Former literary agent Hannah Begbie has won The Romantic Novelists' Association's (RNA) Joan Hessayon Award for new writers for her novel Mother (HarperCollins).
Begbie's novel tells the story of Cath, the frightened mother of a newborn diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Richard is the 'we-can-beat-this' father of a teenage girl, gravely ill with the same disease. When the two meet at a charity support evening, their mutual needs push them into an intense affair that will jeopardise everything. Even the health of their children.
Begbie was presented with her award and a cheque for £1,000 at the RNA's Summer Party, held at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford on Thursday (17th May). Begbie will be donating the prize money to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
Begbie was formerly an agent at United Agents where, for 15 years until December 2014, she represented BAFTA and Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning writers and comedians. She developed the manuscript for Mother whilst studying at the Novel Studio course at City University in London and went on to win that year’s new writing prize.
The Joan Hessayon Award is 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 judges for the award, which included RNA Chair Nicola Cornick, vice chair Alison May, and Emma Milne-White, owner of the Hungerford Bookshop, were unanimous in their decision to crown Mother the winner.
Milne-White said: “The quality of the writing really shone out from the page, and the handling of the subject matter was sensitive and compelling – I felt like I learned a lot about Cystic Fibrosis yet always remained immersed in the story. I enjoyed the way the plot took unexpected turns – I was hooked! It had depth and heart. She is clearly a confident and eloquent writer – I hope she goes on to write more and that 'Mother' receives the praise it deserves.”