Anna Burns to use Man Booker Prize money to pay off debts

Anna Burns on stage at the Guildhall in London after she was awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel Milkman. Pic by Frank Augstein/PA Wire
Anna Burns on stage at the Guildhall in London after she was awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel Milkman. Pic by Frank Augstein/PA Wire

The Belfast author who won this year’s Man Booker Prize will pay off her debts after scooping the £50,000 award, having struggled financially as a writer.

Anna Burns, 56, was presented with this year’s literary award for Milkman, a novel which eschews character names and has few paragraphs.

The first Northern Irish winner of the award admitted that writing had not been a lucrative career.

Burns revealed she has been forced to move many times in her career as writing has not paid the bills.

She said the award would allow her to become “solvent”.

“I struggled a lot financially. It’s partly how I write. There is a lot of waiting.

“I had to move a lot because I couldn’t afford it,” she said, adding that her first priority would be paying off debts and she would live off the rest of the prize money.

The Belfast-born writer was awarded the Man Booker at an award ceremony at the Guildhall in London.

And later, she told Radio 4’s Today programme that she creates the end of sentences before the beginning.

“I tend to get the end of sentences first, so I don’t know what’s coming at the beginning of a sentence,” she said.

“So quite often, I’ll have a lot of perfect end of sentences with these splotches or spaces at the beginning.

“When I first started writing I thought, this can’t be right and I must try and fill this in... But I’d lose the energy, I’d lose the rhythm, the signs.

“So I then learnt, just take what comes and eventually it will sort itself out. “

The novel features issues of gender and sexual coercion but the author said she did not set out to write a political novel.

She said her story of an 18-year-old’s struggles with male encroachment and the pressures of the public on the private life are not linked to MeToo but she is “happy for it to be taken that way”.

“I was being told to create the girl”, she said.

“It was not a conscious thing.”