So there was an award ceremony this week. I have to say, I was still recovering a bit from last week.

Last week – World Book Week – was insanely busy and wonderful. The best bits, as always, were when I met students who were going to read and write more because of something I’d said or done. I’ve been so inspired by writers all my life, that to pass that inspiration on is something extremely special. It’s what drives me. So thank you Westcliff, St Edmunds, Trent College, West Park and St Gregory’s. Oh, and I had a new book out and a blog tour. A lot going on.

This week was suppose to be quieter, but it wasn’t. For a start, I had my edits for Unveiling Venus, which is the sequel to Following Ophelia. And I was teaching. And it’s my husband’s birthday. And then this happened.

On Monday, to my absolute astonishment, Love Song won the Young Adult Romantic Novel award at the RoNAs … and THEN … the overall Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year award. Blimey. Seriously. What?

I was sitting with my friend Natasha Farrant and we were both hoping we wouldn’t hear our names called because we hadn’t prepared a speech. But then mine was. Twice. And I had to say something. And it was lovely – of course – but I kept it short, in my shock. I talked about how hard it was to write and how grateful I was to my editor, Bella Pearson, that it got written at all. But  if I’d had more time to think, I would also have said this …

I’ve been a reader all my life but the most important time for me was my teenage years, when I didn’t stop reading, though many people do. I was lucky that my mother had always encouraged me to read anything and everything, so there were times when I wanted Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn and George Orwell and George Eliot, and times – many times – when I wanted Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins and Mills and Boon.

These were the stories that kept me turning pages. They took me to new countries, taught me some psychology, told me a lot more about sex than I was getting from my Catholic boarding school, introduced me to some dark issues, and kept me entertained. If I could give readers a small fraction of the pleasure Jilly Cooper has given me, I’d be very happy.

So I salute romantic novelists, who are proud to be so – as they should be – and I’m very proud to be one too now. Thank you so much to the Romantic Novelists Association for letting me join your wonderful company. I shall take my boys to Paris with some of the prize money. It seems appropriate somehow. And I shall take a relationship-driven, beautifully written, heartwarming book. Quite possibly one by Adele Parks or Barbara Erskine, who were honoured for their writing on Monday and made a much better fist of it than me!

 Here we are:
 I look very happy by this stage, getting the beautiful engraved glass bowl from Prue Leith. I was.

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