International acclaim for writer Hilary’s ‘Golddigger’

A local author is “thrilled and delighted” after winning international recognition for her debut novel.

Hilary McCollum, who resides in Redcastle, Co. Donegal, won the ‘Golden Crown Literary Society’ award for historical fiction at a recent ceremony in Washington DC for her novel ‘Golddigger.’

‘Golddigger’ tells the story of Frances Moriarty, a heartbroken young immigrant who arrives in 1840s New York on a coffin ship from Ireland. Frances attempts to claw out a new life as one of the California ‘forty-niners’, crossing America in pursuit of gold. But she is still haunted by the life she has left behind in Ireland, falling in love for the first time until the famine devastates her community. Rich with historic detail, ‘Golddigger’ is a coming of age story exploring events that shape America and Ireland to this day.

The novel has been enjoying critical acclaim since its release but Hilary tells the ‘Journal’ she was “shocked” to hear she had been shortlisted for the prestigious ‘Goldies.’ The awards recognise excellence in lesbian literature and previous winners include Sarah Waters and Emma Donoghue.

Hilary, a founding member of Foyle Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Group and North West LGBT Playwrights, couldn’t make it to the ceremony on the night but her award was collected on her behalf by Karin Kallmaker.

Ms. Kallmaker is the former editorial director at Bella Books, who offered Hilary the chance to publish ‘Golddigger’.

Hilary woke up at 5am in the morning to the news she had won the award and was “so thrilled.”

The reaction to ‘Golddigger’ has delighted Hilary, who reveals she found inspiration to pen it from an unlikely source - rapper and songwriter Kanye West.

She said: “I was driving along one day and his song, ‘Golddigger’ came on the radio - which is about women who are after men for money. It got me thinking about actual golddiggers - those who dig for gold. The gay history of San Francisco goes back to the ‘gold rush’ and I thought I could write a book about a young woman digging for gold. The main influx of this was in 1849 and of course, because I’m Irish, I made the connection to the Famine and that’s when it all started to come together.”

Hilary said the award has given her a “real boost,” quipping how writing can be “lonely sometimes and it can be nice to get that external validation.”

‘Golddigger’ is not the only work of Hillary’s which has received acclaim. Her first play, Life and Love: Lesbian Style, was a huge critical hit. She is currently working on her second novel, ‘Wild’, and a new play, with the support of an Arts Council of Northern Ireland ACES award. You can find out more about her work on www.hilarymccollum.com.