Fanfare Please! Announcing the Winner(s) of the Hot Key Unlocked Christmas Novella Competition

Hello! It’s the news you’ve all been anxiously waiting for – the announcement of the winner of the Hot Key Unlocked Christmas eBook Novella Writing Competition! (phew!)

We had so many fantastic entries for the Last Christmas story, and from a huge range of writers: we had first-timers as well as seasoned journalists, and you guys really went to town interpreting our brief. We all had a lot of fun judging the samples, but there could only be one winner… or could there?

We are delighted and very excited to announce that we have in fact chosen TWO winners of our competition, so please put your hands together for Harriet Reuter Hapgood and Catherine Cooper! (*whoops, cheers, applause*)

Harriet Reuter Hapgood


 Harriet has worked in TV, fashion journalism (writing for everyone from J17 to INSTYLE, and once yelling on the radio about her love of Christmas jumpers), and she now moonlights as a human spellchecker. She was born in Nottingham, has lived in Southampton, Cambridge, Surrey, and Newcastle (where she got a first class degree in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER), and now shares a freezing house in South London with her cat, Stanley (who’s a girl, by the way), and assorted friends. When she’s not writing, Harriet refreshes Twitter a lot, eats too many burritos, and does felt-tip pen drawings of unicorns. Follow Harriet on Twitter: @hapgoodness

Harriet’s story concerns a girl, a boy, a bit of flirty Twitter action and a serious sexy snowball fight… Here’s what Harriet had to say about what spurred her on to write her novella, and also a little about how she writes:

“My story came in bits and pieces – the brief’s structure helped enormously. I began with a classic image of snow, and tried to work out how that might trigger a memory of “Last Christmas”, piecing together a vague outline from there. I liked the idea of writing about someone positive and optimistic who really LOVED Christmas, but was perhaps a little blind to other points of view, and whose enthusiasm and confidence were a bit dented from her first term away, making this particular Christmas a little tougher. My writing process? I handwrite lots of notes and  daydream a lot, then I turn on my computer and realise I can’t possibly start till I’ve plucked my eyebrows/looked at Tumblr/gone to the shop for snacks (very important). Eventually I force myself to start typing something – anything – in the hope I can make it less terrible later (or delete it).”

Catherine Cooper 

Catherine  7433 (2)Catherine Cooper is a freelance journalist who lives in the South of France with her husband and two children. She moved to France from London five years ago attracted by the countryside, mountains and fabulous lunches. She writes for a variety of national publications including The Guardian, The Express, Red Online, Family Traveller and many others on just about everything but mainly travel, parenting and health. She is also the author of TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN, A PARENT’S GUIDE which was published by Need to Know in 2011. She loves skiing, rollercoasters and Glee, and hates camping. Find out more about Catherine at or follow her on Twitter: @catherinecooper

Catherine’s story is about a fateful Christmas party, ice-skating, and finding love in unexpected places… Catherine has this to say about why she wrote her novella, and she also has some insights into how she wrote it:

“I chose to write this story because I think sexuality is a really interesting thing – I think many people aren’t simply gay or straight – for some I imagine it is more of a spectrum. I am a big Glee fan and always find it interesting that while for Santana and Kurt, their sexuality is a big issue, while for Britney, whether she is attracted to girls or boys isn’t a big deal – for her all that it is important is whether or not she is attracted to that particular person. Lia is like Britney, and I imagine there must be many other people who feel that way too, or might do if they allowed themselves to.

 This time things were a little bit different as I had a brief to work to, but usually when it comes to my writing process I start with an idea of a theme, a couple of characters, and a fairly vague idea of where things will end up. I then sit down and write. I realise this method probably isn’t particularly orthodox, but I find that this way my characters often end up doing things I didn’t really expect them too, sometimes also taking the story to places I hadn’t planned. For me this makes the process, and hopefully the finished product, more interesting. I edit each chapter after I have written it, and then go back afterwards and edit the whole thing, several times.”

So those are our winners! You can read their stories at the beginning of December. If you can’t wait until then, we’re launching the first three titles Christmas stories from our Unlocked list in the first week of November.

We actually have a sort-of-third winner too. The standard of writing throughout all the submissions really was incredibly high, so we asked one of our runners-up to put her ideas on ice, and adapt her story in time for Valentines day. So please also say hello to…

Bea Longworth

Bea Longworth

After studying English at Oxford University, Bea intended to pursue a career in publishing but got sidetracked into technology PR instead (as you do). That gave her a chance to indulge her love of gaming and all things gadget-related, as well as develop a love for travel. In early 2013 she and her fiancé Bill packed in their day jobs to start their own company making interactive digital novels for young adults. Bea lives in Oxfordshire and spends as much time as possible rowing on the River Thames because it’s a good excuse for tea and cake afterwards. Follow Bea on Twitter: @bealongworth


We’ll have more announcements about Bea’s story soon, as well as some more ways that you guys can get involved with writing for us and the Unlocked list. If you want to stay updated on everything Unlocked, follow us on Twitter @UnlockedBooks

Happy weekend everyone!