Today we are chatting to Jo Thomas about her time in the New Writers Scheme and winning the Joan Hessayon Award.
Welcome, Jo and congratulations on your fabulous win.
Hmm, it was quite a few years ago! I joined after going on my first residential writing course with Anita Burgh. I had three small children and writing was my very precious ‘me’ time. Annie introduced me to the RNA and the New Writers’ Scheme.
How many books did you submit to the scheme?
The Oyster Catcher was my fifth book. But the book I am writing for my publishers now, was the idea for my fourth book.
Would you encourage new writers to join the NWS?
Oh yes. I would never have been published if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement I’ve found in the RNA.
How did you find your publisher?
I met my first publisher at an RNA conference. We met again at a number of RNA do’s and she offered to publish me. I was published as an e-book and the book went to number 2 in the Amazon charts. I was then approached by a larger publisher and there was an auction which was won by Headline who I’m now with.
How did you promote your book? You have many reviews on Amazon. Did you find certain ways to promote your book worked better than others?
I did a blog tour and lots of tweeting. It must have worked as the book went into the Amazon top 100. Once it got into the top 100, the reviews themselves generated more sales and more reviews.
As the big day approached did you think you had a chance of winning?
I didn’t think I’d win. It was such a big list this year, with so many good writers on it. I was really shocked and surprised.
Your acceptance speech was beautiful (I had a tear in my eye). Did you speak from the heart or had you prepared something ‘just in case?’
A bit of both. I always knew there were people that I wanted to thank for their help; their faith and friendship. I had hoped to get the opportunity to thank them properly one day and it seemed the right place. I also think it’s important to thank the writers who stories we’ve loved and enjoyed. They’re the ones who made us want to write in the first place.
How has life changed for you since The Oyster Catcher was published?
Well, I still write every day; only now, with deadlines. I have to be much more focused on what I’m working on that day and plan my week carefully. But it is wonderful to know that I am working as a writer; that it’s my job!
What are your plans for your writing future?
I’m re-editing The Oyster Catcher which will come out in paperback in November. I’ve also just finished a draft of my second book, The Olive Branch which will be out early 2015. And then once I’ve finished the edits on The Oyster Catcher I’ll be working a novella for the autumn, The Chestnut Tree. I have a four book and three novella deal with Headline so I’m going to be kept busy!
Do you have plans for prize money?
Yes, I’m going off to a writing retreat in France called Chez Castillion, with some really good writing friends to start book three. So some quality writing time and a lovely break too, a real treat!
What was it like to wake up the next morning and realise you had own such a prestigious competition?
It felt fabulous, because winning this competition was very simply about the words that I’d put on the page. And that was a great feeling.
How do you plan to celebrate your win?
In my favourite restaurant, with champagne and oysters of course!
Amazon: The Oyster Catcher
Thank you for chatting to us today, Jo. It was truly a memorable evening.
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