"Bloody hell." With these two words author Anna Smaill announced herself on the literary scene.
Of course, that's not strictly true. Her debut novel The Chimes had already won rave reviews in New Zealand but, as many authors can testify, that is sometimes where the story ends.
In Smaill's case it was the beginning. The novel was longlisted for this year's Man Booker Prize - one of the world's most highly regarded literary awards, now in its 47th year.
Smaill says she is still coming to terms with her new-found status.
For a writer who describes being picked up by a top London literary agent as "luck" and having her book snapped up by a publisher as "right place, right time", having it counted among the best of the year is a remarkable accolade.
The 13-strong longlist for the $118,000 award was announced at the end of July. A shortlist of six will be announced in September.
Smaill logged into her email before bed one night and was stunned to read she'd made the list.
"Now can't see sleep in my near future. Thank you for all the loveliness," she tweeted. "Bloody hell."
The Wellington mum-of-one, who grew up hoping to be a musician, is now being included in the same sentence as longlisters Anne Enright, Tom McCarthy and Marilynne Robinson.
The longlist gets people talking. In 2009, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall had sold 13,129 copies before it was longlisted. It then sold 11,000 copies in the next six weeks, before it appeared on the shortlist. It sold another 42,217 before it was announced as the winner. Winning the prize boosted the book's sales 463 per cent.
In other years, the winning book has recorded sales increases of more than 1000 per cent. Other previous winners of the award include literary heavyweights JM Coetzee, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie.
Bloody hell indeed.
Thirty-six-year-old Smaill was never supposed to be a writer. She focused on becoming a professional violinist until the end of her teens.
Growing up in Auckland she played in local orchestras, took private tuition, and practised to perfection for her grade examinations.
"I was quite driven as a kid," she says. "I remember being really compelled to practise. I had this goal that I would become as good as I could be, to use whatever talent I had and take it as far as I possibly could."
As far as she could turned out to be the first year of a bachelor's degree in performance at Canterbury University, where she contemplated a future in teaching or playing in an orchestra. But something was not right.
"I remember being intensely frustrated because I always felt handicapped by my physical limitations as a violinist," Smaill recalls.
"I never felt it was a natural medium for me. It was a very important part of my life but it had reached a point where it wasn't making me happy, because my doubts about my own ability were holding me back."
Overnight, she gave up and went cold turkey on the violin, instead turing her attention to literature and writing.
"Because music had become so all-encompassing I felt the need to take the energy and put it somewhere else and started to write far more seriously."
The violin is now stored at her parents' home in Auckland.
But while music was her main preoccupation growing up, Smaill always wrote fiction, too.
She entered her first short story competition while a student at Ponsonby Intermediate. In the two years she entered, she was highly commended once and won her age group once. The awards were sponsored by Milky Way chocolate bars. "I became thoroughly sick of Milky Ways."
She moved to Wellington and enrolled in Bill Manhire's master's in creative writing, run at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University. It was during the first year of the course that she met her now-husband Carl Shuker, who is also a writer. The couple have a 3-year-old daughter, Lotta.
Shuker has been the more prolific, publishing four novels. Until The Chimes, Smaill's only published work was poetry, including one collection, The Violinist in Spring, in 2006.
The Manhire course was Smaill's first experience of writing fiction to strict deadlines and sharing her work with other people, accepting and offering criticism. Being chosen for the course provided validation that she was finally on the right path.
"I had the rare experience of sitting in the cable car going up to the institute and realising how happy I was, thinking this may be the best year I've ever had. It was just remarkable because I'd felt so much of what I was doing was a struggle.
"With music, and even academic work after that, I was impeded by not knowing which creative path I was meant to be on. Suddenly it was where I was meant to be."
She briefly returned to Auckland after the course but Shuker encouraged her back to the capital. They set up house together in the early 2000s in what must be some of the most trying circumstances possible - both writing full-time, from home.
"It was quite intense, quite a steep learning curve," Smaill admits, "but it was brilliant, pushing each other through."
Smaill went on to complete a PhD in London and after nine years overseas, the couple returned to Wellington in 2013. Shuker took up a writer-in-residence position at Victoria. Smaill was part-way through writing The Chimes and their daughter, Lotta, had just turned one.
"London is a tough city to live in, in some ways, if you're in the arts. We both had a toehold in pretty good jobs but not enough to sustain us in terms of potentially buying a home or anything like that.
"Having a child makes you reassess all those things and realise how much we wanted her to experience the freedoms of a New Zealand childhood."
Smaill has a history of cobbling together a patchwork of paid employment, combining paid teaching and academic jobs with stints writing and even a part-time job with the local council.
Back in Wellington, she toyed with the idea of trying to find paid work but decided to put any energy left after caring for her daughter into finishing her novel.
"We said we'd use this year because Carl had an income that was enough to get by on and we had quite a good low rent.
"We're two writers so we didn't have huge needs ... it's not like we were going out or anything, especially with a child. We just said we're going to live cheaply."
Lotta was enrolled in childcare two days a week and Smaill used that time to write.
The Chimes is set in a parallel London where written words and memory are banned.
Communal amnesia is ensured by a huge musical instrument, the Carillon, which rings out deafeningly morning and night.
The hero of the story is a teenage orphan, Simon, looking for the truth about his parents.
sits somewhere between literary and science fiction and - unusually for the Man Booker Prize - feels a bit like a young adult offering.
Smaill delights in the fact that it does not fit easily into a box. But she admits its flexible identity made her think the book might be out of the running for the award, which was famously handed to another Kiwi - Eleanor Catton - two years ago, and Keri Hulme in 1985, for the
"It's hugely affirming and also such a shock, a very real shock, a good shock but I still don't feel quite like it's real," she says.
The book was published in February. Excited reviewers hailed its symphony of plot and harmonious prose and called it a dazzlingly unusual work.
The Man Booker judges clearly did not agree that luck was involved.
The shortlist of six for the prize is to be announced on September 15, and the winner revealed on October 13.
Smaill has started her a second novel, set in contemporary Tokyo.
"I don't feel it's going to be a realist novel in any strict sense. What fires me up as a writer is these links between the real and the unreal, fantasy and the limits of the imagination and where that can take you in fiction."
She balances family life and writing with fielding calls from journalists and the literary community round the world.
The scale of interest has surprised her - and taught her one quick lesson: "No more swearing on social media."
Brits lose with new Booker Prize rules
American authors dominate the Man Booker Prize longlist this year for the first time, confirming widely expressed fears that Britons would be sidelined following a controversial rule change.
It is the second year the prize has been open to writers of any nationality. For its first 45 years, only UK, Commonwealth and Ireland writers were eligible.
Five Americans feature on the list and the number of British and Irish writers has been halved to four.
David Godwin, a leading literary agent whose clients include former winner Arundhati Roy, said it was "absolutely tragic" that the very essence of the prize had been compromised in such a way.
"Our worst fears have come to pass," he said. "The Booker prize was established to celebrate British and Commonwealth writers but they are the real casualties here. They have been overwhelmed.
"Its nature has changed dramatically and the consequences are really tragic. There was absolutely no need to change the rules. None of the major American prizes are open to Brits. It's a very sad state of affairs."
Godwin said the position was exacerbated by the fact that the sole Nigerian and Jamaican contenders, Chigozie Obioma and Marlon James, primarily lived and worked in New York.
Three British authors widely expected to feature: Pat Barker, Salman Rushdie and Kazuo Ishiguro, have been snubbed.
The change prompted concerns that the prize had lost its identity.
Howard Jacobson, who won in 2010 with The Finkler Question and made last year's shortlist with J, was among those who publicly criticised the rule change as the "wrong decision" amid fears of an American invasion.
Broadcaster and author Melvyn Bragg said that the Booker would lose its distinctiveness.
"It's rather like a British company being taken over by some worldwide conglomerate," he said at the time.
In the end, fears that the culturally dominant Americans would drive out the competition proved unfounded last year, when just four native writers made the long list. But the shift this year is exacerbated by the unusually low number of British authors, which has been matched only once before, in 2013.
Although this year's list is skewed in favour of Americans, it is also dominated by women. Seven female authors appear on the list of 13, compared to just three last year.
The list comprises books by five Americans, three Britons, and one each from Ireland, Nigeria, India, New Zealand and Jamaica. It features three debut writers; Bill Clegg, Chigozie Obioma and Anna Smaill.
Michael Wood, chair of the judging panel, an author and academic, said he understood why many felt aggrieved about the enlarged pool of entrants.
"I am sympathetic to that view," he said. "But it's much better to have a bigger prize for English language books. I think that's a better deal. I think the fear was that predictable Americans would dominate, the ones who win all the prizes but that is not the case here.
"There's a slight fallacy about the idea that if it's open to other people they will automatically take over. It's more volatile than that. It depends how many good writers there are."
Wood said discussions "weren't always peaceful" but were always friendly.
"The longlist could have been twice as long, but we're more than happy with our final choice."
Judges will now re-read the books and announce a shortlist next month. The winner will be named in October.