Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Joan Hessayon Award contenders 2017: Lynda Stacey

 We are thrilled to again be hosting the contenders for the 2017 Joan Hessayon Award. Leading up to the Summer Party and announcement of the award we will be getting to know all eleven authors.

Welcome to the RNS blog, Lynda, and congratulations on being one of the contenders for this year’s award. 
How long have you been writing? Is this your first published piece?
I’ve been writing all my life. When I was 14, my English teacher advised me to go into a writing
career, but after visiting the career’s advice officer he told me that I’d be better off trying to get a job in Boots on the makeup counter. And although I loved writing, I did just that. I left school and went to work in shops, I trained in nursing and eventually I ended up back in sales. Throughout all that time, I kept writing. I had one or two articles published in magazines, but then in 2015 I entered the Choc Lit search for a star competition, with this novel. I won the competition and my novel, House of Secrets was published in July 2016.

How many years were you a member of the NWS and did you submit a manuscript each year?
I was a member of the NWS for two years. And yes, I did submit House of Secrets to them.

What came first, agent or publisher?
To be honest, both. Almost at the same time Choc Lit offered to publish me and an agent offered to represent me. I made the decision at that time not to sign with an agent and to take the offer of a contract with Choc Lit.

How did you find your publisher?
I’d always known of Choc Lit and to be honest, I’d always aspired to be a part of their team after meeting the lovely, Lyn Vernham at the Festival of Romance. We were sat on the same table, she was lovely and I met her on a 1-1 the following year at the RNA conference.

Do you have a contract for one book or more?
I have contracts in place for two more books. Tell me no Secrets, which was released on 11th April 2017 and for Twisted Secrets which is due out early in 2018. I may also have the offer of a contract in principal for a sequel to House of Secrets. But, that is still unconfirmed.

When was your book published?
In July 2016.

Tell us something about your book
My book came to life for me after visiting Wrea Head Hall, a country house hotel in Scarborough. The history seeped out of the walls and I just knew it had a tale to tell. I got to know the owners, asked their permission to use it as a backdrop and House of Secrets was born. Of course, for research purposes I go back and stay the night whenever I get the opportunity. It’d be rude not to… wouldn’t it??

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a sequel to House of Secrets. It’s been requested by readers so many times and although I’d not intended to write a sequel, I’m really enjoying doing it.

What piece of advice would you give current members of the NWS?
Keep writing, don’t stop and take the NWS advice. The authors who offer this service are amazing, they have a wealth of knowledge, so take it while you can. I loved being a part of this scheme and will always be grateful to the ladies who offered me advice.

Twitter: @Lyndastacey

Thank you, Lynda. Congratulations again on graduating the New Writers’ Scheme and I hop you enjoy the Summer Party.

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