We are delighted to announce that the winner of the Caledonia Novel Award 2017 is Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart by Cam Terwilliger. Our judge, literary agent Richard Pike of Curtis Brown, commented:

“The six novels I’ve had the pleasure to read showcase all that’s exciting about the very best of new fiction, from confident and original narration, intriguing and rich settings, through to engaging and deft plotting. Every novel on the shortlist excelled in one or more these areas, with this year’s winner perhaps demonstrating the best balance of each essential ingredient.

As with all first novels, as well as the promise of the new, there will also be areas for each writer to look at developing and enhancing with the guidance of an editor, but I hope you agree that each of these authors shows genuine talent, and I’m confident you will enjoy reading the first chapters of each novel.

This year’s winner is Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart, an epic historical novel with considerable literary potential.

It is this author’s command of evocative, almost lyrical, descriptive language that particularly stands out – the author immerses the reader in both the beauty and the danger of the novel’s 18th-Century North American landscape, yet never in an overbearing way.

As well as the beautiful writing, the author has successfully developed characters with real depth and intrigue, and plays with the reader’s sympathy towards each of the main protagonists. Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart is a many-layered novel, which held my interest throughout, and despite its considerable length, was a joy to read. Congratulations to this year’s winner!”



Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart by Cam Terwilliger

Set in New York and Québec during the French and Indian War (1754–1763), the plot of Cam’s novel, Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart, focuses on Andrew Whitlaw, a Manhattan physician who, after an ongoing struggle with syphilis, must retreat to his brother’s manor in the Hudson Valley to recover. From this starting point, the plot follows the narrator as he becomes embroiled in his brother’s obsessive pursuit of William Bell, a counterfeiter and escaped slave who operates on nearby Mohawk Native land, a man who is costing the Whitlaw family trading business dearly with his false bills.

“I became interested in the French and Indian War purely because my parents live in Albany, New York, and this history remains in the air of the region (even if it is typically overlooked in other parts of the US). The more I learned about this volatile, foundational period, the more I wanted to write about it. Essentially, I’d like to destabilize American mythology, complicating my country’s widespread assumptions about race, colonization, and cultural intermingling. No one book or person can achieve this goal, obviously, but I’d like to be a part of the process as much as I can.”

Cam’s short fiction has appeared in many publications, and he has also been supported by a number of fellowships and scholarships, including the Fulbright Program, the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Currently, Cam teaches at Drew University and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Read the first chapter of Cam’s novel hereRead Cam’s winner’s interview here.



Take Flight by Hannah Foster

Hannah grew up in rural Victoria in Australia and then completed a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing major) at The University of Melbourne, which also included a 6-month undergraduate exchange to study at the University of East Anglia.

Now based in East London, Hannah works for a homelessness charity and writes for both adult and YA audiences in her free time. Take Flight was shortlisted for the 2016 Impress Prize for New Writers and longlisted for the 2016 Bath Children’s Novel Award.

“When I was a teenager I adored John Marsden novels, especially his Tomorrow series. Ellie, the narrator in that series, is an incredibly strong, honest, creative and funny young woman and I think she’s the standard for protagonists for me; I want to try to write characters that readers can be as invested in as I was in Ellie when I was about fifteen. In the way that the Tomorrow series commented on national security and our overuse of resources, I wanted to write something about two big issues that are relevant for young adults today – climate change and migration, particularly refugees. I started writing Take Flight in 2014, before even realising that ‘cli-fi’ (climate change fiction) was a growing genre.”

Judge Richard Pike commented:  “Take Flight was a very close runner-up. Set in the near future, this is a cleverly-plotted novel that moves along at a swift pace, telling the story of seventeen-year-old Blythe and her attempts to guide her family to safety in a world threatened by rising sea levels. There’s an immediacy to the prose that I particularly enjoyed, while I found Blythe to be an engaging and likeable narrator. There is a rawness to the writing that at times works against the book, but in the main works very well. This is a writer with a great natural talent and a novel with genuine commercial potential.”

Read the first chapter of Hannah’s novel here.



Human Geography by Vicky Grut

Vicky Grut’s short stories have appeared in anthologies published by Picador, Granta, Serpents’ Tail, Duckworths and Bloomsbury in the UK. Her nonfiction essay Into the Valley, published in Harvard Review #43, was listed as one of the ‘Notable Essays of 2012’ in Cheryl Strayed’s edition of Best American Essays, 2013. Vicky’s story In the Current Climate won the Holland Park Press ‘I is Another’ contest in 2015. She lives in London with her husband and the younger of their two sons.

“I have had some success with short works, but I have really struggled with the novel form. Every time I tried, I seemed to produce nothing more than an over-inflated short story. But with Human Geography it felt different.  Something clicked and at last I could see the shape I needed. That’s why it’s such a tremendous pleasure to be shortlisted for this award: it’s been a long, long road.”

Richard Pike commented: “Human Geography is narrated by Sofia, a young woman who looks to the past as she attempts to come to terms with the uncertainties of her future. Set in present-day London, Sofia’s interest is piqued when her mother reacts angrily to questioning about Sofia’s Spanish grandparents, and it is Sofia’s attempts to unravel the mystery of her roots that drives the narrative. Sofia’s is an assured voice and her well-developed character lights up the novel as she delves ever deeper into the secrets of her mother’s family history, revealing connections to the events of the Spanish Civil War, while navigating the drama of the family and personal relationships that are blossoming or breaking down around her. This is a confident, accomplished, slow-burn of a novel.”

Read the first chapter of Vicky’s novel here.



Sea Change by Sylvia Hehir

Sylvia lives in the west highlands of Scotland and loves being near the sea. Working as a secondary teacher made her aware of how young peoples’ futures can be frustrated by obstacles not of their own making. Their stories help to fuel her writing.

In Sea Change, a YA crime novel that doesn’t sidestep tricky issues, Sylvia wanted to capture those identity-defining moments when we are pushed right to the very edge.

Sylvia was a New Writer Awardee from the Scottish Book Trust in 2013 where she was mentored by Lindsey Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates. Her radio play, One Last Push, featured Gary Lewis and Sharon Rooney and was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland in December, 2015. She is currently in her second year of a doctorate in creative writing at the University of Glasgow where she is researching diversity and inclusion in YA fiction. She was pleased to be selected by Penguin Random House to attend their WriteNow Live 2017 event for underrepresented writers.

Richard Pike commented: “I really enjoyed this. Sea Change is an intriguing YA crime novel with an atmospheric coastal setting, which I particularly loved. It begins with the discovery of a body on the beach by our central protagonist, Alex, a student who has a strong relationship with the sea. This is a novel in which every character has hidden depths and no one is quite who they seem. The author has a real talent for building suspense and the story builds to a frenetic, twist-filled ending.”

Read the first chapter of Sylvia’s novel here.



Run-Off Season by Adrian Markle

Adrian Markle graduated with a BA in Creative Writing and English from the University of Victoria, Canada, before moving to the UK, where he started what would become ­Run-Off Season for his MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

“The novel was inspired by the death of someone close to me and is an exploration of how the grieving process may have differed had we been estranged. Run-Off Season is about a teenager who travels a thousand miles to fulfil his estranged, deceased father’s last request, a brutal and shocking piece of eastern religious esoterica, a Tibetan Sky Burial, and then strives to understand what kind of man his father actually was and what that means for what kind of man Cam himself will become.”

Adrian has published nonfiction in small, Canadian arts publications, and has been short- and longlisted for several fiction contests. He now lives in Cornwall, where he is writing his second novel, as a part of his PhD research at the University of Exeter. He works as a freelance editor and writer.

Richard Pike commented: “As with many of the shortlistees, this is a novel with a strong sense of place, telling the story of a young man searching for an understanding of his late father. The author employs some fantastic, visceral language and has created an intriguing and tortured central character, looking to find himself as much as to unravel the mystery of what sort of man his father really was.”

Read the first part of Adrian’s novel here.



Colour Me In by Sophie Wellstood

Sophie Wellstood is a British novelist and short story author. She grew up in rural Warwickshire in an unconventional family, and her work reflects her love of wild places and wild people.

Her fiction was first published in 2014, in Stories for Homes, an anthology for Shelter. In 2016 she won Triskele Books Big 5 competition and was longlisted for the Bath Short Story Award. Her story The First Hard Rain was shortlisted for the 2016 Manchester Fiction Prize and will be published in The Best British Short Stories Anthology 2017. Sophie lives in London and is working on a second novel and short story collection.

Like Wyn, Colour Me In‘s homeless and loveless protagonist, the novel doesn’t fit easy conventions of age or genre. “In one way or another I write about love, and about people who won’t, or can’t, behave themselves; people who are square pegs, who know they are different. There’s farce and tragedy underpinning this novel as Wyn craves security whilst being emotionally chaotic, but at its heart it’s a love story. I’ve written a dozen variations of this novel and they all come back to it being a love story.”

Richard Pike commented: “This is another novel which shows a lot of promise, especially because of the character at its heart. It’s an entertaining read, yet one with an emotional intensity, and the author demonstrates particular strength at creating authentic relationships that the reader feels invested in. While I was drawn to the greater drama of other novels on the shortlist, Colour Me In is a story that lots of readers will enjoy.

Read the first chapter of Sophie’s novel here.


Take Flight by Hannah Foster

Human Geography by Vicky Grut

Sea Change by Sylvia Hehir

Run-Off Season by Adrian Markle

Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart by Cam Terwilliger

Colour Me In by Sophie Wellstood


Still by Rue Baldry

All Her Ghosts by Claire Coughlan

Take Flight by Hannah Foster

Sea Change by Sylvia Hehir

The Debut by Theresa Howes

The Wolf Road by Richard Lambert

Run-Off Season by Adrian Markle

Sh¥t B@g by Zena McFadzean

Angel Falls by Shelby Riley

Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart by Cam Terwilliger

Colour Me In by Sophie Wellstood


Judge Richard Pike, literary agent at Curtis Brown, commented: “I was delighted to be invited to judge this year’s shortlist. I was already aware of the fantastic support that the Caledonia Novel Award offered to unpublished novelists, as well as the Award’s reputation for unearthing fantastic writing, including from authors who have gone on to find deals with top publishing houses. Wendy and her team definitely lived up to their reputation with this year’s selection of shortlisted authors, and everyone that made both the longlist and shortlist for 2017’s award can be especially proud that they made the cut in a record-breaking year for entries. Thank you to everyone that entered and good luck to everyone thinking of entering in 2018!”

Congratulations to all our shortlisted novelists, and many thanks to the 371 writers from 26 different countries who entered the Caledonia Novel Award 2017. This year’s shortlist of six novels took the reader from 18th-Century New York to Australia in the near future, from a search for family secrets in Spain to honouring a shocking last request, and from murder in the Scottish Highlands to bee-keeping in New Zealand.