Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller winner is announced as Welsh Chinese takeaway owner Julie Ma

(Image credit: Bill Waters)

Richard and Judy are no strangers to discovering fresh talent and their 2020 competition has revealed a new star author to watch.

On 5th October they announced the winner of their 2020 competition as Julie Ma, a Chinese takeaway owner from West Wales for her novel, Happy Families - an author Richard Madeley has described as a ‘rare find’.

Launched in July 2020, the competition had over 900 entries and is supported by high street giant WHSmith and new publishing partner Welbeck Publishing Group.

As her prize for this astonishing achievement, Julie will receive a publishing deal worth at least £10,000 and will see Happy Families published by Welbeck on 18 February 2021.

Her new publishers are thrilled to have discovered such extraordinary new talent.

Jon Elek, Fiction Publisher at Welbeck Publishing Group states, “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. 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’.”

Who is Richard and Judy's search for a bestseller competition winner Julie Ma?

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.

Julie Ma, competition winner

Julie has said that the idea of writing came to her after receiving some kind words from a teacher at primary school, but that it came to feel as remote an option as being an astronaut or pirate.

She is delighted that Richard and Judy enjoyed Happy Families and has said that “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.’

The competition

The 2020 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition opened for submissions in July with unpublished writers asked to submit an original fiction manuscript aimed at adults.

Previous winners include Caz Frear with Sweet Little Lies, Tracy Rees with Amy Snow and Claire Gradidge with The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox.

Search for a Bestseller Competition

Head of Books, WHSmith, Lucy Swinburn is just as eager to see Julie Ma’s novel reach the same impressive heights, saying, “We couldn’t put it down! We’re excited to share this new book with our customers when it’s published next year.”

Happy Families by Julie Ma, Welbeck Publishing Group, £8.99 is out 18 February 2021


Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!