Romantic Novelists' Association

Joan Hessayon Award Contenders 2018: Zoe May

20 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, Zoe, 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 dreamt of being a novelist since I was a teenager, however it took me a while to find a writing style that felt natural. I studied English Literature at University and I originally wanted to be a literary writer even though I was more likely to be found with my head inside a chick-lit novel than the latest literary masterpiece. In the end, I decided to write the type of novel I’d enjoy reading. My favourite writers are Sophie Kinsella, Lisa Jewell and Jojo Moyes and these authors were a huge inspiration when I wrote my debut, Perfect Match (my first published piece).

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

I was a member of the NWS for one year and I submitted the manuscript of Perfect Match during this year.

What came first, agent or publisher? How did you find your publisher?

Publisher. I was querying to agents when I spotted a tweet from HQ Digital – the digital imprint of HarperCollins – calling for submissions. I figured I may as well give it a shot and was lucky enough to be offered a book deal.

Do you have a contract for one book or more?

I have a contract for two books.

When was your book published?

12 January, 2018.

Tell us something about your book

All of the bad dating experiences my heroine Sophia describes were based on real life!

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on the final edits of my second novel, How (Not) To Date A Prince, out on April 19, 2018.

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

Make sure your novel is as polished as it can possibly be before sending it to agents and publishers. Writing can be really isolating and I submitted my novel to a few agents prematurely simply because I wanted feedback and some kind of acknowledgement of my efforts. It can be really tempting to do this, but it’s a really bad idea. People say you only get one chance to make a first impression and if the first impression you give is that of a sloppy writer with half-baked ideas, then it can be hard to recover from that and you might end up sabotaging a connection that could otherwise have been really valuable. My advice is take a deep breath, join a writing group if want feedback on your work, and make sure that your novel is as good as you can possibly make it before you send it to anyone in the publishing industry.

Find out more about Zoe:




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