Nicki Thornton, the co-founder of independent bookshop Mostly Books, has won this year’s Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition.
Her prize-winning story, The Firefly Cage, is a magical murder mystery aimed at the 9-12 market. It is about a kitchen boy called Seth who is caught up in a murder investigation at a magicians’ convention.
Thornton, who wins prize money of £10,000, spent eight months writing the book, getting feedback along the way from a local writers group. She said: “I am beyond thrilled – it is a tremendous honour. It really is the children’s writing prize aspiring writers want to win. I’ve learnt a lot writing The Firefly Cage and now I will be working with the team at Chicken House to make it as good as it can be.”
The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition is for unpublished writers and is now in its ninth year. This year Chicken House received more than 1,000 entries in the competition’s “most successful year”, according to m.d. Barry Cunningham (pictured below with Thornton).
“There is a huge amount of talent out there – not just in the UK but overseas as well, including India, Vietnam and Canada,” he said. “The fact that we receive so many entries, and that the quality is so high, proves once again the importance of this competition in allowing new writers a different way to get noticed and for the children’s books world to discover new talents to feed readers’ insatiable appetite for new stories.”
He added: “Nicki has written an utterly enthralling and constantly surprising locked room magical murder mystery, made all the more engaging by wonderful characters and a very confident authorial voice. Nicki mixes the best elements of several genres to come up with something original and wholly enchanting”
The judges for this year’s prize included The Bookseller’s children’s previewer Fiona Noble, David O’Callaghan from Irish bookseller Easons and Alex O’Connell from the Times.
Chicken House will publish The Firefly Cage in 2017.
The winner of last year’s competition, The Secret Cooking Club by Laurel Remington, will be published on 4th August, and rights have been sold to six other countries including France and China.