One year after the success of my debut crime fiction novel, Exclusion Zone, I’m so pleased to announce that I have been offered a further two-book publication deal.
The first of these, The Hunger Within, was published on 23rd October by Endeavour Press in Kindle format, with paperbacks hitting the shelves in time for Christmas.
I had it in my mind as I set to work that any research wouldn’t be as interesting as that of my Chernobyl based thriller, Exclusion Zone. I was wrong! The Hunger Within is based around the hunger strikes of the prisoners in HMP Maze in 1981. As soon as I began to write the novel I knew that factual correctness and authenticity were going to be absolutely vital. I also knew that of the 23 men who took part in the hunger strikes, 13 of them survived, and chances were they were still alive today, so I set about tracking them down.
The beauty of the internet is how accessible everything seems to be, and before long I had made contact with an original, surviving, hunger striker called Laurence McKeown.
In 1981 Laurence, a former I.R.A gunman was serving a life sentence in Maze prison. He was happy to share his story with me, and what a tale it was. Laurence didn’t back away from any details about the physical side effects of the hunger strikes, even though they made for uncomfortable reading. These protests and the ramifications were raw and very real. The protests also bought up many questions for me, both as a reader and a writer. Could I believe in a cause so much that I would die for it? I didn’t think so, but as a novelist I had to make the writing true and to do this meant that my own feelings had to be put aside to enable the emotions of my characters to come through.
It is much the same dilemma in the second book that Endeavour Press are publishing. The Duty is slightly more angled towards the Domestic Noir genre, with a woman, Kate, who realises just how trapped she is by the boundaries set by her husband, Paul, in the home and life that they share. This is an unfamiliar setting for me, that of mental abuse and restriction, and I’ve put a lot of time into discovering the depths that desperate people will go to for an escape. For both The Hunger Within and The Duty, I enlisted the mentorship of friend and award winning local author, Ruth Dugdall. On both books Ruth has been there every step of the way as an editor and advisor. We meet monthly as we both live in Felixstowe, and to have the expertise of somebody who has a decades worth of experience in this industry is priceless.
It has been a busy year, as well as working on the two contracted books, I also had a short story published in a horror anthology, entitled Twisted. Twisted became practically an overnight success, going straight into the charts and knocking Stephen King off the number 1 spot.
And as we say goodbye to 2016, I’m heading into the New Year excited about what 2017 will bring.
Exclusion Zone, The Hunger Within and Twisted are all on sale in both Kindle and paperback via amazon.co.uk.
On 26th April 2017, J.M Hewitt will be appearing at Ipswich County Library to talk about her novels and her publishing journey over the last year.