Romantic Novelists' Association

Kristina Thornton: Joan Hessayon Award Contender 2024

5 July 2024

Kristina Thornton and her book Claire Morris is completely lost

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

Kristina Thornton grew up in Doncaster and now lives in Derbyshire, England with her husband, two sons, and dog, Elvis. She is a former BBC presenter and broadcast journalist, working in radio for seventeen years, before turning her attention to writing fiction. Kristina’s debut novel, CLAIRE MORRIS IS COMPLETELY LOST is being published by Northodox Press in July 2024. Her flash fictions have appeared in anthologies and literary magazines.

She commented, ‘I am so excited to be a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award. I actually can’t believe it! I’m trying to soak up every moment. Over a decade ago, my dad died in a motorbike accident, and I knew I wanted to write about the utter disbelief and grief felt after a sudden death. The complex emotions I experienced and still experience inspired me to write my debut novel. Even though it focuses on family and friendship, there was always going to be a romantic story at its heart. I love reading romance. After taking voluntary redundancy from the BBC at the end of 2020, I started writing CLAIRE MORRIS IS COMPLETELY LOST about grief and love. It is a romantic story wrapped in family drama, self-discovery, and an age-defying friendship.’

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.


Claire is a London party girl… until her dad dies unexpectedly.
Grief-stricken, she quits her hectic life and rents a Peak District cottage.
She ends up befriending local widow, Hazel and hot farmer, Sebastian.
Can Claire rebuild her life in Baliston? Or is she running away from her problems?