I am one lucky book blogger this month. All these phenomenal authors writing pieces to feature on damppebbles, woah! Today is no exception as the very lovely J M Hewitt joins me. I feel warm fuzziness towards Jeanette as she was one of the very first people to follow me and tweet me on Twitter, comparing our (very similar) taste in books!
Anyway, fuzziness aside, here is Jeanette’s inspirational post:
In 2012 a wise woman told me; ‘your work must have a tone of familiarity, so with each book that you write your readers have an idea of what to expect.’
This woman was Jojo Moyes, and four years ago I was lucky enough to be selected by her as a finalist in the Marie Claire Inspire and Mentor Campaign. I got it; I knew exactly what she meant. It was like on Project Runway when the contestants had to make their clothing range for the grand finale. The pieces would be different, but there must be a cohesive thread running through the entire collection, an identity stamp for the designer, if you will.
My next big step was figuring out what my stamp would be. In the end, like so many other things in life, I got it when I stopped thinking about it. Once I did that, it became blindingly obvious and apparent that my ‘thread’ had been there all the time.
I looked back over all the work I had written, even those old manuscripts that sit in the bottom drawer, discarded and gathering dust. They were all based in other locations, and they all incorporated real life historical events.
From New York to Northern Ireland, from Paris to Pripyat, the settings in the early manuscripts were a telling sign of what was to come.
The historical element that now features in all of my work became apparent more slowly. Obviously with my debut crime fiction novel, Exclusion Zone, the 1986 nuclear disaster played a pretty big role. I discovered I really enjoyed fictionalising the event and I also saw a pattern that had emerged from the kinds of books I liked to read myself. I enjoyed finding out what happened behind the scenes, or, what could happen. We know that some residents didn’t leave Chernobyl after the deadly explosion; I wanted to know who they were and why they stayed? This led seamlessly into the next book, based in Scheveningen; a seaside resort in Holland, I had my setting already covered. I just needed the crime. In real life Schev is a lovely place, idyllic, and it proved hard to find a major crime that had happened there. In fact, while scouring old newspapers, there was only one that stood out for me and that was the brutal slaughter of three Irishmen in spring of 2000. I collected the facts of the crime and then once again, looked beyond it to the people that were directly involved. Who were they? Why did this happen to them? What were they mixed up in that lead to such a grisly demise? And I found my story.
So it took a few years for Jojo’s words of wisdom to really hit the mark, but now they have, there really is no stopping me and my own personal identity stamp!
Thank you Jeanette. And thanks to Jojo Moyes for her sound advice, otherwise we would be one great thriller writer down. And just to prove my point, here’s the blurb and cover for Jeanette’s debut Exclusion Zone:
“On 26th April 1986, reactor four exploded at the factory in Pripyat, Chernobyl.
At the same time teenager Afia Bello vanished from her home without a trace.
The damage from the nuclear fallout is examined over the following weeks, months and years by Afia’s younger sister Sissy, as she unwittingly uncovers clues relating to her sister’s disappearance, and the secret life that Afia kept hidden from her family.
In the summer of 2015 Private Detective Alex Harvey is hired to investigate the disappearances that have been occurring within the exclusion zone.
He can think of only one person to bring along with him to help; Ukrainian national Elian Gould.
Elian – who was adopted at birth – has her own reasons for accepting the job; namely to search for her own family history which has always been a mystery to her.
But the remaining citizens of Chernobyl are hiding their own secrets and with a darker force at work, the missing person’s case suddenly turns into something much more serious…
Exclusion Zone is a gripping thriller that will keep readers hooked to the last page.”
Thanks again Jeanette for joining me today. It’s been a treat to have you visit and thank you for such a wonderful post. Please come back to damppebbles again soon.
Silver Prize in the author v author competition 2008 (supported by the National Literary Trust)
Shortlisted for the Inspire and Mentor Campaign – selected by Jojo Moyes 2012
Two books independently published in 2010 and 2013
Longlisted for the Retreat West First Chapter Competition 2015
Winner of the BritCrime Pitch Competition 2015
Winner in the Twisted 50 Short Story Competition 2016. Short story ‘Fingers’ to be published in the Twisted 50 Anthology.
Appearing at the Felixstowe Book Festival in 2015 and 2016 and the East Anglia Author Festival 2016.
Member of the CWA, ITW and East Anglian Authors.