To London …

I was in London on Thursday and Friday of last week to attend the Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Party. I was one of eleven contenders for the Joan Hessayon award, a prize for authors who have published a novel after being a member of the RNA New Writer’s Scheme.

Contenders for 2017 Joan Hessayon Award : Back Row – Lynda Stacey (House of Secrets), April Hardy (Sitting Pretty), Kate Field (The Magic of Ramblings), Vivien Hampshire (How to Win Back Your Husband), Abbey MacMunn (Touched). Middle – Victoria Cornwall (The Thief’s Daughter), Morton S. Gray (The Girl on the Beach). Front – Arabella Sheen (Castell’s Passion), Emily Keer (Who Does He Think He Is?), Terri Fleming (Perception). Not Pictured – Jen Gilroy (The Cottage at Firefly Lake)

Feeling very much the country bumpkin, I travelled to the city with my friend, Susan Wood. My husband travels all over the world with his job and I man the fort at home to look after our sons, in consequence I don’t go very far afield.

It was one of those occasions when a first-class train ticket was little different to second class, so we travelled first :-). When we arrived at the hotel we’d been upgraded :-). I also met for the first time another Choc Lit author, Victoria Cornwall. We have chatted happily online for months, so it was lovely to find that we get on just as well in real life. As the three of us sat having coffee and cakes in the hotel, it already felt like a party.

However, there wasn’t much time to chat, before getting changed for the evening and going to meet our publisher for pre-party drinks. Choc Lit had three authors in contention for the Joan Hessayon award – myself with The Girl on the Beach, Victoria Cornwall with The Thief’s Daughter and Lynda Stacey with House of Secrets. We drank champagne to celebrate.

Unfortunately, it was raining, so we had a rather soggy walk to the Royal Overseas League where the RNA Summer Party was held. On arrival, I immediately felt embraced by the RNA and the contacts I’ve built up during my time as a member. There was a definite feeling of being at home. It is difficult to describe the atmosphere at the parties, friendly, noisy and hot.

The Joan Hessayon contenders had photographs taken as a group and then we lined up at the front of the room. The winner from last year, Clare Harvey with Gunner Girl, gave a speech. It was interesting that Clare had chosen to use her prize winnings to pay for cleaners to free up her time to write her next novel. Then, the spotlight was on the ten people at the front (Jen Gilroy unfortunately couldn’t join us).

As each person was called forward, their face and novel cover appeared on the huge screen and Nicola Cornick, the newly appointed RNA Chairwoman read out the judges’ summary of the novel. When I stepped forward, I was aware that nice things were being said about The Girl on the Beach, but I couldn’t remember them moments later. There was applause and a cheer for me, which was lovely. Alison May, newly appointed Vice-Chair, gave me my certificate for graduating from the New Writer’s Scheme.

The overall winner was Kate Field with The Magic of Ramblings. She was endearingly almost stuck dumb with surprise. I’m reading her novel and it is very good.

Our publisher was, understandably, disappointed not to get a Choc Lit win, but I feel like a winner anyway. My book is published, Choc Lit are currently considering book two and I have loads more in the pipeline.

The trip to London was crowned by a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum. We didn’t have time to see everything, so I need another trip at some point.

If you have read my debut novel, please leave me a short review on the site where you purchased it and if you haven’t read it, maybe it is time ;-). Buying links can be found  here.


By Morton S. Gray

Author of romantic suspense novels.


  1. That’s a lovely account of the evening, and thanks for mentioning all our books! It’s kind of you to say my reaction was endearing – I probably looked an idiot, but it was a genuine shock! x

    Liked by 1 person

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