Richard and Judy have announced the winner of their Search for a Bestseller competition as Julie Ma, a Chinese takeaway owner from West Wales for her novel, Happy Families.
The competition, which launched in July 2020 and saw over 900 entries, is supported by WHSmith and new publishing partner, Welbeck Publishing Group. Julie will receive a publishing deal worth at least £10,000 and will see her novel published by Welbeck on 18 February 2021.
Talking about Julie’s win, Richard Madeley said: “We thought Happy Families was GREAT – absolutely, bloody great. It’s a wonderful story, and she’s such a talented, funny writer. We think this has real appeal to a wide audience and are thrilled to choose it as the winner. Julie Ma is a rare find.”
Jon Elek, Fiction Publisher, Welbeck Publishing Group added: "From its waggish first page to its perfect ending, Happy Families was the bright shining star among the nine hundred submissions we received for the competition. Julie Ma’s story of three generations of a Chinese immigrant family in rural Wales was a joy to read and we look forward to publishing it next year. It is sad, funny, moving and draws you into the lives of these fantastic characters who are all involved in one way or another with the running of a Chinese takeaway in a small town. To me, it had the charm of The Rosie Project, the warmth of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and the magic of Gavin & Stacey.”
Born and raised in Carmarthen, Julie Ma’s grandfather arrived in Wales from China in the 1920s. Her parents set up the Chinese takeaway in the 1970s and she took over the business with her brother in 2008. As the child of parents who didn’t speak English well, her love of reading and writing came from school and a legendary bookshop called Derrick Williams that allowed children to browse for hours.
Julie said of her win: “I feel I should be pinched to wake me up! As most writers starting out know, it's worth building up a thick skin to deal with all of the rejections so when I entered, I just expected to add another layer to my hide. But secretly, I was hoping Richard and Judy would enjoy hearing about the folk in the Chinese takeaway and the quirky town they live in. And they did!”
Speaking about her novel, she added: “This story is about people you never get to read about, set in a place you don’t often read about. I would like everybody to read my book but especially anyone who has ever been in a shop and given a thought to the other life led by the person serving them. Everybody has something more to them than being the woman behind the counter in Next or the man on the till in Aldi. Or even the girl who’s serving you a Chinese takeaway!”
Lucy Swinburn, Head of Books at WHSmith said: “Our warmest congratulations go to Julie Ma. Happy Families is a beautifully written story and a very deserving winner of this year’s Search for a Bestseller. We couldn’t put it down! We’re excited to share this new book with our customers when it’s published next year.”
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