Elizabeth Hay, a former CBC Radio journalist who long hoped to write a work of fiction about a “golden summer” working in Yellowknife in the 1970s, is the winner of this year’s lucrative Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel Late Nights On Air.

An emotional Hay, 56, picked up the prize Tuesday night in front of a star-studded crowd of about 500 people teeming with movers and shakers, including former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, onetime Ontario premier David Peterson, actor Gordon Pinsent and broadcasters Pamela Wallin and Knowlton Nash.

“I am very thrilled and very lucky; so lucky in fact that I’ll probably be hit by a truck tomorrow,” Hay joked as she accepted the prize.

Hay later said she was surprised to win the Giller, which is worth $40,000 to the winner.

“I thought I had a shot but I actually didn’t think I would win it,” said Hay, who beat out literary heavyweights Michael Ondaatje and M.G. Vassanji for her tale of love in the North.