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Three Kiwi Authors Honoured by Romance Writers of NZ

Labour of Love - Three Kiwi Authors Honoured

Everyone loves a happy ending - the ragged peasant girl finding her prince, high school sweethearts rekindling their romance after decades of separation. This emotional satisfaction and optimism of a happily ever after is what fuels the billion- dollar industry of romance fiction. For three Kiwi romance writers; Maddie Jane, Jayne Castel, and Brynn Kelly this happy ending came in the form of the Koru Published Book Award given by Romance Writers of New Zealand at its annual conference in August.

The Koru is based on the shape of an unfurling frond of the silver fern and is often used in Maori art to symbolise new creation, so is particularly suited to an award for fiction writing. The award is given annually to a New Zealand or Australian author who has published a book of romantic fiction.

The contest is divided into categories: short sweet romance, short sexy romance, long romance, and first book. The contest is 100% reader judged by romance readers, who are not authors. Each book is read by three different readers and scored according to a score sheet.

“I wanted to see if my work was good enough to get into the finals,” said Jayne Castel, a Dunedin based writer whose Italian Undercover Affair--a contemporary romantic suspense set in Rome won the short sexy romance category. “It's good to get validation about your work ... gives you the drive to continue!”

Castel has been writing romance since 2012 and said she was delighted when her entry was announced as a winner.

Christchurch author Maddie Jane’s Backpack and a Red Dress, a contemporary romance about a lonely girl looking for love, family, and the perfect dress took home the award for short and sweet romance and was the highest scorer for first published book. “Backpack and a Red Dress was the first book I ever finished, so it’s quite special to me. It’s great to know other people like it too—and not just because it has a pretty cover,” said Maddie Jane. “I started reading romance novels when I was 10 and always wanted to write one, but it took me about 30 years to get around to starting. I spent a couple of years writing fun first chapters of manuscripts I never finished. As an unpublished author, I’d always found entering contests a valuable part of the learning process. It’s a great way to get feedback on your work. So why not enter the Koru Award? It also gave me a good excuse to get dressed up and go to an awards dinner with friends. I was thrilled. It’s wonderful to get recognition for your efforts.”

Brynn Kelly’s Deception Island, an action packed romantic suspense Island won in the category of long romance. Kelly, a former journalist has penned several nonfiction books in addition to her romances. According to her website she’s delighted that she gets to spend her days in a bubble of delicious words and fiendish plots, turning all those stranger-than-fiction news reports into larger-than-life romantic thrillers.”

For many authors, writing can be a solitary and frustrating endeavor. The one thing all the Koru Award winners have in common, aside from spinning a great story, is the support from Romance Writers of New Zealand,, a membership based organization dedicated to providing support at every stage of the writing process. Members come from all parts of New Zealand and abroad and range from New York Times bestselling authors to those who have yet to see their books published.

“RWNZ has given me the knowledge and confidence to work towards becoming (one day!) a full-time fiction writer!” said Castel. Maddie Jane said RWNZ has given her a community of writing friends and advisors. “People I can throw ideas around with, learn from and have fun with. It has offered so many ways in which to learn the craft of writing, with conferences, workshops and online resources.” Valuable tools that will keep these ladies continuing to create those happy endings.


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