Romantic Novelists' Association

Joan Hessayon Award Contenders 2018: Sue Mcdonagh

4 May 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, Sue, 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’ve written creatively for years, but mostly short features and articles written up for magazines and newspapers when I worked with the Essex Police Press and Publicity.

Later I used those skills to write press pieces for the clubs and organisations I became involved with but it was NaNoWriMo four years ago that finally prodded me into the novel that became Summer at the Art Café.

The more I wrote, the more I realised I didn’t know, and I was fortunate enough to join a local writing group run by RNA member Michaela Weaver, meeting other writers who are also now members. I attended (and loved) the Conference and regularly get along to Chapter meetings, and have also participated in writing workshops and weekends run by Sue Moorcroft, and Alison May.

Creating my characters and exploring their unique hopes and fears has become an intrinsic part of my life now. Learning how to write their stories better is the dream.

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

Two years a NWS member, two novels submitted. Both under contract!

What came first, agent or publisher?

I did actually have an agent first – although sadly, she had to resign due to ill-health. I’m un-agented now.

How did you find your publisher? Do you have a contract for one book or more?

Following my NWS feedback, I submitted to Choc Lit’s ‘Search for a Star’ competition, and was thrilled to find myself on the winning shortlist.

Attending my first RNA Conference, I was advised to request feedback from Choc Lit if I didn’t win. Being told that they loved it and I was only one point behind the winner motivated me to complete my second novel. I submitted that first to NWS, and was further delighted to discover that my Reader was one of Choc Lit’s editors.

Both novels have been contracted by Choc Lit, with an option on the third, which I am currently writing.

When was your book published?

It will be published on 15 May 2018.

Tell us something about your book.

I’ve been a self-employed artist for more than thirty years. I learned to ride a motorbike eight years ago, and own a gorgeous 1000cc fire-engine red Honda. The fun I had in the learning process, and the wonderful people from all walks of life who are passionate about their bikes, inspired this novel.

Despite having a second replacement hip, I’m still riding regularly and I assist with the running of the biggest all ladies motorbike club in the UK,, and am ‘Curvy Mum’ to our local ladies. Our members include surgeons and nurses, teachers and bankers, women who look just like everyone else off their bikes.

I wanted every one of my readers to look again the next time they see a motorbike, and wonder if Lucy, or someone just like her, is inside that helmet.


Summer at the Art Café
If you won a gorgeous purple motorbike, and your domineering husband said you were too fat for leathers and should sell it, would you do as you were told – or learn to ride it in secret?

Artist and café owner Lucy Daumier does just that – and despite her disastrous first attempts, she re-discovers the girl she used to be, finds new confidence along with friendship, fun, and love where she least expects it.

But as her happiness is sabotaged by a spiteful family member, can that love survive?

What are you currently working on?

I’m beginning the edits for the second novel in the Art Café series, and have already outlined and begun writing the third.

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

Get your manuscript in early! The Conference is a must. The generous support and encouragement from other writers is invaluable, the lectures are inspirational, but the kitchen parties are where it’s at for me. Friendships are forged, and the gritty minutiae of the writing process are discussed. There is laughter and learning in equal measure. My ankles swell and my liver shrivels. I can’t wait for this year’s!

Find out more about Sue:




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