I am delighted to welcome Henriette Gyland to the blog to talk about her fabulous New Talent Award win at the Festival of Romance last weekend.
Big congratulations on winning the Festival of Romance New Talent Award – has it sunk in yet?
No, I keep thinking that at any moment someone is going to pinch me hard, and I’ll wake up to find that it was all a dream. I truly did not expect to win. I’d hoped for a mention, but certainly nothing more than that, and just entered the competition because, well, it was there, and nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. When my name was read out, I was totally stunned. Still am.
How do you think winning the award will impact on your writing?
It was a fantastic boost to get that kind of recognition, to know that the judges (an agent and an editor – squee!) felt my entry to be a worthy winner. No matter what stage you’re at in your writing career, whether you’re just beginning to submit your first manuscript or whether you’re a multi-published author, writers are their own worst critics. Just holding the actual, physical award in my hands (I still gaze at it from time to time, starry-eyed) has already helped me to be kinder to myself, to simply write and not worry so much whether this or that is wrong or sounds stupid etc. To trust my instinct.
Have you entered competitions before?
Hm, how much time have you got? Loads, is the answer! To list a few, the Cinnamon Press First Novel competition, for which I was short-listed, the Winchester Writers’ Conference writing competitions, as well as the Yeovil Literary Prize, for which I was highly commended and commended respectively. Because I write romantic suspense I’ve also entered the prestigious Debut Dagger competition a few times (run annually by the Crime Writers’ Association), and for 2 years in a row I very nearly made the short-list. The first time was when I’d been writing for 10 years, got nowhere, and was ready to throw in the towel. Then, out of the blue it seemed, I got an email from the then organiser informing me of this.
That was a crucial moment for me because I couldn’t possibly give up now, could I? So I stuck with it. A few years later when I had an opportunity to meet this organiser in person, I introduced myself and thanked him for his encouragement. So what I’d really like to say to anyone out there wishing to write, is to enter as many competitions as you can afford – it’s excellent discipline, you may get some valuable feedback, and you never know, you might win…
As a member of the Romantic Novelist Association, what would you say the benefits are?
One of the main benefits of being a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association as an unpublished writer is the New Writers’ Scheme, however, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve been on it for more years than some people have had hot dinners! Joking aside, I cannot praise the scheme enough, it is unique. Without the support, guidance, and generosity of the readers, who are themselves published authors giving up their precious writing time to help others, I wouldn’t be here, still writing. I’d have given up years ago, even before I dared enter any competitions.
Having said that, the NWS is not the only benefit of membership. I wouldn’t for the world be without the friendships I’ve made over the years. No one except another writer truly understands how it feels when you’ve received yet another rejection – it flipping hurts even though we know it’s nothing personal.
In this connection I’d also like to mention the Katie Fforde Bursary, of which I’m a happy recipient. It’s generously bestowed annually by the now President of the RNA, Katie Fforde, who understands how difficult it is to get published and wants to give promising new writers an extra push.
What stage are you at with your writing now?
The novel is finished and at the submission stage. I’m hoping that winning the New Talent Award will help get me noticed, but I’ve been in this game long enough to know that it’s no guarantee I’ll get published. Luck plays an important role too, in other words that my manuscript lands on the right editor’s desk at the right time, and this is something no one can control. Least of all me.
Well, very best of luck with your submission Henriette and thank you for taking the time to stop by.
Many thanks to Ian Cundell for the photograph of Henriette accepting her award.
Below is the prologue from Henriette’s New Talent Award winning entry
Dead Men’s Fingers
Through a pair of binoculars, the watcher saw the old lady’s bedroom light come on. Her curtains were drawn, but when she stumbled out onto the landing, her white night gown flapping around her like a ghostly shroud, she was clearly visible for a moment. Another light appeared, this time in the bathroom, and it stayed lit for ages.
Die, thought the watcher. Why don’t you just die?
At last the woman fumbled her way back onto the landing, and a short sharp bark showed that the little Jack Russell she’d bought only a few weeks before was anxious about his mistress. She seemed not to notice, but headed for the top of the stairs swaying from side to side as if she was the worse for drink. As she disappeared from sight, the watcher ventured closer, leaving the binoculars to dangle from the branch of a tree.
Next, the light came on in the kitchen where the old lady doubled over, clutching her stomach as if she was attacked by excruciating cramps.
A grim smile. I hope you suffer.
The pain must have been severe for her face was twisted with the effort of staying on her feet until she finally had to give in. Her cry of alarm could be heard through the single-paned window, and she fell to her knees on the stone floor. Bemused the watcher saw her retch violently. She was bringing nothing up, which meant she was clearly dehydrated.
Burn in Hell.
The old lady forced herself to get up again, but it was only temporary, a final, futile effort. She made it as far as the scullery where she poured herself a glass of water direct from the tap.
The water never reached her lips, however, merely sloshed down the front of her night gown as their eyes met through the glass. Her evident shock registered, and for one long moment they simply stared at each other, spell-bound and frozen in time as memories of their unwilling bond flashed through both minds.
Then shock gave way to determination, and as the dog barked and jumped up and down to gain attention, the woman steadied herself against the wall and made her way back to the main kitchen area, staggering, out of control. By the dresser she stopped, presumably to catch her breath, but instead she picked up a yellow telephone directory.
The watcher frowned. This made no sense. No one, surely, needed the Yellow Pages to call emergency services?
Suddenly the book slid from the old lady’s grasp, and she brought her hands to her chest. Her mouth opened, her gasp of pain more like a sigh, then she fell, almost in slow-motion, hitting her head on the sharp corner of the dresser. There was a moment’s silence, then the little dog began to howl – a horrible, long drawn-out sound which sent shivers up the listener’s spine.
The watcher’s glee, so long in coming, was tinged with regret.