and his late first wife.
"The first wife was as different as can be from Estella's mother. She was an artist, a free spirit, a suffragist, and Estella became a little bit obsessed with the mythology of her father's first wife," Warren said.
"So I was very interested in that complex relationship between Estella and her father and what she knows about her father and his relationship with his first wife."
Warren says she aims to focus on the characters in her novels.
"By the time you're finished [the book], you feel like these are people that you know intimately," Warren said.
"So when a jury says that they appreciated the attention to character in the book, that means something to me."
She also sifted through Regina's history in writing the novel.
"We're very familiar with the southern narrative of Saskatchewan's farming past. But for me, I hadn't thought that much about the businesses that developed in support of that," Warren said.
"You know, we all know about Regina clay. So I really liked that idea of building from the material that we live on — the idea of [Estella's father] as a businessman and in particular, a man that starts a brick factory out of the clay."
Warren said winning the award gives the book a chance to find its audience.
"It's a very crowded marketplace, so it's really hard for a book to find its readers," Warren said.
"I think it makes a huge difference to not just the writer, but to the individual book that wins a prize to get the word out there and draw attention to the book."