Romantic Novelists' Association

Claire McCauley: Joan Hessayon Award Contender 2024

5 July 2024

Author of the Wedding Hitch

Oxford author Claire McCauley is a contender for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) annual RNA Joan Hessayon Award for 2024 with her novel, The Wedding Hitch. The award is for authors whose debut novels have gone through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) and are subsequently accepted for publication.

Claire McCauley grew up in Bath, before working in theatre all over the world then settling in Oxfordshire. After a decade as a stay-at-home mum, escaping by reading three novels a week, she started to write the kind of humorous fiction that she loves. Currently, Claire lives beside the river in Oxford with her Irish husband, five children and wire-haired vizsla. Her second romantic comedy, Once in a Lifetime, is released on 16th July.

She commented, ‘Being a contender for the Joan Hessayon award with my debut novel, The Wedding Hitch, is absolutely thrilling. I’m incredibly grateful to the RNA, and all the volunteers involved in running the New Writer’s Scheme, for their support and encouragement every step of the way.’

Melissa Oliver, the RNA Joan Hessayon Award organiser (and winner of the award in 2020), commented, ‘Many congratulations to the 2024 contenders of the prestigious RNA Joan Hessayon Award. The authors who have graduated from the brilliant New Writers’ Scheme to secure publishing contracts this year are not only a testament to the success of the scheme but also to the enduring appeal of the romance genre. Well done to all of you.’

RNA Chair, Jean Fullerton, added, ‘Congratulations to all of the 2024 contenders for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award for graduates of the most excellent New Writers’ Scheme. Once again, the judges have the almost impossible task of picking a winner due to the quality of the books.’

Sponsored by Dr. David Hessayon OBE in honour of his late wife, Joan, who was a novelist, RNA member and supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme, the award showcases a variety of debut novels within the romantic fiction genre. The novels are judged by a panel of published authors from the RNA and publishing industry professionals.

Established in 1962, the New Writers’ Scheme provides support to unpublished romantic fiction authors. Manuscripts can be submitted for assessment and are critiqued by published authors. In addition, the 250 members of the scheme can attend RNA events and participate in members-only activities and networking opportunities.

Previous graduates of the New Writers’ Scheme include Sue Moorcroft, Jessica Redland and Heidi Swain.

For more details about the New Writers’ Scheme please visit here.

The winner of the award will be announced during the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual conference Gala Dinner, which is being held at Royal Holloway, University of London on Saturday 10th August 2024.


Róisín’s ecstatic to win her dream wedding – until her fiancé admits he never really wanted to get married. So she breaks up with him and sets out to find the real love of her life, in the twelve months before her prize expires . . .