Unsworth grew up in Prestwich and attended Bowker Vale Infant School and Crumpsall Lane Junior School before becoming a pupil at Bury Grammar School for girls. It was at Bury Grammar that she met writer Sherry Ashworth, then a teacher, who became a mentor and friend and who later published Unsworth's first novel under her Hidden Gem Press imprint. Unsworth studied English Literature at Liverpool University and graduated with an MA from Manchester University's Centre for New Writing.
Unsworth's short fiction has been published in various places including by Comma Press, and her story I Arrive First was included in The Best British Short Stories 2012, published by Salt.
She has also worked as a journalist and is a former columnist for The Big Issue in the North.
Her debut novel Hungry, the Stars and Everything, was published in June 2011 by Hidden Gem Press and won a Betty Trask Award from the Society of Authors. The novel was also shortlisted for the Portico Prize for Fiction 2012.
Set in a restaurant called Bethel, the novel follows the life of restaurant critic Helen as she eats her way through a tasting menu, evoking memories. Unsworth used the name Bethel for her setting after her friend, the chef Mary-Ellen McTague, had considered but rejected using it for her new restaurant Aumbry which she opened in Prestwich. The following year Unsworth and McTague worked together to create a real life version of the meal featured in the book as part of Prestwich Book Festival. The event was held at Aumbry with diners able to eat some of the dishes that appeared in the novel whilst Unsworth read extracts of her book at intervals throughout the meal.
In May 2014 Unsworth's second novel Animals was published by Canongate. The book followed the hedonistic adventures of two young women, best friends Laura and Tyler, as they lived their lives in a fog of alcohol and drugs. The book received positive reviews with writer Caitlin Moran describing it as "Withnail for Girls" and declaring that she wished she had written it. The book was later optioned by BAFTA-nominated producer Sarah Brocklehurst and awarded BFI funding with Unsworth tasked with writing the screenplay.
Unsworth is currently working on a third novel Girl on Fire which is partly narrated by a teenage girl and explores child sexuality.
In 2013 Unsworth collaborated with writers Alison Moore, Jenn Ashworth, Tom Fletcher and Richard Hirst to produce a collection of Christmas ghost stories, published as The Longest Night. The edition was limited to 300 copies and the writers performed atmospheric readings in venues which included one in a supposedly haunted room which had previously been used as a morgue, in The Church Inn, Prestwich.
The following year, the Curious Tales Collective released a second volume of short stories entitled Poor Souls Light which celebrated the centenary of Robert Aickman and saw contributions from the original group of writers, plus guest writers M John Harrison and Johnny Mains. The edition again had a limited run, this time with 500 copies published. Both works contained illustrations by artist Beth Ward.
In November 2014 Unsworth took part in Manchester Central Library's Chaos to Order season which involved musicians and artists taking over the newly refurbished library for a week and organising a diverse range of events. Unsworth became the Writer in Residence and spent the week running drop in writing workshops, Q&A sessions with contemporary writers from around the UK and daily readings of Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems.
Short StoriesDoppelganger – Comma: An Anthology (Comma Press, 2002, ISBN 978-1-85754-685-9)
Manchester Stories 3 (Comma Press, 2002, ISBN 978-954-01-0842-1)
What I Did on my Holidays – Bracket: A New Generation In Fiction (Comma Press, 2005, ISBN 978-1-85754-769-6)
Saturday Mary – Phobic: Modern Horror Stories (Comma Press, 2007, ISBN 978-1-905583-07-2)
Patience – Litmus: Short Stories from Modern Science (Comma Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-905583-33-1)
Fight or Flight – Murmurations: An Anthology of Uncanny Stories About Birds (Two Ravens Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-906120-59-7)
I Arrive First – The Best British Short Stories 2012 (Salt Publishing, 2012, ISBN 978-1-907773-18-1)
In – The Longest Night (Curious Tales, 2013)
The Endling – Poor Souls' Light (Curious Tales, 2014)
NovelsHungry, The Stars and Everything (Hidden Gem Press) 2011 ISBN 978-0-9568026-1-3
Animals (Canongate) 2014 ISBN 978-1-78211-212-9
Collections edited by UnsworthGothic Tales: Manchester Stories 7 (Comma Press, 2004, ISBN 978-1-85754-792-4)