2015/16 HNS New Novel Award Winner Announced

Yet Wilderness Grew in my Heart


wins the $3000 prize.



The judges praised all the shortlisted books: ‘we enjoyed the accomplished writing, convincing historical fiction and great choice of place and time. Each had a very good balance of historical fact and story, and wove in their research seamlessly.’

Juliet Mushens said of the winning entry: ‘The writing is beautiful – it’s incredibly evocative and lyrical. I thought that it was clever to have our narrator as an outsider too: wealthy and white, but set apart by his terrible pox. I loved the supporting characters, too, Bell was wonderfully mysterious and terrifying, and I enjoyed Beatrice very much and their relationship. I thought it captured well the early dealings between the colonists and the Native Americans.’

Katie Bond added: ‘I totally agree… the writing about landscape, cold and hostile terrain really made this book for me. Very evocative and cinematic.’

Jon Watt said: ‘Very strong writing. Confident, fluid and full of lovely imagery. Wonderful period and setting: big landscapes, interesting political and cultural clashes. In Andrew, the author has created a compelling central character, someone we can both empathise with but also feel disappointed in.’

Read our interview with Cam here.


The shortlisted novels, in alphabetical order, were:

Call of the Koel, by Melissa Nesbitt


Melissa Nichols Nesbitt was raised in ‘British’ Hong Kong and now lives in Singapore with her husband and children. She writes historical fiction, which has always been her favorite genre to read. CALL OF THE KOEL is her first novel.

Inventing Paris, by Pat Dobie


Pat Dobie was born in Vancouver, Canada and has been writing since childhood. She has a BA in Japanese History and an MFA in Writing. INVENTING PARIS is her first historical novel and she is thrilled to have made the Historical Novel Society’s New Novel shortlist. She is currently working on a sequel called MAD AGNES, set at the 1893 Chicago World Fair, where Dr. Agnes Walker plans to present her unique cure for the widespread abuse of alcohol and opiates. Pat lives in Vancouver with her husband and children, where she writes and works as a freelance editor.

Maharajah and Mrs Mason, by Jeffrey Manton


Jeffrey Manton’s father was a Royal Naval officer who broke speed records in the 1950s and his mother was a German refugee. He began his career marketing people and blazed the trail for today’s spin doctors. He worked and lived in Paris, Madrid, New York, Dallas and Boston and ghost-wrote articles for newspapers and periodicals that included the Financial Times, the Boston Globe, El Pais and Le Figaro.

Novel writing started after Jeffrey was tutored by Orange Prize nominee Liz Jenson at the Arvon Creative Writing Foundation and he was then mentored by Pulitzer Prize runner-up Dick Vaughan as well as Booker long-listed John Murray (creative writing teacher at Madingly Hall, Cambridge) who said : ‘he has an assured and admirable talent.’ Jeffrey’s second novel ‘The Splendour of Anna Stern’ was a bestseller on Youwriteon.com.

A voracious reader of fiction at the rate of a book a week, Jeffrey’s tastes range from Dorothy Whipple and Elizabeth Taylor to Sidney Sheldon and Victoria Hislop. He reviews ‘Indie’ books for HNS, is a member of the Author’s Society, and is an avid and delighted online chatterer on anything to do with books.

Jeffrey is a member of The Copyright Tribunal, a former probation board member and a presiding magistrate.

Swan Song, by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott

Author photo

Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott was born and raised in Houston,Texas, before coming to call first Los Angeles, then London her adopted homes. She earned a BFA (Drama) from Carnegie Mellon University and studied screenwriting at USC. She has been honoured by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of ten Finalists for the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, among numerous screenwriting accolades. In 2006 Kelleigh was the recipient of the Abroad Writers’ Conference Fellowship in Provence, France, where the germ of an idea for a book about Truman Capote’s betrayal of his Swans was born; nearly a decade of research and gestation later, Swan Song is her first novel. The collective voice of the narrative was developed over the course of the six-month UEA-Guardian Masterclass led by James Scudamore.

In October 2015, Swan Song was named the winner of the Bridport Prize Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award for a First Novel. The work was shortlisted for the 2015 Myriad Editions First Drafts Competition, as well as being shortlisted for the 2015-2016 Historical Novel Society Award for a New Novel.

Opening chapters from Swan Song can be found on the Bridport Prize website. On October 6th 2016 it was announced that Hutchinson acquired the rights for the novel in a 6-figure pre-empt.

The long listed titles, in alphabetical order, were:

Call of the Koel
House Divided
Inventing Paris
King James Men
Maharajah and Mrs Mason
Murder at Cirey
My Inquisition
Shadow of Nanteos
Swan Song
Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart

Our judges for 2015 were Katie Bond, Juliet Mushens and Jon Watt.