J. M. Hewitt writes, one year on…

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JM Hewitt Exclusion Zone

One year ago, just after being accepted as a member of the CWA, I sat in an alfresco bar in Cal d’Or and wrote a piece for National Crime Reading Month, outlining my plans for the future.

I had recently completed a Holocaust-inspired novel entitled The Intelligence of Ravens, and at the end of the National Crime Reading Month blog post I made the following statement; ‘and now it is finished, waiting to fly out into the world. Originally marketed as historical fiction but now as a crime fiction novel, for surely if the Holocaust was to be recorded as anything, it would be as one of the greatest crimes in history.’


The following month, The Intelligence of Ravens won first prize in a pitch competition during BritCrime’s online summer festival. Evaluation of the manuscript followed, which contained feedback that would prove to be priceless. Ravens wasn’t a cut and dried crime fiction novel. It wasn’t a ‘whodunit’ or a mystery or a thriller. No matter what spin I put on it, Ravens was always going to be a sweeping epic of historical fiction.

It was time to stop messing around. It was time to sit down and write an actual crime fiction novel. I knew the rules and I had the tools, and I also had an idea that had been brewing for a while about a Chernobyl-based thriller. I even had my pitch; ‘what if terrible crimes were happening in a place where no law enforcement would go?’

While researching, I realised that the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was only nine months away. Was it possible to write and release a book in nine months? You know what – anything is possible if you want it bad enough.

There were pitfalls and stumbling blocks. For one, I didn’t even have a publisher. So as summer rolled into autumn I began sending out the half-written manuscript along with a promise that I could complete it by the end of 2015. On 16 November, Endeavour Press signed me up, giving me six weeks and a deadline of New Year’s Eve to write another 40,000 words.

So six months after my original National Crime Reading Month post I had a new, completed novel, a publishing contract and, as it turned out, a whole lot of support.

Hanging around the fringes of the crime fiction world had done me a favour and I found the generosity from established authors so heart-warming and encouraging. I formulated plans and called upon these people for help. I asked a few of my favourite crime writers if they would consider reading Exclusion Zone and provide cover quotes, and they all heartily said ‘yes’!

I asked the fabulous creator of www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk if she would like to do a cover reveal. My crime junkie friend went even further, cleverly revealing the cover over a week period to build excitement and momentum.

I was in Red Herrings (the CWA magazine), two local magazines, a newspaper, many blogs and I was a guest curator on BritCrime. To top it all off, one of my own quotes is being used on the back cover of a fantastic debut author’s book, (Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus, via the amazing publisher that is Orenda Books.) That’s how far my journey has taken me in such a short while, from seeking cover quotes to providing them!

Now, a year later, I’m writing this blog post for National Crime Reading Month again and I’m reflecting over the whirlwind that has been the last twelve months.

Last year, I spoke about my hopes and dreams. They have been met, in full, beyond my wildest expectations but despite this, my longing to remain in this world of crime continues to grow. My ambition has not been sated or dulled by Exclusion Zone’s success.

And I hope it never will be.

Exclusion Zone:



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