Jane Bettany has won HQ and Gransnet's writing prize for unpublished women writers aged over 40.
Derby-based Bettany, 56, won a publishing contract with HQ after she entered a police procedural novel following middle-aged Detective Inspector Imogen Blood.
Bettany explained: “I love writing short fiction, but my dream has always been to write a novel. For years I procrastinated, allowing other things to get in my way. Earlier this year, I knuckled down and finally started to write a crime novel. The main character in my novel, DI Imogen Blood, is a middle-aged female detective, so I was very interested when I read about the Gransnet HQ Novel Competition.
“Deciding to enter and working towards the competition deadline motivated me to finish the book. This experience has taught me that it’s never too late to follow your dream and try something new.”
The competition, for women writers over the age of 40 who have written a novel with a protagonist in the same age range, was launched in June, responding to research into the portrayal of women over 40 in fiction. Conducted by Gransnet and HQ, the survey of 1,046 women aged over 40 showed that 47% felt there were not enough books about middle-aged or older women.
The award was judged by HQ publisher Kate Mills, editor of Gransnet Cari Rosen, HQ author Sarah Morgan and books journalist Nina Pottell.
Mills said: “Reading the Gransnet entries was a refreshing reminder of the vibrant, varied and interesting lives women over the age of 40 are leading. We found writers determined to defy stereotypes and willing to explore situations many women readers will recognise in a fresh, smart, insightful way, without falling back on clichés of age and gender.
“We loved meeting DI Imogen Blood, a detective in her late fifties who finds herself faced with a complex case that begins when a body is unearthed in her childhood home. Excellently plotted and paced, and sensitively exploring contemporary themes, Jane Bettany’s In Cold Blood was a very worthy winner indeed. We look forward to publishing it at HQ.”
Rosen added: “Jane Bettany has perfectly captured the essence of what it means to be a middle-aged woman, torn between the demands of career and family. Her novel is both original and compelling: it encapsulates exactly what we hoped to find when we launched this competition.”