A YOUNG Canadian writer has said she is “ecstatic” after her book Children of Icarus was named winner of the 2018 Scottish Teenage Book Prize – and she’s writing for The National today!

Young readers from across the country voted for the book by Caighlan Smith, a 23-year-old fantasy novelist from Newfoundland, Canada. Now in its second year, the Scottish Teenage Book Prize was set up to celebrate the most popular teenage books by authors in Scotland.

The prize is run by Scottish Book Trust, the national charity which aims to transform lives through reading and writing, and is supported by Creative Scotland.

Smith was a Saltire fellow and an Alexander and Dixon scholar at the University of Glasgow, where she studied an MLitt in Fantasy.

Since being nominated for the Scottish Teenage Book Prize she has returned to her native Canada.

As part of her prize she will receive £3000 while the other authors who were shortlisted, Danny Weston for The Haunting of Jessop Rise, and Elizabeth Laird for Welcome to Nowhere, will receive £500 each.

Lucy Eldridge, illustrator of Welcome to Nowhere, will also receive £200.

Here, Caighlan writes exclusively for us about her experience of Scotland and how it inspired her writing.



I was very fortunate to have spent just over a year in Scotland during 2016/2017 (unfortunate in that it was only a year, but still). During that time, I completed a Master’s in Fantasy Literature at the gorgeous University of Glasgow. The university alone was a huge source of inspiration – not only in its history, in its capacity to meet scholarly discussion and reading needs, but in the sheer beauty and atmosphere of its architecture. I wanted to absorb it all.

Whenever I was lucky enough to be on campus when the bell was ringing, I’d stop for a moment to listen, and it was like being transported into a Gothic novel, and I felt like something – the subtle opening of a portal to another world in a forgotten hall, the arrival of a mysterious letter with an ominous creature carved into its wax seal, the flicker of an ancient beast’s tail from the shadows of the trees at the base of the hill – I felt like something was bound to happen (typically, that something was me running late for class and having to race to make it in time).

When winter break came about, I was more than ready to start work on my next novel. It was a story I’d been planning for well over a month prior – most of that planning went into worldbuilding, all inspired by my time in Scotland. It turns out I had even more to say than I thought, and the novel ended up being more than 100,000 words – my longest first draft since my very first novel, which I wrote when I was 13. The problem was, this was also my first attempt at a middle grade novel and, as a general publishing rule of thumb, 100,000 plus words is not acceptable for a first book in a middle grade series. So, I decided to go back and chop it up a bit. I got myself down to roughly 80,000, which is still on the long side.

At this stage, it’s a work in progress, but my love for that Scotland-inspired world and characters is as strong as ever, and I’m itching to get back into it and find a way to mould it into the story it’s meant to be. Having said that, I’ve now rather convinced myself I’d like to try writing about ancient beasts and portals, so who knows where the inspiration will lead! Somewhere with as much character, atmosphere and beauty as Scotland, I hope!