We have a very special announcement. It is our absolute pleasure to confirm that Jane Healey is this year’s winner of the 2020 Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award for her novel, The Animals at Lockwood Manor!

The HWA Crowns are renowned for celebrating the best of British talent in historical fiction writing, based on their ability to “engage, illuminate, entertain and inform legions of readers.” The shortlisted titles are reviewed by a panel of judges; for the Debut Crown, this comprised of Susan Heads, Ayo Onatade and Simon Savidge.

Back in March, The Animals of Lockwood Manor was published simultaneously in the UK and US, by Pan Macmillan / Mantle and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, respectively. The novel is a gothic and richly atmospheric drama set in wartime England. It follows a young Hetty Cartwright, who finds herself responsible for the handling of the Natural History Museum’s entire collection of mammals, and is promptly evacuated to the unnerving Lockwood Manor, run by an ill-tempered Lord. Before long, Hetty finds herself at the centre of an ominous mystery…

August 1939.

Thirty-year-old Hetty Cartwright is tasked with the evacuation and safekeeping of the natural history museum’s collection of mammals. Once she and her exhibits arrive at Lockwood Manor, however, where they are to stay for the duration of the war, Hetty soon realizes that she’s taken on more than she’d bargained for.

Protecting her charges from the irascible Lord Lockwood and resentful servants is work enough, but when some of the animals go missing, and worse, Hetty begins to suspect someone – or something – is stalking her through the darkened corridors of the house.

As the disasters mount, Hetty finds herself falling under the spell of Lucy, Lord Lockwood’s beautiful but clearly haunted daughter. But why is Lucy so traumatized? Does she know something she’s not telling? And is there any truth to local rumours of ghosts and curses?

Part love story, part mystery, The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey is a gripping and atmospheric tale of family madness, long-buried secrets and hidden desires.


Chair of the judging panel, Ayo Onatade, had this to say on the book: “It was a delight to read so many diverse books this year. I would urge you to read all the books – they show the future of historical fiction is in good hands. The winner, The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey, is an atmospheric gothic story set at the start of World War II that embraces tales of family madness, long-buried secrets spoken and unspoken and hidden desires all set in a manor housing the Natural History Museum’s collection of mammals.”

Jane Healey studied on the MFA Fiction programme at CUNY Brooklyn College. Her short stories have been published in The Kenyon Review Online, The Normal School, and Banshee among others. She has also been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize 2013, the Costa Short Story Award 2014, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2016 and the Penguin Random House WriteNow mentoring programme 2017.

Jane was named after Jane Eyre but, growing up in a Victorian farmhouse that was rumoured to be haunted, she was too frightened of the ghost in the red-room to read past the second chapter. She studied Charlotte Brontë’s novel during her English literature degree at Warwick University, and later wrote her MSc dissertation at Edinburgh University on ghosts, mothers and libraries in Jane Eyre. Jane is currently based in London having previously lived in New York.

As an  Agency, we are constantly in awe of our writers’ talent – but it always feels special when that talent is recognised and celebrated through awards and accolades. It’s been a joy to assist Jane in sharing her story with the world, and we wish her many congratulations!