08/03/2012 12:15 GMT | Updated 12/03/2012 11:14 GMT

Historian Stella Tillyard Heads Orange Prize Longlist

An award-winning historian is in the running for a prominent literary prize after her first foray into fiction.

Stella Tillyard, who lectures at Queen Mary, University of London, has been named on the longlist for the Orange Prize for Fiction for her debut novel Tides of War.

The novel is set during the Napoleonic wars and its main character is a soldier's wife left behind while her husband goes to Spain to join the Duke of Wellington's army.

Also on the 20-strong list is Irish writer Aifric Campbell, a former investment banker, whose book, On the Floor, is about a city worker whose life unravels on the eve of the Gulf War.

Among the other nominees are American novelist Cynthia Ozick, who at 83-years-old is the oldest writer ever to be longlisted.

The winner will be picked by a panel including writer Joanna Trollope, Radio Five Live presenter Victoria Derbyshire and newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky.

Trollope said she was "proud" of the longlist, saying: "It not only demonstrates the judges' eye for quality, but is also evidence of the breadth of subject matter, and individuality of voice, in women's writing today.

"We were looking for excellence, accessibility and originality, and we found all three, over and over. I congratulate the 20 chosen writers warmly."

The prize was set up in 1996 and is awarded for the best novel of the year written by a woman in the English language.

The shortlist will be announced on 17 April, with the winner named at a ceremony on 30 May at the Royal Festival Hall, where they will receive a cheque for £30,000.

Last year's award was won by Belgrade-born American novelist Tea Obreht for her debut The Tiger's Wife and other past winners include Zadie Smith and Linda Grant.

The longlist in full:

  • Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg
  • On the Floor by Aifric Campbell
  • The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen
  • The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue
  • Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
  • The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
  • The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki
  • Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
  • Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding
  • Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
  • The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay
  • The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  • Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  • There but for the by Ali Smith
  • The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard
  • Tides of War by Stella Tillyard
  • The Submission by Amy Waldman