The contenders for this award are published authors who have passed through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme (as a member of this scheme myself, I can’t recommend it enough.) If you’d like more information on the scheme, click here.
There is a wonderful selection in this year’s shortlist from romantic comedies, to fairytale romance, to both historical and paranormal romance.
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 writers shortlisted for the 2020 award have shared a little about their novels and what it means to them to be nominated. Some of them have also shared some writing tips with us.
Impervious by Zoe Allison
Vampires exist in secret. The malevolent of their kind exploit their powers to terrible ends and a league of benevolent vampires works covertly against them. Amber Ridley is unique as the only human on that team. She’s an ‘Impervious’, and immune to vampire attack. However, is Amber impervious to love?
Zoe said, “I am delighted to be in the running for this award alongside other fantastic authors. I’m also extremely grateful for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s amazing New Writers’ Scheme which gives us all such an amazing opportunity.
My bottom line in writing advice is don’t be afraid to do things your way. Whether you’re a plotter, a pantster, or a plantster there’s no right or wrong way and we’re all different. When it comes to editing the best tip I’ve had is to read your work out loud. You’ll catch loads of errors with missing or additional words and issues with flow that you’d otherwise miss because your brain automatically fills them in when you read in your head.”
Zoe Allison is a medic who writes romance in her spare time as a means to create the happy endings that real life often doesn’t provide.
Her Mother’s Secret by Jan Baynham.
Alexandra inherits Elin’s diary after her death, and is shocked to discover a part of her mother’s life she knew nothing about. Why had Elin kept her summer in Greece a secret? Compelled to visit the same island, will Alexandra uncover what really happened in that summer of ’69?
She said, “When I started writing short stories, I never thought I’d be able to write a novel. After I’d accomplished that, I never in a million years thought I’d be published, so to be a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2020 is beyond my wildest dreams. Without the RNA and so much support from other authors, I would not be here.
Always look for the positive and NEVER give up. Whenever I get a written critique, I highlight the positive comments first. Next, I do the same for the shortcomings, using a contrasting colour. If I agree, I then make a list of those, ticking them off as I edit to improve my manuscript. Seeing a critique visually and progressing through a list of things to work on is a great motivator for me.
Thank you. Good luck to my fellow contenders, too.”
Jan Baynham loves family secrets and finding skeletons that lurk in cupboards. When she decided that her main character was an artist with a well-hidden secret, she knew exactly where she wanted to set her story. As a Grecophile, she felt that the colours of the sea and flowers, together with the warmth of the people, would be perfect for an artist’s travels and it would involve more Greek holidays for Jan for the purposes of research!
The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness by Laura Bambrey.
Tori is offered a reviewer’s spot on a wellbeing retreat, and is worried that she’ll have to share too much of herself. But as The Farm weaves its magic, she soon realises that opening up isn’t the worst thing in the world. And sharing a yurt with Bay definitely isn’t!
Laura Bambrey said, “Being shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon award, along with so many other fabulous debuts, is such an honour. I can’t thank the RNA enough for their support.
My top piece of writing advice is to read your manuscript out loud to yourself. Don’t plug it into a piece of technology to do it for you – read it in your own voice. Doing this helps you check the ebb and flow of your writing – the pacing and the sentence structure. If anything trips you up, change it so that it flows better. This is particularly helpful with dialogue – and stops any of your characters from hogging the limelight with a monologue!”
Laura Bambrey has been a book blogger for nearly ten years, writing about and reviewing books from a range of genres, but mainly commercial women’s fiction. She’s also held down a range of weird and wonderful jobs, including trapeze choreographer, sculpture conservator and stilt walker. She has always dreamt of writing her own books.
Whilst writing, Laura did a lot of research into loneliness, anxiety and phobias – little thinking that lockdown and Covid would come along to make these issues far more prevalent. She found the Mind.Org website to be an incredible source of information and support for those who might be seeking it.
She is keen to mix the grittier bits that life throws at you with the romance and humour that make life worth living … but she’ll always make sure her heroine gets her happy ever after in the end.
Finding Prince Charming by Victoria Garland.by