books · joan hessayon award · novels · romance · romantic novelists' association · writers

The RNA’s Summer Party and the JHA Award for New Writers

So, on Thursday 22nd May the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers was presented at their Summer Party in London. You may remember I’ve interviewed some of the contenders for the award over the past few weeks – and that I’m a contender myself, too, through my first novel, The Silk Romance :)

I live in Yorkshire in the north of England, on the edge of the moors, but on Thursday morning I swapped my dog-walking wellies for a pair of high heels and set off on the train for London. I was really excited about meeting all the other contenders in real life, and not just on cyber space, and about getting to talk writing and romance for a whole evening with people whose eyes won’t start glazing over :)

Ten minutes before the train pulled into King’s Cross, the heavens opened in a massive thunderstorm. Of course they did – it’s a summer party in England! I heard later that the Shard (a skyscraper near Tower Bridge) was actually struck by lightning, but at the time I was more concerned about preserving my hairdo than getting scorched. Luckily by the time we got the tube to our hotel the rain had stopped. (It’s possible to travel all round London on the Underground without ever surfacing onto the street, so at least that’s one way to avoid the downpours.)

The venue for the party was the Royal Overseas Club near St James’s Park, and when we set out for the walk from our hotel the skies had brightened. We had a gorgeous walk, as you can see from this photo:

rna summer party, joan hessayon, helena fairfax
Storm clouds rolling away over St James’s Park


And here’s the official photo of all the contenders. Can you guess which one I am?

helena fairfax, jo thomas, the oyster-catcher, joan hessayon

Pia Fenton, who writes romance novels as Christina Courtenay, and is chair of the RNA, presented the award. Pia gave a short resume of all seventeen of our novels, describing The Silk Romance as ‘a thrilling read’. I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear my own novel described that way by Pia, and in front of the whole audience of editors, publishers and established authors.

Eventually the prize was awarded to the brilliant Jo Thomas, for her novel The Oyster-Catcher, a heart-warming romance with the west of Ireland as a setting. I’ve read Jo’s novel and thought it was a fabulous read, and not only that when I finally met Jo on Thursday she was absolutely delightful. Her next novel is set in an olive grove, and I’m really looking forward to release. You can find out more about Jo and her award-winning novel in this article in The Bookseller.

The whole evening was fun from start to finish, and besides making new friends I had the chance to discover some useful information through networking. I’ve mentioned before how hard it is sometimes for writers to be sitting at home alone all day, trying to motivate themselves, and trying to stay positive when faced with umpteen rejections and self-doubt. One of the things I’ve loved about being in the RNA is the renewed enthusiasm I always feel whenever I meet up with any of the fellow members. Not to mention the hangover :) It was a fab party – and now back to writing my next novel!

joan hessayon award, rna summer party, helena fairfax


30 thoughts on “The RNA’s Summer Party and the JHA Award for New Writers

  1. Morning, Helena. It was a lovely party and I do think the RNA manage to make every contender a winner. I know that I felt I was walking on air for days last year when my debut novel had its turn in the spotlight. Of course, having been there, I know which one you are. Didn’t get a chance on the night, but will say now, your dress was so glamorous. Anne Stenhouse


    1. Morning, Anne! I agree we did all feel like winners that evening, and meeting other writers on the New Writers’ Scheme made me remember just how hard it is to actually get a book published these days. It was great to be able to celebrate our joint achievements. Back to normality now, and I don’t feel at all glamorous as I spent the morning cleaning dog sick off the carpet! Thanks for your lovely comment, Anne, and look forward to meeting you at the next event!


  2. Aloha Helena,

    How fabulous! Thanks for putting up the photos and telling us what it was like. :-) It sounds lovely. What a major boost that must be for your spirits. I love it. So glad you got to do that! What a terrific honor. :-)

    Thanks and aloha Meg :-)


    1. Aloha, Meg! Yes, it really was a great boost to the spirits. So good to meet up with other authors. Wish we could all meet for a massive global romance party some day! Thanks so much for your comment!


  3. What a global world we live in. I was with Pia in New Orleans just a few days ago and I’ve been following the chatter about the Jane Hessayon.

    Congratulations to all of you who were shortlisted!


    1. Thanks, Kenneth! That’s a great comment. It’s a lonely job being a writer a lot of the time, so it’s great to meet occasionally and be reminded what a great bunch writers are! Thanks very much for your comment!


  4. You must have been so excited to be there, Helena. It is a great achievement, and by the way, your red dress looks beautiful! I read ‘The Oyster Catcher’ too and I really loved it too.


    1. Thanks so much, Marie! It was exciting to be there, and The Oyster Catcher is a really worthy winner. First published by Accent press, too, Marie, your new publisher! Looking forward to meeting you again soon at the RNA conf!


  5. Congratulations on becoming a finalist, pity about the rain (yes, the Shard did get hit but was not left in pieces – or rather shards. They’ll probably work that into a new DOCTOR WHO plot); I also found myself quite surprised the train got there without any trouble, but I mostly fly these days (or at least flap my arms bravely) and for all I know the ghastly old days of British Rail are naught but a bitter memory and blot on the landscape.

    Congratulations. Sincerely.


    1. Love the shards joke, James – nice one! And yes, the photos I’ve seen of the lightning did look worthy of Dr Who! The train journey was fine. To be honest, I’ve not had any rail problems for years. Much prefer it to the awfulness of airports, plus there’s the advantage of arriving right in the centre. But then you have a lot further to come from Glasgow, so a flight makes sense, I guess.
      Thanks so much for your comment, and your congratulations. Much appreciated – thanks!


    1. Oh I wish you’d been there, too, Jennie. You got a big cheer when your title was read out. I really hope you can make it to an RNA event some time. It would be lovely to meet. Thanks for your comment, and congrats on your publishing success!


  6. Thank you, Helena, for sharing this event with us. Congratulations n being nominated for the award! That is fabulous. I am so glad you had a good time and that you got to meet another MIU author. That must have been very exciting. I wish you the best in your writing endeavors.


  7. Thanks so much for sharing this exciting event with us. It’s fun to be a part of it with you even if only in photos. Had to check out the lady in the red dress, Aha, there are 2 red dresses, but I think I know which one is you. Beautiful picture. And heels too! It would take something like this to get me in heels for sure. Congratulations on your success. Now it’s time to give the Antique Love some attention because I adored that book too! Hugs…


    1. Thanks so much, JQ! Actually, my feet are still suffering from the unaccustomed high heels, and I ended up walking bare foot through Green Park in my party frock. Hope Prince Phil wasn’t looking out of the Palace windows – he wouldn’t have been amused! Thanks so much for your really lovely comment, JQ. Wish you could have been there, too.


  8. Hey, Helena. Thanks for doing such a great job of including in this fun and exciting event. Love the pictures. Congrats on being nominated. Sometimes, that’s all that’s needed. In this business it’s all subjective anyway. :) I’m proud for you.
    I’m lucky to get to see other writers a bit more frequently than you do. It’s very important because aside from FB and Twitter, we live a fairly solitary life.
    Okay. Congrats again. Your books are both delightful.


    1. Thanks so much, Marsha. I don’t know why I didn’t see your comment until now, and I’m very late replying :( You’re right that it’s important to meet other writers, especially in my genre, I find. I’m very glad of the support of the RNA. Thanks so much for coming – and sorry for my belated reply!


  9. I don’t think we properly got to talk. It was soooo busy, and so many faces. But it was a lovely event. Sorry bit late in commenting, but I was on holiday :) It was lovely to meet you all.


    1. Hope you had a great holiday, Teresa, and sorry I didn’t get to talk to you. You’re right, it was madly busy, and since I hardly knew anyone, a little overwhelming, but in a nice way :) Hope to see you at another RNA event soon, Teresa, and many congrats on your publication!


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