Evie Wyld
Evie Wyld

British-Australian author Evie Wyld has taken out Australia's most prestigious literary prize ahead of male heavyweight favourites Tim Winton and Richard Flanagan for her novel All the Birds, Singing.

The English-born author, who spent vacations at her grandparents' farm in NSW, won the Miles Franklin Award 2014 last night for her story of Jake Whyte, a female West Australian sheep farmer.

Wyld pushed out favourites and past winners Flanagan (The Narrow Road to the Deep North), Winton (Eyrie) and Alexis Wright (The Swan Book), and shortlisted nominees Fiona McFarlane (The Night Guest) and Cory Taylor (My Beautiful Enemy).

Wyld lives in London and set her story in Britain, with flashbacks to a fictional North West WA town partly modelled on a small fishing town near Yamba, in northern NSW, home to her mother's family.

Her lead character is haunted by her past after time spent in Port Hedland and Darwin, while her sheep are hunted by hungry, singing birds.

Wyld said it felt almost obscene to win the prize.

"There are some of my favourite authors of all time on the list, so it's quite a weird thing," she said. "I'm completely floored."

The 30-something said a road trip from Perth to Broome when she was 20 had a major effect on her, as she took in coastal sites such as Carnarvon, Monkey Mia and Cable Beach.

"I was amazed by how different it was, how incredibly different the landscape is and how there are more Australians really on the west coast," she said.

Wyld last visited WA for the Perth Writers Festival in March. The Miles Franklin achievement came after Sri Lanka-born author Michelle de Kretser won last year's prize for Questions of Travel.

Australia's most prestigious prize was named for Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin and has attracted criticism over the years for its male dominance, with its shortlist being dubbed a "sausage-fest" in 2009.

The West Australian

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