DOZENS of people filed down to the Arts Centre during their lunch break yesterday to hear from Costa Book of the Year winner Nathan Filer.

The Bristolian writer, who visited the Swindon Festival of Literature on two previous occasions as a performance poet, was delighted to be back in the town after also snapping up the Costa First Novel Award.

He said: “I was asked to come to the Swindon Festival of Literature a few years ago in 2003 and 2004 as a performance poet, and I began to think I was becoming something of a regular, but then I didn’t get invited again. Not until I won a national prize for a novel.

“I really enjoy coming to the Swindon Festival of Literature because you get to speak and promote your work and then you get to wander around Lower Shaw Farm with Matt Holland, the festival director, and it has a very particular kind of feel.

“My favourite part of this festival is when the audience asks me questions, and lots of very interesting ideas and readings come out.”

This time Nathan led the audience through a humuorous journey explaining how a repetitive sentence that got stuck in his head eight years ago ended up developing into his first novel, The Shock of The Fall.

The registered mental health nurse used his experiences on the ward to inform his understanding of his character, Matthew Holmes, who suffers with schizophrenia.

Nathan said: “About eight years ago I just got a couple of sentences stuck in my head going round over and over again. ‘I have no intention of putting up a fight, but these guys don’t know that, and nobody’s taking any chances.’ And it just went round and round in my head and when I went home I wrote this whole little scene about a character Matthew Holmes, who had schizophrenia.

“That scene never made it into the final draft. In fact almost everything I wrote in the early drafts never made it into the final drafts, except for Matthew Holmes.”

Following his talk, Nathan spent half an hour taking questions from the audience before signing some of his books.

Questions included how difficult it was to get published in the first place, the response he had received from those living with schizophrenia and their families, the mental health profession itself and the value of his masters in Creative Writing to his work.

He was also asked what made him different to Matthew after spending eight years having imaginary conversations with him, and how difficult it was to let him go, and what he was planning for his next book Nathan said: “It was very, very odd. I got to know Matthew very, very well after spending eight years with him in my head and when I was writing things soon after I finished The Shock of The Fall I found it was difficult to do something different.

“But it’s a couple of years ago now that I finished it – publishing takes a very long time – and I am starting to write things again which are different.”