Romantic Novelists' Association

Katy Turner Wins The RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2023

14 August 2023

L-R: Melissa Oliver, RNA Joan Hessayon Award organiser; Katy Turner, RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2023 winner; Jean Fullerton, RNA Chair
Photo credit: Katie Hipkiss Visuals

SATURDAY 12TH AUGUST 2023 We are delighted to announce that author Katy Turner has won our annual RNA Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers for 2023 with her novel, Let’s Just Be Friends.

The award is for authors whose novels have gone through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and are subsequently accepted for publication. Sponsored by Dr. David Hessayon OBE in honour of his late wife, Joan, who was a longstanding RNA member and supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme, the award showcases the variety of debut novels within the romantic fiction genre. Previous winners include Jo Thomas, Charlotte Betts, Lorna Cook and Suzie Hull.

The judges for this year were Jean Fullerton, RNA Chair; Pia Fenton, former RNA Chair (who writes as Christina Courtenay); and Hannah Schofield, literary agent at LBA. They were unanimous in their decision to choose Let’s Just Be Friends as this year’s winner.

Jean Fullerton, RNA Chair, said, ‘As a graduate of the scheme myself, I’m thrilled each year to see members of the New Writers’ Scheme publish their first novel. As always, choosing a Joan Hessayon winner from such a fabulous crop of books has been an almost impossible task, as this year’s entrants in the awards were all cracking page-turning reads. Well done to all of you, and especially to our winner, Katy Turner.’

Former RNA Chair Pia Fenton (who writes as Christina Courtenay) added, ‘Katy Turner’s Let’s Just Be Friends is a lovely story of perseverance against the odds and the importance of friendships, all set against the fabulous backdrop of the north Scottish coast. The story drew me in, with a wonderful meet-cute, great chemistry between the hero and heroine, and a perfect ending. I look forward to reading more by this author!’

Hannah Schofield, literary agent at LBA, also praised the winning novel. ‘Katy Turner’s charming debut Let’s Just Be Friends was our unanimous winner, with all the ingredients we’d hoped to find: swoony love interests, a diverse and well-realised cast, and a beautifully evocative setting (plus: cute animals)! I’m sure Katy has a brilliant writing career ahead of her.’

Melissa Oliver, the RNA Joan Hessayon Award organiser (and winner of the award in 2020), commented, ‘Katy Turner’s debut, Let’s Just be Friends, was a fabulous read from beginning to end! It had everything from the rugged coastal backdrop in north Scotland, a brilliant meet-cute, engaging well rounded characters that had you rooting for them to an ending that left me with a smile on my face. Well done, Katy. I can’t wait to read more from you!’

The award ceremony was held on Saturday 12th August 2023 at Imperial College, London, as part of our annual conference.


Katy Turner worked for a literary agency in London during her twenties before retraining to be a history teacher. She now lives in Hampshire with her husband and three young children, and writes romantic novels. When not writing, she’s jogging (slowly), gardening, and dreaming of foreign holidays.

Her award-winning novel, Let’s Just Be Friends, is published by Joffe Books. Cheerful and confident Holly Anderson doesn’t do flings. She doesn’t do romance, full stop. She has her five-year plan all mapped out. Falling in love is not part of it … is it?