J.M Hewitt.

Crime Suspense Writer

By jeanettehewitt78, Jul 31 2016 02:05PM

Last weekend I had my very first (and definitely not last) Harrogate experience. Harrogate is the home of Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, where crime fiction writers, readers, bloggers and lovers congregate from all over.

I caught the 06:00 train from Ipswich, eager to get to Harrogate in order to make the first panel on my itinerary. It was called Domestic Suspense, and featured authors Alex Marwood, (The Wicked Girls, The Killer Next Door and The Darkest Secret), Paula Hawkins, (The Girl on the Train), Clare Mackintosh, (I Let You Go and I See You), Helen Fitzgerald, (Viral) and Julia Crouch, (Cuckoo and Her Husband’s Lover). I adore all of these authors; Alex Marwood has been a great support to me from the beginning and is an absolute darling. I had previously met Julia Crouch at the Felixstowe Book Festival in June and Clare Mackintosh’s novel – I Let You Go – was a memorable book, which thoroughly deserved winning Crime Novel of the Year. I had bought The Girl on the Train a few weeks prior, and waited to start it until I was on my train to Harrogate. (I’ve since finished it and would highly recommend it to everyone!)

I met up with my lovely friend and crime writer Jane Isaac and we were interviewed on film for Writing Magazine. Friends old and new were there, some old friends (in particular Noelle Holton – Crime Book Junkie) who have been friends for a long time in the cyber world, and to meet in the flesh was wonderful. She’s every bit as deliciously naughty as you think, oh, and cool as HELL!

One of the best things about the weekend was not being able to walk more than a few feet without seeing a familiar face and sparking up a conversation. I was thrilled to see Helen Callaghan, author of Dear Amy, wandering around and we spent a lovely few hours chatting in the sun with the gorgeous Helen Cadbury, Collette McBeth and Ian Patrick. Jane, Lynne, Ian and I went for dinner at a Thai restaurant and happened to sit next to Mary-Jane Riley, who had won one of my books in a recent giveaway and I had been carrying it around hoping to bump into her. THE Book Club gang were out in full force, and it had been Christmas since I had seen most of them. Sumaira was there, as gorgeous as ever, as was Whirlwind Tracy Fenton, Helen Boyce, Claire Knight and so many more. It was midnight by the time I made my way back to my hotel (The Kimberly, if anyone is thinking of staying in Harrogate – great room, great price and fantastic breakfast!) Because of a couple of Domestic Noir related works in progress, (more on this next time) I stayed up making some notes post-panel and set my alarm for 07:00 – I wasn’t going to miss my cooked English breakfast!

On the Saturday I had an event with Mark Edwards to discuss his new novel, The Devil’s Work. At 10:30 we all made our way to The White Hart Hotel. The talk was fascinating, I’ve been a fan of Mark’s ever since I read The Magpies (a bone chilling thriller about a couple who move into a new home and discover the neighbours from hell, massively recommended, unless you’re currently in the process of a house move, as I was at the time of reading it!) Mark’s talk was moderated by the absolutely lovely Erin Mitchell and he done so well answering every question that was fired at him. He was amazingly generous in the goody bags he gave us which included beautiful prints of The Devil’s Work, pens and a copy of the book itself.

After The White Hart I had about one hour to make my way back to the Old Swan Hotel and say my goodbyes. I had a mental list of people I’d not yet said ‘hello’ to, and I was determined that on my lap around the grounds I would locate as many on my missing list as possible.

First up was lovely Lucy V Hay, another crime writer whose dystopian novel Sky Jack has just been released. Lucy is a finalist along with me in the Create 50 Twisted anthology stories and it was great to meet up and chat, however briefly. After bidding goodbye to Lucy I caught up with Vicky Newham and Rebecca Bradley and we had our picture taken together, photo bombed by the great Alex Marwood! I spotted Marnie Riches, another beautiful friend who I had to grab to say ‘hi’ to, and Daniel Pembrey, Alex Caan, Joanne Robertson, Steven Dunne, K.A Richardson, Howard Linskey, Sarah Hilary, Graeme Cameron, Amanda Jennings... the list really is endless. I owe a huge thank you to Liz Barnsley (LizLovesBooks.com – check out her blog, she’s fabulous) who promised me a 50th anniversary edition of Valley of the Dolls and delivered, making my weekend!

As I staggered onto the train for the four hour journey home I was weary but happy. In fact, only about an hour after arriving home I booked my hotel for next year.

In the meantime the festival period is drawing to a close. It is not a time for resting however as I have two very exciting, unexpected projects up my sleeve which I’m working on right now. Very soon I will be talking more about them and I’ll just leave you with this teaser. If you thought Exclusion Zone was the only book I was releasing in 2016, you’d be wrong...

By jeanettehewitt78, May 1 2016 12:24PM


It was here! Launch week, the day before the event I’d been planning for so very long. My launch was Tuesday 26th April, the date especially chosen to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, because that’s where my book – Exclusion Zone – is set.

So on Monday 25th April, I awoke, excitement was managing to push the nerves aside for the moment so it was all good. Of course, that would change, as life has a way of throwing us pitfalls and stumbling blocks, and this one came in the form of my faithful friend, my old cat Honey.

As I opened the back door to let her in at 6 o’clock Monday morning, she wasn’t immediately visible. Unusual, but not unheard of, as especially at this time of the year the birds are out early, and she likes to sit in wait and pretend she’s still young enough to catch one. But then she appeared, out of the shadows of the outhouse, dragging one back leg behind her. I was concerned, but not overly so as she didn’t seem to be in any pain, and something similar had happened last year and a single jab at the vet had set her right. So I went off to work, called the vet as soon as they opened and arranged to take her there for their first appointment.

I was so naive, so sure that it was just a blip, just a sprain or a strain, so I even planned to get them to try and sort out the matted hair on her back that I couldn’t get a comb through. As soon as the lovely doctor started examining Honey, I was hit by a terrible feeling. Even before she spoke, I started to cry, no words were needed, but the vet said them anyway. A blood clot had burst in Honey’s leg; that foot would never work again. On top of that she was pretty sure she had a cancer and heart disease. Those words, ‘we may have to let her go’.

The vet asked that I leave her there for the day so they could run all of their tests and I went back and sat in the car, howling as I phoned my partner to break the news.

This couldn’t happen, not now. All of those months that I was working to a deadline, hiding away upstairs in my writing room, and she would come up on my desk and sit with me for hours and hours while I tapped away at the laptop. More often than not, she would sit on my notes and I wouldn’t have the heart to move her. And if I was writing a tricky part, or just needed to reflect, she was there, I could lay my hand on her warm, furry body, and just take a breather while the scene sorted itself. How could it be that as soon as I was ready to launch, I’d have to let her go?

But, like Freddie Mercury said, the show must go on. But was I a good enough actress to get through the launch party without dissolving into tears? I mean, public speaking was called for; I had a whole speech prepared. And like I have throughout the whole journey of Exclusion Zone, I reached out for support. That evening I made contact with a lady who I have come to think of as my mentor, fellow author Ruth Dugdall. I explained the situation, my fears that I wouldn’t be able to ‘perform’.

‘But you will’, she said. ‘The adrenalin will carry you through’. She shared a story of a tough situation she was once in during a launch, and she assured me that I would be fine.

So we bought our girl home on Monday night and treated her like the queen that she always has been. I gave her a cat litter tray so she wouldn’t have to worry about struggling out into the garden. Here is where I realised the dignity of these creatures. At midnight we heard her shuffling around, I went straight to her, asking what she wanted, where she wanted to go. Turns out, she wanted to go to toilet, but she wanted to go where she always went, in the wild flower patch in the garden and she wasn’t going to use the litter tray. ‘Litter trays are for babies and weaklings, and I am neither’, she seemed to say, using her haughtiest expression. So I stood over her outside with a torch while she done her business and then put her back to bed.

Launch day dawned. I had to work in the morning and I got up a little earlier, gave Honey some milk, trying not to reflect on the fact she hadn’t eaten anything for days, not even the fresh fish I’d offered her the night before. She wanted to go and sit in the conservatory, so I dutifully carried her in there. It’s at the front of our house, and as I went to defrost the car (yes, nearly May and there was ice on the car), I witnessed a real heart warming moment. My partner, Darren, who wouldn’t have considered getting a cat had Honey not come as part of the package with me, took his morning tea into the conservatory and sat with her. That vision will be forever etched on my mind, as will the way he used to talk to her and make a fuss of her, and the trust and love that she in turn, had for him.

We have a friend who lives in our home when we are on holiday, and both Monday and Tuesday he came around to sit with Honey. He carried her upstairs when she decided she wanted to sit up there, and he carried her out when she wanted the toilet. People sent kind messages and came to say goodbye to her, all the while wishing me well on my launch, and it hit me just how damn lucky we are to be surrounded by friends and family like ours.

My ‘day job’ is customer service based, and each week we receive telephone calls in a training capacity where we are scored on the scenario we are given. Mine was due that Tuesday morning, and I thought about cancelling it, seeing as I already had enough on my plate. I decided to go through with it and use the call as a kind of test, preparation for the talking I would need to do that evening. I handled the scenario I was given, and at the end of the call, when the judge speaks to you for a moment, she said; ‘Jeanette, you rock!’ Such simple words, but I decided to tell Jennie the judge a little of my current state of mind and situation. She helped me more than she’ll ever know, she was so interested, encouraging and supportive, and I found out she narrates for audio books. We had a lovely conversation which was of the sort that I knew I’d be facing later that night. I’d passed the first hurdle of the day.

Before the launch I had planned to meet our local newspaper in the bookstore where the party was being held. When I got into the shop the first thing I saw was a beautiful bouquet of flowers that had been sent to me from a very dear crime writing friend, Jane Isaac. I was utterly thrilled and touched, and, more importantly, I didn’t feel like crying! I dared to hope maybe Ruth was right, maybe the adrenalin would carry me through! The reporter turned up, I managed (I think) to give intelligent answers to his questions, then the photographer arrived, my parents, my partner and all of a sudden the shop was filled to bursting with people. My speech was spot on, my voice didn’t wobble, I raised a few laughs and then I sat and signed a lot of books and had a lot of conversations.

I’m so grateful for everyone who came to my very first launch party, everybody was so kind. People were there from my past and my present, as well as people who I didn’t know at all!

Afterwards, at home, Darren and Buster eventually went to bed. Still buzzing from the party, I stayed up with Honey for a while. She sat on my lap, I whispered to her how important she was, how much she helped me during those winter months when I was meeting my deadline, how much joy and delight she had given us over the last twelve years, and how much I would miss her.

The next day we said goodbye to her.

The house is very quiet, I realise now that she was the noisiest out of the four of us. This is the family that Darren and I have chosen, and four has now become three. I’m grateful for a lot of things, I’m happy that Honey was the classic writer’s cat. I have so many photos of her sprawled on my desk, my laptop, my notes, my pencils! I worried about writing this, as it would be the first time I’ve sat upstairs to write without her. I needn’t have worried; the words are still coming. Buster, the little darling, has accompanied me up here today. He will never fit on my desk, but he has stationed himself just inside the door. If I reach over I can lay my hand on his warm, furry body. My gaze keeps coming back to the empty space on my desk, and I will look at that spot for a long time.

During this last week, I’ve come to realise a lot of things. Strength, both mine and hers, capabilities of the human body and mind, that when pushed, you can perform seemingly impossible tasks. Love, how much we all have and how we pull together as family and friends.

I’m very thankful to have been honoured with her companionship for twelve years, and Honey will now be forever entwined with Exclusion Zone and the incredible journey it took us all on.

By jeanettehewitt78, Apr 20 2016 02:42PM

Towards the later part of 2015 I came across a competition. It was entitled Twisted 50, and they were looking for short stories in the horror genre. The fifty winners would be published in an anthology.

I’d never considered writing horror, although I’m a huge fan of horror books and films. I think it started when I was allowed to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street when I was eleven years old. I was hooked, that feeling of fear, of going to sleep and having someone kill you in your dreams! As I got older I wanted more, I wanted to push the boundaries of myself and my own fear, and I watched all of the ghastly films I could find. Ones that had been cut in order to comply with UK screening rules were always good ones, such as the uncut version of Human Centipede and A Serbian Film.

So this competition piqued my interest and I didn’t have much going on at the time so I sat down one afternoon and wrote a story of a woman who wakes up in a basement. She’s restrained, chained, and some of her fingers are missing…

Not really expecting it to go anywhere I gave it my all, I reached into the darkest part of my mind and unlocked the door to what I believe is everyone’s worst nightmare.

Towards Christmas I received notification that I’d been selected as one of the finalists. I was over the moon, but this was around the time that I was on a strict deadline to completing the manuscript for Exclusion Zone, so I was very aware that I wouldn’t have the time to further polish and edit my short story. I let it go on anyway, and at the beginning of this week the final fifty short story winners were announced. And my story was one of them.

I’m over the moon, considering that it was my first attempt at horror and I didn’t have the time to give it my full attention in the later stages of the entry process.

So, at some point Twisted; 50 tales of wickedness, evil and the paranormal, Volume 1, will be published, and my own effort will be one of them.

Oh, and my entry, it’s called…Fingers.

By jeanettehewitt78, Apr 13 2016 04:24PM

So Very British….

What does it even mean? Britishness. Is it liking tea with milk and vinegar with chips? Or is it our renowned skill at moaning, our ability to talk about the weather. Stereotypes they may be, but there’s nothing guaranteed to make you feel British more than a move abroad, nothing to make you feel a foreigner like being given coffee-creamer with your tea, or mayo with your chips.

Yup, it’s those day to day encounters that we only think about when we are somewhere else, and things are done differently. When we are surrounded by people from other countries, we can see the cultural differences writ large. We are good at queuing and complaining. “Bolshy Brit” was a phrase I heard more than once. And my favourite quote was from an American who, when approaching group of Brits heard one say, “On no, it’s the yanks. Quick, look happy.” This idea that we are good at being miserable is something that makes me smile in recognition. When I was with fellow Brits we really enjoyed having a good moan.

I’ve been pondering Brutishness, especially in relation to crime writing, for the past two and a half years. You see as a British crime writer transplanted into the heart of continental Europe I was anxious to know if my brand of writing would be appreciated there. In Blightly, I’d already established a comfortable reputation as a mid-list crime author, and I enjoyed the weekly talks I gave to various Rotary groups and WIs. I’d published three books, all of them set in Suffolk, and had found an audience.

So when I moved to Luxembourg all of this felt in jeopardy. In addition, my publisher had commissioned a two book deal, one of which was to be set in Luxembourg. Yikes!

I’ve always believed that a writer is best not to think about the audience until after the book is done. Concerns about readers can inhibit, and the story should be master and commander. So I began writing a novel about a kidnapping in Luxembourg, of a British school girl. Inspired by real events, research took me into a darker part of the city in which I lived, both physically and imaginatively. Through speaking with police officers, social workers and prisoners, I was able to compare their stories, their attitudes, to those I was very familiar with from my previous work as a probation officer.

British crime drama is different, because we are different. The British police liaise with the media in a way that the Europeans consider obscene, and there are certainly examples that would make anyone shudder, such as the way the sad death of Jamie Bulger was handled by the press, the subsequent vilification of two ten year olds, or the murder of Joanna Yates which led to the terrible hounding of Christopher Jefferies, an innocent man whose only crime was to look eccentric. But, to balance this, are the times when the press has been instrumental in the investigation of cases, such as the Operation Yew tree, giving many victims a platform and forcing the British public to re-think their beliefs about sexual abuse. So British crime features journalists, frequently, and other professionals too. We are less hierarchical in our view of who could hold the key to a crime.

Another consequence of the way crime is reported in Britain means that, as readers, we are already fairly knowledgeable. We don’t like to be patronised, and we will already be guessing the outcome, so this keeps the writer on their toes.

Another difference; in Britain we don’t have Criminal Justice `personalities` in the way Americans are used to. Crown prosecutors aren’t local celebrities, neither are local law enforcement chiefs, we can’t even name or recognise them. This makes our crime dramas more relatable; the legal teams, the police, are all real people with real problems. They don’t have the same gloss as in American dramas.

My Britishness undoubtedly meant that I looked at the cases of kidnapping around Luxembourg in a different way. I wanted to make a risk assessment, I wanted more information, and it frustrated me when none was forthcoming. I was an outsider, and I was ignorant; the only way forward was for me to ask questions.

Nowhere Girl was published in November 2015. Launched at the British Embassy in Luxembourg, I was terrified of the response from locals. I had depicted a girl being taken from their annual fair, and Luxembourg is very prickly about the idea that there is crime within its (mediaeval and partly preserved) walls.

I was wrong.

At the launch, and to my astonishment, the British Ambassador had invited all the professionals in Luxembourg who worked with children and vulnerable people. They had, as a collective, put together a booklet on managing risk.

She told the crowd that this had all resulted from the moment when I had asked her, whilst researching for Nowhere Girl, “What would happen if a British child was kidnapped in Luxembourg?”

And she didn’t have an answer.

After the speeches, as we milled around the room drinking Cremant (the local champagne, and ubiquitous), I was approached by several people, who said it was about time things like crime and refugees and prostitution (all subjects in my book) was discussed openly.

One person, a local Chaplain, mused, “Maybe it had to be an outsider who would start this.”

Later, a Luxembourger I had befriended added in my ear, “And maybe only a Bolshy Brit would have the balls.”

NOWHERE GIRL is on sale for just 99p http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nowhere-Girl-Ruth-Dugdall-ebook/dp/B00WQWT59C/ref

By jeanettehewitt78, Apr 10 2016 03:38PM

In the summer of 2015 I settled down to enjoy the first BritCrime Festival. As it was online there was no dressing up and no chance of being late. I recall it clearly; it was a hot day so armed with a shandy and my laptop I joined in from the comfort of my sun lounger.

And I had a great time, lots of my favourite authors were participating and because it was online there was so much interaction. With a burning desire to one day become one of the gang, that weekend I entered the BritCrime Pitch Competition. The concept was to Tweet a pitch of your novel, and the winners would have the first part of their manuscript judged by the lovely Madeleine of the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency. On the 14th July 2015 I received an email saying I’d won! To say I was over the moon is an understatement, and over the subsequent weeks Madeleine kindly perused my manuscript and returned to me with some feedback.

The feedback turned out to be priceless. One of the main issues with my manuscript was that it wasn’t easily identifiable as crime fiction and deep down, I knew this. So I put aside that novel, the one that I’d been working on for four years, and I started a fresh one. I knew what it was going to be about (a private detective and his reluctant partner in crime) and I knew where I wanted it to be set: Chernobyl. I started thinking ahead and I knew that the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was April 2016 – just eight months away. If I stood a chance of making an impact it needed to be ready for then. A tall order, but I’m always up for a challenge however, so the summer and autumn of 2015 went past in a blur of writing and research.

In the winter of 2015 I got the news I’d been hoping for, Endeavour Press – having only read half of the new manuscript – wanted to publish it. It was an indescribable moment when I received the publishing contract and in order to spur me on to meeting the deadline, I pinned it up on my office wall. It’s still there today, but next to it now is a poster print of the cover of my debut crime fiction novel.

Seven months to the very day that I received notification that I’d won the BritCrime competition, Exclusion Zone was published.

Amazing things have happened almost on a daily basis since then. I met the gorgeous Helen Smith, founder of BritCrime, at a delightful Agatha Christie talk in London. My novel received praise from fellow BritCrime author, Jane Isaac, and writers who I adore, like Alex Marwood and Louise Beech. I watched with glee as Exclusion Zone got to number 50 in the International Crime and Mystery chart in the week after release, and again one month later when I reached number 12 in the same category, and number 3 in the Military chart. I got offers to appear on blog posts and giveaways and all in all, everyone was so damn supportive. In the last month I've appeared in four magazines, (pics below) and there are still many exciting things happening almost daily!

The pinnacle was being asked if I’d like to be guest curator on BritCrime in the months leading up to the actual festival. It got me to thinking back to last year and to conclude, in a dream that originally started over two decades ago, in just seven short months, I’ve gone from contestant to curator, and if you, reader, have a dream like this, then maybe you should join in the BritCrime fun this year, and see what sort of mad and wonderful ride it can take you on.

By jeanettehewitt78, Dec 28 2015 03:05PM

Last month I wrote a blog post for the CRA detailing my writing day and commenting on how many words I need to write per day to meet my self-imposed completion deadline.

I had also taken the unusual step of sending my manuscript out to publishers before it was completed. This is not something I would ever recommend doing, and the only reason I had was because if my novel - Exclusion Zone - was to have the sort of impact I desired, it really needed to be released in 2016, since next year it is the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. I was 40,000 words into an 80,000 manuscript, and with each submission letter I sent out I provided reassurance that I could have the whole thing finished by the end of 2015. In a million years I never expected anyone to take me up on it, but in the middle of November, Endeavour Press called my bluff!

Endeavour have a great reputation in the publishing world and I knew how lucky I was to have them offer me a contract. There was no excuse - I had to write the second half of my novel and I just over one month to do it. So I did. I needed to write 6,666 words a week for the next six weeks, but in that first week when I got the publishing offer, I wrote 25,000 words which gave me the boost I needed to know that not only could I finish it in time, but I would be able to give it a couple of decent read-throughs too.

And that was how I spent the run up to Christmas, tapping away on the laptop, housework and household duties thrown out of the window, my very tolerant other half not complaining that he was being served meals-in-a-box or takeout for a whole month and those closest to me being very understanding that I would not be around much during the month of December.

I smashed my deadline by a good couple of weeks - it was like NaNoWriMe but one month after everyone else had done it!

I celebrated at the CWA Christmas Party with a flock of fabulous crime writers, all of who put any residual fears I had to rest.

There will be some fantastic crime fiction coming out in 2016, and I can't quite believe that my Exclusion Zone will be among them.

In the meantime, I’m not resting. On Boxing Day I began to write book two in the P.I Alex Harvey series, something I wanted to do while all the characters are still fresh in my mind.

So to all that have wished me congratulations and been so kind and supportive - a Happy New Year to you.

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