Bestseller Philippa Gregory's delight at Harrogate History Festival award

Philippa Gregory at Harrogate History Festival.
Philippa Gregory at Harrogate History Festival.

Experienced bestseller Philippa Gregory and 'newcomer' Cecilia Ekbäck were the big prize winners at this year's Harrogate History Festival.

Cecilia Ekbäck has won the 2016 Historical Writers' Association's Goldsboro Debut Crown presented at the Harrogate History Festival today, Friday.

Ekbäck won the accolade for her Nordic noir thriller, Wolf Winter.

The Outstanding Contribution to Historical Fiction Award was also presented by Harrogate International Festivals to Philippa Gregory.

On receiving the Outstanding Contribution to Historical Fiction accolade, Philippa Gregory said: "It is such an honour to receive this award. I always feel very lucky to have a job I love as much this one. It combines my two great loves, history and writing."

Gregory's bestselling novels include The Other Boleyn Girl, which was made into a major film, and The White Queen filmed for the BBC. Her latest novel Three Sisters, Three Queens, features Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII's older sister.

Ekbäck received £1,000 Goldsboro Debut Crown prize money for her atmospheric debut - the story of Swedish Lapland settler Maija and her family as they try to build a new life on the forbidding Blackåsen mountain. Shortly after they arrive, Maija's eldest daughter Frederika stumbles upon the body of a murdered man and the women become embroiled in a search for the truth about his grisly demise.

Cecilia said: “I’m so delighted to be on the shortlist, amongst such amazing authors. I didn’t expect it. The writing business is such a strange business because you’re dependent on so many breaks - finding an agent, finding a publisher, then getting the amazing reviews – so this is fantastic.”

Chair judge, Andrew Taylor, said: "The judges were unanimously impressed by Wolf Winter. Not only is it astonishingly accomplished for a first novel, but it plunges the reader into Swedish Lapland 300 years ago and plays havoc with your emotions. Dark, powerful and beautifully written, it's a worthy winner of the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown."

Imogen Robertson, HWA Chair, added: "This is an astonishing debut, rich and atmospheric, dense and chilling, a remarkable evocation of time and place which draws the reader in and holds them long after the last page has been turned. The shortlist was incredible this year, so that makes Cecilia Ekbäck's triumph even more impressive."

Wolf Winter beat five other shortlisted books including Death and Mr Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis, Eden Gardens by Louise Brown, The Hoarse Oaths of Fife by Chris Moore, Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea and Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye. The quality of the competition has impressed readers, the HWA membership and sponsor Goldsboro Books.

Goldsboro Books' managing director, David Headley said: "The Goldsboro HWA Debut Crown shortlist was very strong this year, and I'm thrilled that the brilliantly written and gripping Wolf Winter is our winner.

"We are delighted to sponsor this award. Historical fiction is a genre that continues to enthral readers of all ages, whatever the period or place."

Gemma Rowland, operations manager at Harrogate International Festivals, said: "We have for over a decade delivered the annual Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award to the likes of PD James, Ruth Rendell and Colin Dexter, to highlight some of the giants of that genre. We felt strongly the historical fiction genre deserved a similar accolade. Philippa Gregory is a truly deserving winner, her novels have been integral in shaping, and leading the genre, which has become so popular in recent years."

Gregory joins previous recipients Bernard Cornwell in 2014, and Michael Morpurgo in 2015.

Harrogate History Festival continues at the Old Swan Hotel with a variety of events until this Sunday.