Romantic Novelists' Association

RNA Joan Hessayon Award Contender: Sarah Callejo – Dark Sanctuary

10 July 2023

Author Sarah Callejo wearing a sundress and hat near a sunny lakeCover of Dark Sanctuary. Black and white with double negative pine trees in black space. Madrid-based author Sarah Callejo is a contender for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) annual RNA Joan Hessayon Award for 2023 with her novel, Dark Sanctuary. The award is for authors whose debut novels have gone through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) and are subsequently accepted for publication.

Sarah is half English, half Spanish and is an eternal foreigner enjoying the best of both countries. She is a freelance translator and writes about fictional lives in between financial and legal translations. She has a close relationship with her sofa where she spends hours reading or watching k-dramas and mysteries and believes books with a sad ending should come with a warning, like gluten and nuts. Sarah lives on the outskirts of Madrid with her husband, two kids and three dogs.

She commented, ‘It feels like a burst of joy and a sigh of relief after a long, slow, arduous and sometimes draining journey to publication that was only possible thanks to perseverance and, especially, the RNA’s relentless encouragement, support and guidance.’

Melissa Oliver, the RNA Joan Hessayon Award organiser (and winner of the award in 2020), commented, ‘Many congratulations to the 2023 contenders of the prestigious RNA Joan Hessayon Award. The wide array of authors who have graduated from the brilliant New Writers’ Scheme and have secured publishing contracts this year is 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 2023 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. Previous winners include Jo Thomas, Charlotte Betts, Lorna Cook and Suzie Hull.

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.

The winner of the award will be announced during the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual conference Gala Dinner, which is being held at Imperial College, London on Saturday 12th August 2023.

DARK SANCTUARY (Publisher: SpellBound Books)
Lonely and financially desolate, Sofia thought she’d found the security she craved as a live-in carer. When she starts digging into the suspicious ramblings of her elderly employer, she uncovers a hidden journal written in the wake of the Spanish Civil War. As Sofia edges closer to the truth, she has no idea who she can trust. Are some secrets better left buried in the past?


Facebook: Sarah Callejo – Author 
Twitter: @SarahCallejo 
Instagram: @callejosarah