Katy Turner: Winner of the Joan Hessayon Award 2023

Writing.ie | Magazine | News for Writers | The Big Idea
Let's Just Be Friends

By Linda McEvoy

Linda McEvoy interviews Katy Turner, winner of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers.

As a recently joined up member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with Katy Turner, winner of the annual Joan Hessayon Award for 2023 with her gorgeous feel-good romance Let’s Just Be Friends, published by Joffe Books. I was at the table next to Katy’s when the announcement was made and it was wonderful to watch her astonishment turn to absolute joy. Katy tells me that she was stunned to hear her name called out. She says ‘I am totally flattered that the judges liked it. I’m prone to self-doubt so it’s a massive confidence boost.’

Sponsored by Dr. David Hessayon OBE in honour of his late wife, Joan, who was a novelist, RNA member, and supporter of the New Writers’ Scheme, the award showcases a variety of debut novels within the romantic fiction genre. The judges for this year were Jean Fullerton, RNA chair, Pia Fenton, former RNA chair, and Hannah Schofield, literary agent, and the decision to choose Let’s Just Be Friends as the 2023 winner was unanimous.

The award is for authors whose debut novels have gone through the NWS and are subsequently accepted for publication. The NWS gives aspiring romance writers the chance to submit their manuscripts for appraisal and gain constructive feedback from a published author writing in the same genre. Katy says, ‘Having someone who has been published and knows what they are looking for is so useful.’ As is having a deadline. She adds, ‘I need the schedule to work toward, otherwise I would just procrastinate.’

Her uplifting feel-good romantic comedy about taking a chance on love is perfect for fans of Marian Keyes, Beth O’Leary, and Rebecca Raisin.

Moving to the Scottish Highlands wasn’t part of Holly’s five-year plan. And falling in love definitely isn’t part of her plan. Cheerful and confident Holly Anderson doesn’t do flings. She doesn’t do romance, full stop. She has her five-year plan all mapped out. Falling in love is not part of it… is it?

The novel is set against the backdrop of the rugged north Scottish coast and Katy comments that with a romance novel, readers love to escape to a beautiful place as well as into a fabulous story. She says, ‘It’s important to feel romance in the setting as well.’ This particular setting was inspired by teenage visits to her aunt who was a vet working along the same Highland coast and who would take Holly on her visits to even the remotest of farms. Katy’s time with her aunt and her family brought many interesting encounters with animals including Highland cows and even a misplaced pet snake that may have been hiding in the walls. Katy’s a brave woman, I think I’d have been on the first bus home.

Katy wanted to give her heroine a viable career and a chance to be independent and self-sufficient so a veterinary practice proved a very good fit. Fans of All Creatures Great and Small will especially love determined veterinarian, Holly, and her adventures in the tiny village of Eastercraig.

Let’s Just Be Friends has been described as a cracking page-turner and I wondered what is the secret ingredient to getting readers to turn that page. Katy tells me, ‘I am a brutal editor.’ She likes to overwrite but then relishes getting out the red pen to edit and cut. Getting the pacing right is crucial as is having all the beats in the right place. Katy says, ‘I plan it out and I have a spreadsheet with my main character and my subplots.’ This may not be how the novel turns out but it does really help overall. It helps that Katy loves to read and write romance. She enjoys reading literary fiction too and notes that many of her favourite classics could also be classified as romance. She points out that she is not alone in her preference for a happy ending, recent statistics show that readers are most definitely falling in love with romance.

As a writer, Katy says, ‘It’s so important to read books that you love, and that will help to teach you how a novel could and should be written.’ She urges that it is important to keep going, to learn to roll with the punches, take the advice that comes, and have the confidence to believe that even if success doesn’t happen immediately, it might still happen in five or even ten years’ time. This is something that the RNA tells all of us on its New Writers’ Scheme, ‘Just keep going, this is a marathon, not a sprint.’

Katy worked as a literary agent earlier in her career and this was useful in developing her editing skills for her own novels. But she does say, ‘Having an agent is not as crucial as it was back then as the publishing landscape has changed so much.’  Many authors self-publish now although that can be hard work. And many of the smaller publishers don’t require an agent. However, it can be very useful for larger publishing houses, especially in terms of negotiating and working through contracts.

Katy’s own contract came about by serendipity when a friend was having coffee with an agent seeking commercial romance. This agent subsequently sent Let’s Just Be Friends to another friend, Laura Macdougall of United Agents, who loved it and now it’s a published award-winning success.

 Katy currently lives in Hampshire with her husband, three young children, and some recently acquired guinea pigs, and is working on her next romance novel which is also set in Eastercraig.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Let’s Just Be Friends and highly recommend this uplifting, entertaining, feel-good romance.

(c) Linda McEvoy

RNA Joan Hessayon Award Photo (c) Katie Hipkiss Visuals

About Let’s Just Be Friends:

Moving to the Scottish Highlands wasn’t part of Holly’s five-year plan. And falling in love definitely isn’t part of her plan . . .

Veterinarian Holly is a career girl through and through. And she’s about to score her dream job as senior vet at a prestigious surgery . . .

Until the job falls through and she finds herself having to accept a position in the Scottish Highlands.

So Holly finds herself in the tiny village of Eastercraig. But what could a city girl possibly know about running a tiny surgery in the middle of nowhere?

She’s immediately befriended by the audacious Paolo and sweet Chloe. And their chaotic love lives are enough to remind Holly why she’s staying away from men . . .

She’s barely had time to settle in when a tipsy and — she can’t help notice — gorgeous Greg Dunbar lets himself into her cottage in the middle of the night.

Greg is only back in Eastercraig to discuss the future of the family farm with his stubborn brother. He didn’t even know that Holly had moved in.

Neither of them are looking for romance. And they’re determined to snuff out this spark between them. Holly needs to do what she does best: listen to her head and ignore her heart.

Because they should just be friends . . . Right?

Prepare to be completely uplifted by this perfect feel-good romantic comedy about taking a chance on love. Fans of Marian Keyes, Beth O’Leary, Rebecca Raisin, Catherine Walsh and Portia MacIntosh won’t be able to put this down!

Order your copy online here.

Twitter – Katy Turner: @katherinecjones

Instagram – KatyTurnerWrites

Facebook – Katy Turner Writes

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from writing.ie delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books