Anna Smaill was born in Auckland in 1979. She began learning the violin at the age of seven and entered the performance music programme at Canterbury University at 17, though ultimately changed her degree to pursue writing. She holds an MA in English Literature from the University of Auckland and an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington.
Her first book of poetry, The Violinist in Spring, was published by Victoria University Press in 2005, and was listed as one of the Best Books of 2006 by the New Zealand Listener. Many reviewers perceived a tangible musicality in the poetry, a synergy harking back to Smaill’s earlier studies.
Smaill’s poems have been widely published in Sport, Landfall and the NZ Listener and were selected as Best New Zealand Poems in both 2002 and 2005.
She and her husband, novelist Carl Shuker, lived in Tokyo for two years, where she taught English at a science and engineering University. She then moved to the United Kingdom where she completed a PhD in contemporary American poetry at University College London. From 2009 to 2012 she was a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire.
In 2015, Anna’s debut novel The Chimes was published by Sceptre and has since been longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. The novel is set in a reimagined London where people can no longer make new memories and where the written word has been banned and destroyed. It is music that fills the absence of both. The Chimes also featured on the UK Independent’s list of publishing highlights for 2015. The Huffington Post also named Anna as ‘One to Watch 2015.’ In 2015 she was also a recipient of the Arts Foundation New Generation Award.