A former Holby City star is among 11 first-time novelists tipped for success this year.
Sarah Winman, who played NHS boss Davina MacKenzie in the long-running medical drama, said she was “blessed” to be chosen from a longlist of 100 writers for her book When God Was A Rabbit.
The 46-year-old Londoner joins novelists from as far afield as Sri Lanka, Latvia and Canada in the first ever Waterstone’s 11 list.
She said: “I’ve always been writing but I’ve been an actress for 23 years and it is in the last five years I started writing novels.
“It is a book about a relationship between a brother and a sister. The book is in two parts, childhood and the secrets they forge, and adulthood and consequences of those secrets. Ultimately it is a family saga about what keeps families together and about being able to start again.”
Winman, who has also appeared in Silent Witness, Foyle’s War, and The Forsythe Saga, said she had no plans to give up acting.
She said: “The writing came out of that. I was surrounded by scripts and I was surrounded by words. I still have an acting agent and think writing and acting can live side by side quite happily.”
Other names on the list include Limerick-born Kevin Barry, advertising executive Shehan Karunatilaka and Stephen Kelman.
The Luton-born author hit the headlines last year when his novel was at the centre of a 12-way bidding war by publishers.
Waterstone’s managing director Dominic Myers said: “I am in the book business because I love finding great new writing, and I know I am not alone in that passion. Our first Waterstone’s 11 is quite genuinely one of the most exciting and remarkable collections of debut novels I’ve seen in my career. It’s going to be a great year for fiction.”