Claire McFall has won the first Scottish Teenage Book Prize.
The Borders-based author’s thriller Black Cairn Point (Hot Key Books), beat off “stiff” competition from Keith Gray’s The Last Soldier (Barrington Stoke), a dyslexia-friendly story set in 1920’s Texas, and Joan Lennon’s Stone Age Orkney-based Silver Skin (Birlinn).
McFall received news of her win from vlogger Claire Forrester aka ‘The Book Fox’ at The Edinburgh Book Shop in Bruntsfield. She will receive £3,000 while Gray and Lennon will receive £500 each. Black Cairn Point, McFall's third novel, was published in 2015 and is described as “chilling and atmospheric thriller” featuring a “reawakened malevolent” spirit, is set in Dumfries and Galloway.
The Clovenfords-based English teacher told The Bookseller that she “screamed” when she discovered the news and described how the prize will affect her future. She said: “The fact that it is voted by readers is such a lovely compliment. I had driven seven hours and then got out the car and got this phone call and screamed and then I celebrated with a glass of bubbly. It will change things for me because I had been wondering about whether to write full-time and this is pushing me in that direction. The fact that this prize is for teenagers does chime with me because I’m a schoolteacher. Sometimes teenagers can be too cool for school when it comes to reading but this involves them."
The writer also revealed she had recently moved to a new publisher. She said: “I’m also excited about the fact that I’m going to a new publisher Floris, based in Edinburgh, which is republishing Ferryman [her debut] and will publish the sequel [due in September]." McFall had a three book deal with Templar [Bonnier Publishing’s imprint] and Black Cairn Point was the last of the three books. "Because they're located in Scotland, I was quite keen to work with Floris, and I'd met a lot of the lovely people who work for them at various events and felt that we clicked," she said. "It seemed a good time to make the move.”
A spokesman for the prize said: “Claire's win comes hot on the heels of her signing a film contract for her first novel Ferryman in China, where her debut novel has sold almost a million copies.
Heather Collins, schools programme manager at Scottish Book Trust, said: “Congratulations to Claire McFall on winning the inaugural Scottish Teenage Book prize which encourages teens themselves to actively celebrate the books they love and attracted votes from secondary school pupils across Scotland. The prize also creates a platform for Scottish writing talent to be recognized and promoted. Claire’s novel is a great example of Scotland’s vibrant teenage book industry where there are lots of great publishers working with very talented authors like Claire, Keith and Joan and this new prize has allowed us to shine a light on this fantastic offering. The benefits of encouraging young people to read, from transporting readers to other worlds to better understanding the one we’re in, are limitless. Scottish Book Trust is proud to be working with Creative Scotland to champion that cause.”
Sasha de Buyl, literature officer at Creative Scotland, added: “There can only be one first winner, but Claire’s accomplishment will see the celebration of a new standard of excellence in young adult fiction.”
McFall's Ferryman (Templar) won the Older Readers Category of the Scottish Children's Book Awards 2013; was long-listed for the UKLA (UK Literary Association) Book Awards and long-listed for the Branford Boase Award; and nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Her second novel, Bombmaker, was published by Templar in 2014.
The shortlisted authors were announced last September. Scottish Book Trust launched the teenage book prize in May along with the Bookbug Picture Book Prize. The new prizes replace the former annual Children’s Book Awards. The teenage book prize celebrates the most popular teen books by Scottish authors, and is run by Scottish Book Trust with support from Creative Scotland. Disability charity Call Scotland has produced free accessible versions of the three shortlisted books on their Books for All website.
Aspiring young film makers were also asked to get involved the prize by creating their own book trailer for one of the shortlisted titles or entering a graphic novel to create a comic strip adaption of a scene from one of the books. St Joseph’s Academy in Kilmarnock is the winner of the Book Trailer Competition. Their trailer will be featured on Scottish Book Trust website and they will receive a £250 Waterstones voucher to help top up their school library. The winners of the Graphic Novel Competition are: Nicole Watt from Elgin Academy, Jaden Green from Forfar Academy and Morven Ross from Elgin Academy. The winning entries will be featured on Scottish Book Trust website.