Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Announcing the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award

The Romantic Novelists' Association is proud to announce the contenders for its prestigious Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

The 2017 list is made up of authors whose debut novels have been accepted for publication after passing through the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme. Each year 250 places are offered to unpublished writers writing in the romantic fiction genre. As part of the scheme, they can submit a complete manuscript for critique by one of the Association’s published authors as well as attend RNA events which offer opportunities to meet and network with publishers, agents and other published authors.

This year’s contending novels include historical romance, paranormal romance, contemporary romance and romantic comedy, and explore a variety of themes, which include family, secrets and loss.

Commenting on the list for 2017, Eileen Ramsay, current RNA Chairman, said, "This year's list of contenders demonstrates an amazing depth and breadth of work from our debut RNA authors, and includes everything from historical regency romance through to funny, witty rom-coms. I am absolutely thrilled that we have another superb group of graduates from our New Writers’ Scheme, which is unique to our association. It’s fantastic to see this new talent being nurtured through to publication. Congratulations to everyone on the list!”

Immi Howson, who runs the New Writers Scheme, commented, “It is wonderful to see debut authors graduating from the New Writers Scheme. The scheme is a real testament to the support given to new authors by the RNA and the Joan Hessayon Awards is a great illustration of its value and success.”

The Award will be presented at the RNA Summer Party on Thursday 18th May at the Royal Over-Seas League, Park Place, London SW1A 1LR at 19.15.

The Joan Hessayon Award is generously sponsored by gardening expert Dr. David Hessayon OBE, in honour of his late wife Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a great supporter of its New Writers' Scheme.

The full list for 2017 is:

Victoria Cornwall     

The Thief’s Daughter - Choc Lit

Kate Field 



The Magic of Ramblings - Accent Press

Terri Fleming


Perception - Orion

Jen Gilroy                 

The Cottage at Firefly Lake - Forever, Grand Central, Hachette

Morton Gray  

The Girl on the Beach -  Choc Lit

Vivien Hampshire      

How to Win Back Your Husband -  HQ Digital

April Hardy 


Sitting Pretty - Accent Press

Emily Kerr

Who Does He Think He Is? - Crooked Cat

Abbey Macmunn       

Touched  - Tirgearr Publishing   

Arabella Sheen


                                                 Castell’s Passion - Beachwalk Press Inc

Lynda Stacey            

House of Secrets  - Choc Lit

The New Writers' Scheme has been run by the RNA since 1962 and is unique among professional writing associations. It aims to encourage fresh talent in the writing of romantic novels that reflect all aspects of love and life, contemporary or historical.

Manuscripts submitted under the scheme are from unpublished authors and are read by an experienced writer or editor who provides invaluable feedback. Any manuscript that is subsequently published as a debut novel is eligible for the Joan Hessayon Award. All eligible books are judged by a panel of experienced RNA members who are already published authors.

Each of the authors will be interviewed on the RNA blog in coming days.
Media: For further information please contact:

Monday, April 24, 2017

Chatting with Publishers: Natasha Harding

A warm welcome to Natasha Harding who recently joined Bookoutre as Associate Publisher. We catch up with her just a few weeks after her move.

You join Bookouture, something of a phenomenon in the industry, shortly after its acquisition by Hachette UK. Are you excited to be joining the team?

I remember reading the first books by Jenny Hale and Angela Marsons and I’ve been following Bookouture’s string of successes ever since. There is such a fantastic team of authors and publishers at Bookouture now, so I’m extremely excited to be joining such a creative and dynamic team.

Your own publishing journey has been impressive as well. You first came to the attention of this writer when you were with Pan Macmillan but that is obviously not the whole story. I’m sure our readers would enjoy a pocket history of your career.

I completed a Publishing Masters at Oxford Brookes, which gave me such a brilliant insight into the industry. At the start of my career, I worked at various academic and children’s publishing houses, gaining as much experience as an editorial assistant as possible. I then worked at Macmillan Children’s Books for a year before transferring across to Pan Macmillan’s commercial adult list. I had the very best mentors at Pan Macmillan and lots of publishing opportunities there. Most recently, I was commissioning fiction at Avon, HarperCollins, and enjoyed working with the incredibly hardworking and innovative publishing team.

I’ve been privileged to work with incredible authors and amazingly talented colleagues, which has allowed me to learn a lot about the publishing industry. I’m particularly passionate about the digital side of publishing because it opens up such wonderful opportunities for authors and such a huge variety of books for readers.  

When a new manuscript lands on your desk and grabs your attention, what is it that makes it stand out from the rest? The writing? The genre? Are you even able to quantify it, or is it instinct?

It does tend to be quite instinctive. I can usually tell by the end of the first page if I want to buy a book. The narrative voice is absolutely key to making a story special but I’m also drawn by big commercial hooks as well.

For example, Elaine Everest’s debut book, The Woolworths Girls, immediately appealed to me. It has a gorgeous opening page and strong writing throughout the novel. But it stood out for me because the story explores the Second World War through the eyes of three strong central characters working at Woolworths. The characters and setting both work extremely well together and the title and package for the book were very clear to me. (If you haven’t read this yet, I highly recommend it!)

You have been instrumental in the success of a notable list of authors. What advice can you give to those who would follow in their footsteps?

My top five tips are:

1.      Read and write often.
2.      Don’t be afraid to get others to read your work. Constructive feedback really does help to polish a manuscript.
3.      Similarly, find a support network. Twitter is great for connecting with other writers, but if you can join a writing group or go to a writing class the support will be invaluable. Or even better, join the RNA!
4.      Be confident in your writing.
5.      Don’t give up! It’s cliché but perseverance really does go a long way!

Does Natasha Harding have a life outside of the publishing world? What are your personal interests?

Well, I do spend quite a lot of time reading . . . but yes I always have a packed diary too! I love spending time with my little boy and my husband and we always have great fun together. We’re often visiting friends and family across the UK. Trips to the zoo and the park are also big features in family life at the moment!  

Finally, Natasha, if you hadn’t joined an industry which you so obviously love, what else might you have done that would have fulfilled you in the same way?

Good question . . .  I thank my lucky stars every day to have a career I enjoy so much. I remember discovering there was an entire industry dedicated to creating books when I was about 14 and from that point on becoming an editor was my dream – I was pretty determined!
However, I love to travel so, if I hadn’t found my route into publishing, I guess I may have been an eternal globe trotter! But I think I would have been drawn to jobs that involve adventure and stories in some shape or form – a librarian, a scriptwriter or even an archaeologist perhaps?

It’s been a pleasure chatting with you, Natasha. Thank you for talking to us today.

Natalie Kleinman writes contemporary and historical romantic novels and has thrown a bit of a mystery into the mix in her recently completed Regency. She is now working on a new contemporary. Her next novel set in the beautiful Cotswolds is with Harper Collins HQ Digital and is due for publication at the end of June. You can follow her blog at http://bit.ly/2mDF99I

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Bloggers and Reviewers: Anne Williams - Being Anne

Thank you to Ellie Holmes for another wonderful interview in this new series.

I am delighted to welcome Anne Williams to the RNA Blog’s monthly series where we speak to book bloggers and get an insight into their world. Welcome Anne, tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog.
My name is Anne (as everyone will have probably guessed!), I’m 61 and single, and I live in the
beautiful market town of Wetherby in West Yorkshire. I’ve lived here for over 25 years now - the best decision I ever made - but Im originally from a village near Bangor in North Wales. I used to be a civil servant, working in project and change management with DWP, focusing on marketing and communications. I was lucky enough to be able to be offered early retirement (and a full pension!) in March 2014, and now spend my time doing all the things I most enjoy.
When I was working, I found I was often too tired to read, but in my retirement I’ve re-discovered my passion for books. I spend a lot of my time reading - what can be better? -   writing about books on Being Anne, and discussing them on-line with blogging and reading friends (or to put it another way, I spend far too much time on Facebook and Twitter!). Much of what I enjoy in my free time is book related - I enjoy running the local U3A Book Group, I’m part of the admin team for the excellent Book Connectors group on Facebook and for LetsDoBooks, and I’m lucky enough to be invited to some of the best book launches and parties. I’ve been a reader for the RoNAs for many years now, and one of my highlights of recent years was attending the awards last year after winning a ticket in the reader draw.

What made you start to review/blog?
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I started blogging four years ago - I’ve been writing reviews for a lot longer, but (following the example of other reading friends) it seemed a good idea to have somewhere where I could pull them together. To begin with it was just a little hobby - reviewing books as I read them, and when I had the time - but after retiring I decided to spend some time building it into something more. I started joining blog tours, doing interviews and features - and people seemed to like reading what I wrote. And I found I particularly enjoyed spotlighting indie and self-published authors who often find it more difficult to get the word out about their books. Although it had over 220,000 views, I thought my old blog - on the blogger platform - looked a bit amateur (and much too cluttered and purple!) so I learned a whole new skill set and relaunched on the Wordpress platform, and I’m really pleased with the new look. I now try to post every weekday, just sometimes at weekends - and I love every moment. 

Has your blog ever won or been nominated for any awards?
I was so thrilled last year to be nominated for the Best Pal Blogger Award at the annual Bloggers’ Bash (the ABBAs) - and quite speechless (well, nearly… words seldom fail me!) when I actually won. It’s an award that meant a great deal to me, an endorsement of the direction in which I’d taken the blog - I’m delighted people voted for me as their “best pal”, and it made me realise that I’m obviously doing something right…

Whats your review policy?
It’s on the blog. under a tab in the header - here - and I do tinker with it regularly. I’d so love to be able to read, review and feature for everyone who asks, but it’s just impossible.

Whats the best and worst thing about running a blog?
Without a moment’s hesitation, the best thing has to be the community I’m part of - bloggers, readers, authors, publicists and publishers are all unfailingly lovely, and I’ve made the most wonderful friends. There’s really nothing I don’t enjoy - except maybe the frustration that I just can’t manage to review or feature every book and author that crosses my path.

I was interested to see you have a monthly book review slot on Tempo FM in Wetherby. Tell us a bit about what that involves.
It’s something that happened by chance, and I so enjoy it! The presenter got in touch for an  interview about the U3A Book Group, and mentioned that she’d been thinking about starting a book review slot. I now pop in monthly and spend a lovely hour chatting with the presenter, Bairbre, just sharing my thoughts on some of the books I’ve read and reviewed.

What do you expect from a writer when they appear on your blog?
No particular expectations, but I do like them to build a bit of a relationship with me before I feature them or review their books. Shares and retweets are always appreciated too!

I know you love to travel Whats your favourite destination and what trips have you got planned for this year?
That’s a “favourite child” question! In the last ten years I’ve been so lucky to have time on my hands
and to be financially secure, able to pursue my passion for travel. I love my holidays, usually long haul, and particularly enjoy travelling to places where other people might not have been. Last year was Borneo and Singapore, the previous year Chile, Argentina and Brazil - if anyone’s interested in my holidays, I did write an article about them for OAPSchat a few years ago (you’ll find it here). I now have my mum living nearby, and my next holiday will be a cruise we’re doing together - Portugal, the Azores and the Canaries - but I’m already looking for my next exotic destination…

We often ask agents and publishers what they consider to be the next 'big thing' - what do you hope to see in 2017?
I’d like to see them taking the older reader more seriously - mainstream publishers do seem to avoid books that focus on older characters, and, although I really enjoy reading lighter romance, I do find it increasingly difficult to identify with characters in their twenties.

Blog: http://beinganne.com
Twitter: @williams13anne

 I can certainly vouch for the ‘best pal’ title. Thank you so much for being such a fab guest, Anne.

Ellie Holmes writes commercial women’s fiction with her heart in the town and her soul in the
country. Ellie’s debut release was The Flower Seller. A member of the RNA and the Alliance of Independent Authors, Ellie’s latest book The Tregelian Hoard, set in Cornwall, is the first novella in her Jonquil Jones Mystery Series


Thank you, Ellie and Anne. 

Members, why not leave a comment for Anne if you enjoyed this interview?