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New Writer 2023: Henry Coles

Children's and YA

Henry Coles headshot

Henry grew up in a small village in Yorkshire, but moved to Scotland over 20 years ago and now lives in Edinburgh with his partner and children. After dropping out of both a chemistry degree and a PhD in powder metallurgy, he became a computer programmer and an accidental expert in obscure software testing techniques. 

Although he'd always wanted to write, Henry didn't actually sit down and try until his forties. Inspired by the books he'd read to his children, he decided to try and create something they'd enjoy.

His first completed book, The Cipher Engines was shortlisted for the Times Chicken House IET150 prize and Well's Book for Children competitions. His second, The Traitor's Moon, was long listed for the Bath and WriteMentor children's novel awards.

Henry is currently working on a third middle grade novel full of pirates, democracy, and whales.

Writing sample

Three weeks before the end of the world, the sea was calm and still. Ezra put a hand to her mouth and groaned, her stomach churning from the waves of the night before.

Someone pulled away the scrap of salt encrusted cloth that covered her hiding place and she gasped, squinting into sunlight for the first time in days. Two figures towered over her, black silhouettes against the blue-white of the sky.

"What do we have here, Mr Burkett?" asked one of the silhouettes.

"Some manner of rat, Captain," said the other.

"It's too big for a rat, Mr Burkett. Too dirty."

The first silhouette, taller and broader than the other, paused as if thinking.

"A dog then? A wretched flea ridden sea dog."

"No, Mr Burkett. What we have here is a stowaway, and a weak and scrawny one at that."

Mr Burkett leaned forward. Ezra could see him more clearly now: a towering hulk of a man in a blue tunic and three-cornered hat. A fierce red beard clung to his cheeks.

"I believe you're right, Captain," he said. "What I mistook for a tail is legs, and what I thought were rat's whiskers must be the scrawny arms of the thing. Never thought I'd see another stowaway on the Quiet Dragon. Not after what happened to the last one."

The threat hung in the air and Ezra tried to sink deeper into the coil of rope where she'd been hiding. 

"Haul it out of there," the captain said. "Let's take a proper look."

Strong hands lifted Ezra and she shivered in the sea breeze with eyes glaring at her from all around. There were hard, unfriendly faces. She took comfort in the fact that they'd all be dead soon. 

Two weeks, six days and twenty-one hours.

Henry says:

'I'm both amazed and honoured to have been selected by the Scottish Book Trust as an awardee and am looking forward to working with them and meeting other writers.'