Romantic Novelists' Association

Joan Hessayon Award Contenders 2018: Anita Belli

11 April 2018

We are delighted to introduce you to the seventeen authors contending for the coveted Joan Hessayon Award in 2018. Before the winner is announced at the RNA’s Summer Party in Oxford in May, you can find out more about each of the authors here.


Welcome to the RNA blog, Anita, and congratulations on being one of the contenders for this year’s award. How long have you been writing? Is this your first published piece?

I have been writing since I was at primary school, but I got the writing bug seriously at Film School, much later in life. I began by writing screenplays, one of which was nominated for a major award at the Academy of Motion Pictures, whilst I was still a student. I turned that film script into a novel and self-published it as The Art Forger’s Daughter in 2014.

How many years were you a member of the NWS and did you submit a manuscript each year?

I was a member many years ago and submitted RomCom manuscripts about 4 or 5 times. Then I stepped back and reassessed my writing goals. I took a career break, cleared the decks and wrote The Art Forger’s Daughter, in a genre which suits me better; Women’s 20th Century Historical Fiction. I like to write about how the past ripples through our lives, with unexpected consequences; and the impact it has on those who come later.

What came first, agent or publisher?

I don’t have an agent, so it is publisher first.

How did you find your publisher?

Recommendation from an RNA member. I was pleased that Endeavour offered me a POD contract as well as e-publishing.

Do you have a contract for one book or more?

One book at the moment, but I plan to offer them more! I am writing the sequel to The Traveller and The Rose, and I have a back catalogue which I am reworking and enjoying enormously.

When was your book published?

4th December 2017.

Tell us something about your book

The Traveller and The Rose is set in a period of history in which ordinary people are caught up in extraordinary events.  This is a story of love, passion and betrayal in the Spanish Civil War, which also became known as ‘The Armed Rehearsal for WWII.’ It is a story where characters are driven by high stakes to risk everything for love:

In the tranquil Andalucían village of Santa Carmen, deep divisions are exposed by the arrival of a young English stranger, Kit Brown. He falls in love with Rosa Saragossa, and as Spain tears itself apart in civil war, few will escape unscathed. They must risk their lives to save those they love. When Kit is imprisoned, Rosa will never give up seeking the truth. In this war, however, the shocking truth is hard to find.



What are you currently working on?

The sequel to The Traveller and The RoseThe Ties That Bind picks up the two families, separated by the war. When bodies are found tied together in the excavation of The New Spain, under General Franco, four strangers seek a truth which they will only find in the hearts of their former enemies. And one shadow comes back to haunt them all.

What piece of advice would you give current members of the NWS?

NEVER GIVE UP! It has taken me ages to get here, over 20 years, but the only way is to keep writing. Write something every day. Develop a daily writing habit.

Find out more about Anita:





Congratulations, Anita, on graduating from the New Writers’ Scheme. Wishing you all the best in your career.