A Chinese takeaway owner from west Wales has won Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan’s Search For A Bestseller book competition.
Julie Ma won the prize for her book Happy Families and will receive a publishing deal worth at least £10,000, with her work published by Welbeck in February 2021.
Born and raised in Carmarthen, Ma’s grandfather arrived in Wales from China in the 1920s.
Her parents set up a Chinese takeaway in the 1970s and she took over the business with her brother in 2008.
Her love of reading and writing emerged from school and a local bookshop called Derrick Williams.
Ma said: “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.”
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 for Welbeck Publishing Group, said: “From its waggish first page to its perfect ending, Happy Families was the bright shining star among the 900 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 And Stacey.”
The 2020 Richard and Judy Search For A Bestseller competition, supported by WHSmith, opened for submissions in July.
Unpublished writers were asked to submit an original fiction manuscript aimed at adults.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.