Competition News

Today I’m sharing some news about a new writing competition.

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It’s not exactly hard to find out that I’m a proud member of Crime Cymru.  The aims of the organisation are:

  • To support crime writers with a real and present relationship with Wales
  • To help in the development of new writing talent
  • To promote Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world.

In support of these goal, the Gwobr Nofel Gyntaf Crime Cymru First Novel Prize has been created to identify, support and promote new crime writing talent from Wales. The Prize Committee consists of Katherine Stansfield, Alison Layland, Alis Hawkins and Jacky Collins. 

The prize has a similar structure to the Welsh Book of the Year, with two categories: Welsh language entries and English language entries. There will be two winners, one in each language category. For each language category there are separate judges and individual prizes. The competition is free to enter and has some fantastic prizes on offer:

  • There will be a Welsh-language winner and an English-language winner. Each winner will receive a four-night stay at Literature Wales’ Nant Writers’ Retreat Cottage, located within the grounds of Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in Llanystumdwy, Gwynedd. The two winning writers will also be offered mentoring from Crime Cymru writers, to be undertaken in their choice of Welsh or English.
  • There will be two shortlisted writers in each language category. The prize for the shortlisted authors is a ‘book bundle’ comprising work by Crime Cymru authors, the titles of which will be determined by Crime Cymru. In addition, we hope that being shortlisting in a prestigious new prize will be useful in seeking publication in the future.
  • Both our winners and shortlisted writers will be awarded a complimentary festival pass to our in-person crime writing festival in Aberystwyth in 2022 where they’ll have the opportunity to meet a host of the UK’s top crime writers as well as industry professionals from the world of publishing.

Here are the key details you need to know:

  • The competition opened on 23 April 2021
  • The competition closes on 3 September 2021
  • The prize is open to writers currently living in Wales.
  • This is a first novel prize. To enter, you must not have previously published a novel, either traditionally or self-published. Writers who have published a book in forms other than novels (e.g. a poetry or short story collection, creative non-fiction) can enter.
  • The submitted novels do not have to have a Welsh setting or theme but they do have to be crime novels. For the purposes of the competition this definition is broad, including (but not limited to) detective novels, mysteries, thrillers, psychological thrillers. For a guide to the expansiveness of the genre, take a look at the scope of crime writing produced by members of Crime Cymru.
  • Entries should be the first 5,000 words of a crime novel plus a one-page synopsis which outlines the full plot of the novel. The novel does not have to be complete at the time of entry.

The people you need to impress are:

Top row, left to right: Jon Gower, Sian Northey, Gwen Davies. Bottom row, left to right: Clare Mackintosh, Awais Khan, Peter Buckman. Image credits: Gwen Davies’ photograph – Jessica Raby; Clare Mackintosh’s photograph – Charlie Hopkinson.

Useful Links
Crime Cymru
Wales Arts Review Article on the prize

So if you want to be one of the first winners of this new prize, get writing and I wish you all the best of luck.

Featured Authors

This blog is a thank you to all the lovely authors who had something to say and share through February, I really enjoyed what people had to say, and I hope as readers, you did too. I learned a lot and now have a much longer to be read list.   If you missed any, below are the links to each one individually, they are worth a bit of an explore, who knows, you might just met your new favourite author.

Sam Blake
Helena Dixon
Trish Finnegan
Jenny O’Brien
Paul Waters
Philippa East
Louise Mumford
Thorne Moore
Jessica Jarlvi
Judith Barrow
Robert Scragg
Ann Coates
Paula Harmon
Alis Hawkins
Jackie Baldwin
Stephen Edgar
Caroline England
Fiona Leitch
Graham Smith
Chris Lloyd
Cathy Ace
Evonne Wareham
Victoria Dowd
Chris Curran
Tina Baker
Mark Hill
Alison Layland
Charlotte Barnes

Again, thank you all you lovely wonderful authors for taking time out to take part, I really appreciate your taking part.

Alison Layland

Alison Layland, another Crime Cymru author talks to us about her novels, skills with foreign languages and upcoming events to watch out for.

When did you start writing, and why?

I’ve always told myself stories, including a couple of long-running soap operas, and I recently came across a treasure trove of childhood poems and songs. However, I only began to realise that I could actually be a writer when we moved to Wales, I took to learning the language, and our Welsh classes continued in the form of creative writing sessions. I found that writing in a language that wasn’t my mother tongue somehow broke down inhibitions and opened doors. I was thrilled when my Welsh short stories won Eisteddfod prizes, and I had a number of Welsh flash fiction pieces published. Since my first published novel, however, I’ve written mainly in English, my native language, and mainly novels, though I’d love to return to short stories and flash fiction as well.

What motivates you to write?

I love telling stories. There’s nothing more fulfilling than developing characters and then spending time with them, along with the satisfaction of a plot unfolding and loose ends coming together. From that, it’s probably obvious that I’m a character-led “pantser” when it comes to first drafts; meticulous planning takes over in subsequent drafts, however, and I enjoy both stages equally.

I’m also keen to explore a variety of issues in my fiction, and love the research that involves. In my first novel, Someone Else’s Conflict, the central issue, and springboard for the story, was the long-lasting effects of war – a fictional atrocity during the 1990s Croatian War of Independence – on two of my characters. I did a lot of research for the Croatian part of the story, including historical reading, travel and even learning the language to deepen my feel for the culture.

My second novel, Riverflow, was initially motivated by a desire to draw attention to environmental issues. As the story unfolded, I found myself drawn into my characters’ relationships and the effects of external events on my protagonists’ marriage.

Which do you like to write, series or standalones? 

My two published novels are standalone psychological mysteries. However, having spent months or years invested in my characters and their worlds, it’s tempting to revisit (on paper as well as in my mind!) and I’m attracted to the idea of a series. I’m not sure if it counts, but my work-in-progress is set in the future, and it refers back to some of the characters in Riverflow.

Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

One of the things I most like about fiction, both writing and reading, is that you can get close to characters you’d probably run a mile from in real life. A classic example is Bede, the protagonist in Riverflow. As I would in real life, I admire and respect his ideals, but he’s a really prickly character who would be difficult to know in real life – but the reasons for this are revealed in the novel. I know several readers feel ambivalent towards him and, as I do, sympathise with his long-suffering wife, Elin, but think of him as a difficult but ultimately sympathetic character.

All in all, however, my favourite character is itinerant busker and storyteller Jay Spinney, from my debut, Someone Else’s Conflict. Although he has a dark past and a reluctance to be open and honest, he is ultimately compelled to do the right thing, and several readers have fallen under his spell.

Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

Although I try to see the nuances of all my characters and understand their motivations, some are nevertheless distinctly unlikeable. Mihal Novak, a small-time gangster in Someone Else’s Conflict is one of them, and in Riverflow it’s arrogant landowner Philip Northcote. Although he’s a true antagonist, I drew on aspects of a couple of people in real life when creating the character, so who knows, there may be some who relate to him more than I do!

Tell us about your last book…

Inspired by my own environmental activism, my second psychological mystery, Riverflow, was published in 2019, and chosen as a Waterstones Book of the Month.

“In a village in the Welsh Marches, the undercurrents are as dark and strong as the River Severn. After a beloved family member is drowned in a devastating flood, Bede and Elin Sherwell only want to pick up the pieces and pursue their off-grid life in peace. But when a local landowner applies to start fracking near their smallholding, they are drawn in to the frontline of the protests. Mysterious threats and incidents begin to destroy trust, rake up the past and threaten their future together. Who is trying to ruin their world and how far will they go?”

What’s coming next…

I’m working on a novel set in the mid-21st century, about a community of people who have chosen to live an island life apart from a troubled society. As well as some intricate character relations and intrigues, I’m also really enjoying developing a vision of what the world might be like in three decades’ time…

Anything else you want to share?

I’m proud to be associated with Gŵyl Crime Cymru Festival, the first international crime festival in Wales, for which I’m helping to organise a special competition. We’ll be holding a digital festival on 26 April-3 May 2021 and our inaugural in-person festival in Aberystwyth on 29 April-2 May 2022. Watch this space!

Alison Layland is a freelance writer and translator who lives and works in the Welsh borderlands. She is the author of two psychological mysteries, Someone Else’s Conflict and Riverflow, both published by Honno Press, and has also translated a number of best-selling novels.

You can find out more on her website at and her Alison Layland (Amazon Author Page), and follow her on Twitter @AlisonLayland

Thank you Alison, Wales is quite a seductive place to live, and I envy your skill with foreign languages.

Tomorrow and last up is writer Charlotte Barnes