Meet Janice Hallett author of The Appeal

Have you ever fancied being an amateur sleuth yourself? This week's Thriller Women interviewee, Janice Hallett, offers you the chance with her novel The Appeal, published on 14th January 2021. All the documents for you to solve the case are included, but can you work out who the perpetrator was? 

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We wanted to know how Janice came up with the idea for such an innovative book, written in emails and text messages!

Book cover of The Appeal by Janice Hallett

TW: You are a successful playwright and screenwriter, how has that helped with novel writing and what encouraged you to make the move to becoming an author?

JH: I think scriptwriting gives you an appreciation of how structure helps deliver a story. It’s a skill that crosses all forms of storytelling and as far as writing The Appeal went, it really helped me to have that sense of rhythm ingrained. The big difference is that with scripts you’re writing to inspire other creative professionals who will realise your story on stage or screen. With a novel it’s just you and the reader. An awesome and onerous privilege.

Cameron Roach, then assistant head of drama at Sky TV, was my mentor as part of a TV diversity initiative organised by The Triforce Creative Network. At our first meeting I rattled off a long list of stories I wasn’t able to get out there on screen. His solution was ‘write a novel’. He was right. I fell in love with novel writing in the first few pages of The Appeal.

TW:  One thing we love about The Appeal is that it's written in emails and text messages. What gave you the idea to do that and do you think that style will appeal to a wider audience?

JH: When I first thought of The Appeal it was as a TV series. A simple one-page pitch and not even a murder mystery at that stage. Casting about for novel ideas, I wondered if I could present the same story as messages between characters for the reader to spot clues in. My next thought was: can it be done without hearing from the main characters at all? As soon as I had that idea, all these marginal voices on the periphery of the action rang out of nowhere and The Appeal was born. I assumed it would never be published, so felt free to have as much fun with it as I liked.

TW: In The Appeal the reader is challenged to uncover who the murderer is. Why do you think readers love a good murder mystery and what is it that you like about the genre?

JH: It’s a good question and one I think we can all ask ourselves.  Readers and writers are both attracted to it for similar reasons. To keep an audience gripped the stakes must be high, and murder is pretty much the highest stakes you can get. Fiction is a safe place to explore the extremes of human experience and behaviour. To try and understand it. But mainly I think we’re all intrigued by what leads someone to kill someone else. What factors line that route to the very worst of actions? There’s this knowledge we are all capable of it under the ‘right’ circumstances. Murder mysteries demonstrate this most starkly – when any one of several characters could be guilty.

TW: Who are your literary inspirations?

JH: Cervantes, Mary Shelley, William Golding, Douglas Adams, Iain Banks, Enid Blyton, Michael Carson, Patricia Leitch, Toni Morrison, Thomas Hardy, Tony Parker, J.G Farrell, Raymond Chandler, Graham Green, Kate Atkinson, Dan Brown, Jackie Collins, George Orwell, E.M. Forster and William Shakespeare. It’s the most pretentious list ever, because I haven’t even read the complete works of all of them.

TW: If you could have written one book that someone else has, what would it be?

JH: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I’m not a big consumer of fantasy or science fiction, but there’s something about THGTTG. It has a real resonance and charm. One of those strange, timeless works that seems not to age.

TW: If you didn't write thrillers, which genre would you like to write in?

JH: Comedy. All my stage plays are comedies. It’s great making people laugh, cheering them up and distracting them from what’s wrong in their lives – and the world.

TW: What's next for you in your career?

JH: I’m editing my second book The Twyford Code at the moment. It’s about a former prisoner who sets out to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his teacher in 1983. As The Appeal is an ensemble story, I wanted my next novel to be a single character’s personal journey. But I’ll stop there in case I give anything away!

Quick fire questions:

TW: Courtroom drama or police procedural?

JH: Police procedural.

TW: Morning or evening writing?                                    

JH: Morning.

TW: Stage or screen?                                                     

JH: Please don’t make me choose! Ok then, stage. No, screen.

Thanks Janice!

Photo of author Janice Hallett

More about The Appeal:

In a town full of secrets ...

Someone was murdered.

Someone went to prison.

And everyone's a suspect.

Can you uncover the truth?

Dear Reader - enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death. Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What's more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed. 

Throughout the Fairway Players' staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick's life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered. Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?


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