In July Armidale writer Bronwyn Clarke returned from the United States with a "Golden Heart" and a promising future as a novelist.
Bronwyn's novel Falling into Darkness was chosen as a finalist in this year's Romance Writers of America (RWA) "Golden Heart" contest for unpublished romance manuscripts. She travelled to Texas for the award ceremony earlier this month. During the ceremony, Falling into Darkness was announced as the winner in its category.
"It was pretty amazing and wonderful and nerve-racking – and I cried," Bronwyn said on her return.
She was presented with the prize – a heart-shaped gold pendant – in front of an audience of 2,500 people in the ballroom of the Hyatt Hotel in Dallas. (Another Australian – the established romance writer Barbara Hannay – was a prize-winner in RWA's 'RITA' awards for published novels, announced at the same event.)
Bronwyn works as an educational developer at the University of New England and is also engaged in a PhD project on the "romance" genre of fiction. She is also partner to Gordon Smith whose photos often grace this blog.
As the award ceremony in Dallas was part of the RWA's 27th Annual Conference, she was able to take part in wide-ranging discussions on a genre of writing that is becoming increasingly richer and more diversified.
"It was wonderful and inspirational to be a part of that," she said. "And it gave me a lot of background material for my research."
At a reception for the finalists in the "Golden Heart" competition, she met prominent agents and editors – one of whom is currently reading Falling into Darkness. Several other editors have contacted her since, requesting copies of the manuscript. This access to the publishing world is the most valuable outcome of the contest for the finalists, as about 40 per cent of them get their novels published within a year or so.
Falling into Darkness – the fictional story of the search for a child abducted from a traumatised town on the edge of the Australian outback – was one of more than 100 entries in the competition's "Romantic Suspense" category. Bronwyn is working on a sequel to her prize-winning novel as well as on another book, and has "lots of ideas" for more.
"Romance is a vibrant and important genre," she said. "Today's romance writing ranges from purely entertaining fiction to deeper, more complex novels looking at serious issues. And the readership is evolving along with the genre: while most of the delegates to the conference were women, there was a sprinkling of men. RWA statistics suggest that the genre is becoming more popular with men."