The 2016 Tir Na n-Og Award shortlist was announced in April – the fortieth consecutive year of the prestigious Welsh literature award – and showed a formidable wealth of talent and passion for literature across Wales. One talented author was Welsh television director Griff Rowland, shortlisted for his debut young adult novel The Search For Mister Lloyd.
Now Rowland has claimed the winning title. The announcement was made during the CILIP Cymru Library and Information Conference on Thursday 26th May.
Griff Rowland, debut author and also director of popular television shows such as Hinterland, Coronation Street, Hollyoaks, and Holby City, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that The Search for Mister Lloyd has been recognised for such an important Welsh award.”
As the Tir Na n-Og 2016 winner, Griff is in impressive company. Previous winners of the English-language award includeMerlin’s Magical Creatures by Graham Howells , The Grey King by Susan Cooper , The Candle Man by Catherine Fisher ,Cowgirl by Giancarlo Gemin , Welsh Cakes and Custard by Wendy White , Tree of Leaf and Flame by Daniel Morden and Full Moon by Jenny Sullivan .
The author said: “This is my first novel, and it’s been a lot of work producing the book. It’s a quirky story about pigeons, but I had faith in the novel and what I was trying to convey. I wrote it now and again, between spells of television work. Without any idea as to whether anyone would like the story, I carried on as it was important to me.”
He continued: “My mother, Beryl Stafford Williams, is a novelist and was previously an English teacher; her father, Stafford Thomas, was a poet; and my father, J. Gwynn Williams, is an historian and a past president of the National Library. It seems books and stories are in my blood!”
Set against the background of the Welsh town of Bangor, The Search For Mister Lloyd is “a tale that draws you in from the start and never lets you go” that begins when 11-year-old Mostyn Price’s beloved racing pigeon Mister Lloyd fails to return from his very first race.
Griff said: “Dealing with loss is an incredibly difficult at any age, but even more so at the age of eleven. I think that it’s important for children and young adult fiction to deal with real-life issues that might be affecting readers, and I think a lot of people will relate to what Mostyn goes through.”
“It’s more important than ever that publications for children and young people are exciting, attractive and of the highest quality,” Chief Executive of the Welsh Books Council Elwyn Jones said. “This is the way to attract children and to ensure that they become lifetime readers.”
The influence of Rowland’s Welsh upbringing is very clear throughout the narrative, yet never overpowers or undercuts the story’s unique plot. Set in both Bangor and London, The Search For Mister Lloyd effortlessly weaves Welsh phrases and names into the narrative.
Griff Rowland said: “Setting the story in north Wales felt almost inevitable to me as a writer. The Welsh landscape as well as the language and the culture has been influential to me in all my work. I am very proud of this achievement – it’s a real honour to receive this incredible award for my first book.”
Hayley Cox, senior publishing co-ordinator at Candy Jar Books, said: ” The Search for Mister Lloyd is the second of our titles to be shortlisted for the Tir na n-Og Awards, but the first to win! We are delighted that Mostyn and Mister Lloyd have won over the hearts of the awarding panel, and we’re certain they will win the hearts of many more readers to come.”
She continued: “As an independent publishing company, we take a lot of pride not only in producing quality books but, just as importantly, telling engaging stories that people love by talented authors like Griff Rowland. We are all extremely proud of Griff.”
The Search For Mister Lloyd is available in paperback (RRP £7.99) and Kindle e-book, and is available to purchase from Candy Jar, Amazon, and all other good retailers.