With the deadline of the BPA First Novel Award 2021 approaching, we decided to catch up with some of our past winners and shortlisted writers. It always gives us a huge thrill to hear that a novelist who amazed us has signed with a literary agent or that a book that captivated us has found a publisher. It’s also great to hear that a writer is still editing, getting the manuscript in the best shape possible before submitting. Each journey is unique, but we’re delighted that the BPA First Novel Award has been a part of them all.
Roisin Lanigan – Winner
Represented by Carrie Plitt, Felicity Bryan Agency (Judge)
“Last week Carrie submitted Brotherhood to various publishers, so I’m just waiting to hear back! It’s a very exciting (and nervewracking!) process but it’s been amazing working with Carrie after signing with her to bring the manuscript together, and I hope to see it out in the world very soon – fingers crossed.”
Hugh Blackthorne – Runner Up
Represented by Susan Armstrong, C&W Agency
“I’m working away on edits with Sue since signing to make the novel as strong as I can. She’s given excellent editorial feedback and I’ve been diving in over the past few weeks since signing with her in March. In other recent news, I’ve had a couple of poems published (Plenitude and Impossible Archetype). Coming in as runner-up for the BPA First Novel Award gave me such a boost of confidence in my writing and in this novel. The kind words from the judges were amazing and it’s been great being in touch since then.”
Ireh Iyioha – Highly Commended
In April 2021, Ireh was longlisted for the prestigious Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Short Story Prize for the short story, “Take Me Home With You”. Details of the work and her updated bio are available here. She is currently completing a review of her short story collection, from which several have been nominated for awards, and she’s seeking agent representation for the collection.
Katy McNair – Winner
Represented by Nelle Andrew, RM Literary Agency (Judge)
“I won the BPA Novel Award in 2019 with the first 20k words of a manuscript that I believed had a great premise and compelling characters. I also knew that the draft I had at that point needed insightful, honest feedback from someone who knows the publishing industry. Working with Nelle as my agent has been amazing. She is engaged, frank, encouraging and so knowledgeable. Redrafting around lockdowns with two young children and a day job hasn’t been quick or easy. But now we’re ready to submit to editors knowing that the manuscript is so much stronger, and it’s well worth it.”
Thecla Condon – Runner Up
“I’m working on a second draft of my novel, after receiving a very helpful in-depth editorial report from Blue Pencil and am looking forward to finishing! To new entrants, I would say use the deadlines for yourself to get your work in the best shape it can be. Whatever the outcome, you’re in a stronger position when that deadline date passes. It will be read by lovely people who are on the writer’s side.”
Neil Daws – Highly Commended
Represented by Nelle Andrew, RM Literary Agency (Judge)
A Quiet Place to Kill, the first Kember and Hayes mystery from Neil Daws, will be published in September and is available for pre-order now. “After Nelle Andrew signed me, the hard work really started. She edited early drafts with a forensic eye but had a way of discussing and guiding that allowed me to discover solutions for myself. Nelle secured me a three-book deal for my historical crime series with Thomas & Mercer. Testing returning characters with new situations is challenging, but even as work continues on the first draft of Book 2, ideas for Book 3 are beginning to coalesce.”
Gráinne Murphy – Shortlisted
Represented by Hannah Weatherill, Northbank Talent Management
Gráinne’s debut novel Where the Edge Is was published by Legend Press in September 2020, with The Ghostlights to follow in 2021. Her literary agent Hannah Weatherill says, “Gráinne is a beautiful, thoughtful author whose writing is clear, analytical and lyrical all at the same time.” You can hear more from Hannah in BPA’s ‘Ask an Agent’ Q&A.
Cristina Sweeney-Baird – Longlisted
Represented by Felicity Blunt, Curtis Brown
Cristina signed with Felicity Blunt in 2019 and her debut novel The End of Men is out now with HarperCollins. She is working on her second novel.
Jules Lampshire – Winner
Represented by Madeleine Milburn (Judge)
Jules has signed a two-book deal with Orion Dash and she will be releasing her debut psychological suspense novel, provisionally titled The Therapy Game, this summer, using the pen name Julia Stone.”During lockdown last year I wrote and edited a third book, provisionally titled The Therapy Game, and was thrilled to receive the offer of a two-book deal from Orion Dash earlier this year, with a target publication date of this summer.”
Mandy Robotham – Runner Up
Represented by Broo Doherty, D H H Literary Agency
2017 (Inaugural Award)
Carolyn Kirby – Winner
Represented by Hannah Weatherill, Northbank Talent
The Conviction of Cora Burns was published in the UK (No Exit Press) and the US (Dzanc Books) and longlisted for the 2019 Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award and short-listed for the 2020 Crimefest/Specsavers Debut Crime Award. When We Fall (No Exit Press) was published in May last year and was chosen by the Times and Sunday Times as one of the ten best historical novels of 2020. “The novel is a WW2 thriller set largely in Poland and I am delighted to say that it has been bought by a Polish publisher and will be released there later this year.”
Neil McLennan – Runner Up
Neil McLennan sadly passed away in 2019, when he was working on edits prior to agent submissions. His novel The Wrong Guy was a black comedy loved by the judges, Eve White and Saskia Sarginson, and the whole BPA team.