ShortBookandScribes – Q&As with Joy Ellis, Author of The Patient Man and Jasper Joffe of Joffe Books, Ahead of the British Book Awards
I’m delighted to welcome Joy Ellis and Jasper Joffe to my blog today. Jasper is the founder of Joffe Books which has been shortlisted for the British Book Awards 2021 in the Independent Publisher of the Year category. Joffe Books are also the publisher of Joy Ellis whose book, The Patient Man, has been shortlisted in the Book of the Year: Crime and Thriller category. Congratulations to them both.
Joy and Jasper have very kindly answered some of my questions ahead of the awards which will take place in exactly two weeks’ time on 13th May.
Serial killer Alistair Ashcroft is back and more terrifying than ever.
He sends a sinister warning to DS Marie Evans and breaks into DI Rowan Jackman’s uneasy domestic bliss.
Now everyone Jackman cares about is in danger. Yet for all Ashcroft’s taunts, he is nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, a seemingly routine break-in at the home of gun-club owner Kenneth Harcourt becomes complicated when the man long held responsible for killing Harcourt’s young daughter is shot dead in a car park by a sniper.
A killer is on the loose in the quiet streets of Saltern-le-Fen, and he isn’t going to stop. And the sniper, like Ashcroft, takes to taunting the police: they’ll never catch him, they need to respect him, they shouldn’t be sidetracked looking for their old adversary.
Jackman and Evans find themselves in a lethal game of cat-and-mouse, but are they the cats or the mice?
1. First of all, congratulations on being shortlisted for the British Book Awards under the Crime/Thriller Book of the Year category for The Patient Man. How does it feel?
Thank you so much! Frankly I feel overwhelmed! The line-up is breath-taking and to find myself in the company of such icons of the crime writing world is simply surreal. It’s a dream come true and it’s hard to put feelings like that into words.
2. You’re the only author from an independent publisher on that list. What an achievement for you and Joffe Books! Jasper Joffe was so impressed by your work that he had to track you down and sign you up. What have been your experiences of being published by Joffe?
From the moment I first spoke to Jasper Joffe I knew it was going to be the start of something good. From the way he spoke I knew that he was passionate about books and publishing, and I liked him immediately. Even so, I had no idea just how successful the books would become! I consider myself the luckiest writer on earth to have joined the Joffe team as one of their authors. It’s a pleasure and a privilege.
3. You’ve been on quite a journey from florist to bookshop manager to bestselling author. Did you ever imagine that this would be the route your life would take? If you weren’t a writer now what do you think you would be doing?
I was determined to become a published author, but no, never in my wildest dreams did I think my life would go the route of writing full time! If I didn’t have this I would be quietly retired, enjoying spending time with my partner and our dogs, gardening, painting, (as I’m a pastel artist), reading and always looking for a project of some kind! And wishing I was writing!
4. Could you tell me a little about The Patient Man and where the idea for the book came from?
The Patient Man is Book 6 in the DI Jackman and DS Marie Evans series. It is set in the Fenlands (where I live) and is about the return of ‘the one that got away’; a serial killer who escaped Jackman and Marie in an early book. Now he is back, and he has his sights set on destroying them. This book was always on the cards, as I introduced the deadly Alistair Ashcroft in Book 4, The Guilty Ones, where he managed to evade capture, then I left him in the background throughout Book 5, then brought him back with a vengeance in this one. Quite literally!
5. The Patient Man is book six in your popular Jackman & Evans series. Do you find it easy or difficult to write a series and to continue to think up stories for your returning characters?
I like writing a series. I have three running at present, (Jackman, and The Fen Series with DI Nikki Galena, and the Matt Ballard Books) and really enjoy moving from one set of characters to the others. As they are all set in different divisions of the same Fenland Constabulary, they use the same forensic teams, Home Office pathologist, Force psychologists and several other characters. This gives continuity across the books and readers seem to like these crossover characters. Yes, finding new and original stories with different crimes and motives isn’t easy, but I haven’t run out yet!
6. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I enjoy the research very much indeed, and I do spend a lot of time on it, frequently getting side-tracked by fascinating trivia as I go. My favourite research so far was on Urban Explorers and the incredible ‘decay’ photography that comes from exploring abandoned places. (used in They Disappeared and Guide Star). It’s so important to get things right, it honestly pays to do that research thoroughly, or some eagle-eyed reader will spot any oversight or inaccuracy, and good for them, if I’ve messed up, I’m happy to know about it. We want our books to be as good as they can be!
7. And related to that, do you plot your book meticulously before you start or wing it and see how it comes together?
Simple answer here, I’m an organic writer… I sow seeds and watch to see what comes up, or as you put it, I wing it! If I plan it meticulously, the characters always hijack my plans and go their own sweet way, so I just start with a basic idea and run with it.
8. Tell me about your writing day. Where do you write and do you have a daily routine?
I’m best at writing very early in the morning. I like to be at my desk around 6am-7am as I can think clearly then. Sadly life gets in the way of that, especially when you have four energetic dogs. Mornings are by far the best for me, but as we get to early afternoon my brain turns to porridge, and many times I’ve been found head first, fast asleep in the keyboard! Oddly I come alive again around nine at night and often start again. I have an office upstairs in our house, and an overflow home office pod in the garden, as writing can generate a whole lot of paperwork, research and books.
9. Do you have time to read and if so what kind of books do you enjoy?
Sadly reading, that was my main love, has become an almost unreachable luxury these days. I have to content myself with audiobooks whilst I tackle the ironing or other household chores. Actually I love audios, and they allow me to access books that I might never actually read, like some of the classics. I’ve been binge-listening Dickens recently and some Chekhov plays, although now I’m listening to John Le Carre’s George Smiley Radio Dramas. But for books, it has to be crime first, every time, then mystery, thriller and sometimes even paranormal.
10. What are you planning to write next? Is it another in the Jackman & Evans series?
I’m halfway through Book 25 at present. A DI Nikki Galena in the Fen Series. I’ve already written another Matt Ballard, and another Jackman and Evans, and they are in the editing process at present… so yes, more to come!
Thank you for your interest, it’s much appreciated.
Joy grew up and lived in Kent, trained in floristry in Mayfair and ran her own highly successful floristry business in Weybridge for many years. Following the recession in 1991, her business, along with many others, folded to the pressures of supermarkets and, after a period of living practically out of the back of her car, in the mid-1990s, she followed her lifelong love of books, becoming the manager of an independent bookshop in Leatherhead, Surrey, and later a writer. When she retired, Joy and her partner, Jacqueline (a highly decorated police officer), and their two spaniels settled in a village just outside Boston, captivated by the Lincolnshire Fens.
Joy’s love of writing starting in the mid-90s, when she took part in a writing retreat run by Sue Townsend, but it wasn’t until much later that she’d put pen to paper. After the prerequisite series of rejections, Joy signed with publisher Robert Hale, but it was not initially the success story she hoped. Years later, Jasper Joffe of Joffe Books, stumbled upon Joy’s writing quite by chance, hooked in by her book The Murderer’s Son. He tried to track her down, but her books had gone out of print, she wasn’t on social media, and there were no contact details on the publisher’s website. Joffe thus reached out to Ellis through a local Lincolnshire paper, and since signing with Joffe Books, Joy is now a multi-million copy selling author, a No. 1 Amazon bestseller, and now, a British Book Awards shortlisted author – a true testament to never giving up.
With Jasper Joffe
1. Congratulations on the British Book Awards double award nomination in the categories of Independent Publisher of the Year and the Crime/Thriller Book of the Year for The Patient Man by Joy Ellis. How does it feel to be recognised in this way?
Thank you very much. I’m very, very proud for Joy and our whole company. It feels amazing to see her brilliant books in that stellar company. She and Joffe Books have come so far together and we just want to keep going. Joy is so talented and works so hard and is such a very nice person, so I am beaming every time I think of her being recognised like this.
2. Could you tell me a little about why you decided to set up Joffe Books? What was your vision when you started out and why did you decide to take the self-described “holistic” approach to publishing?
I’ve always loved reading and books in general. When I was a teenager I used to collect modern first editions and I’ve read every night of my life since I was about six. My mum was also a proofreader for a while. So it seems obvious now. But actually one of the first books we published was an unsuccessful Mills & Boon that she and my sister Emily had written. I love the way that new publishing models are so open and democratic in that anyone can publish a book. Because I’d been an artist and had also done a bit of marketing, when we first started, I could handle all aspects of publishing a book. And this DIY/can-do attitude became our holistic approach as we grew to be one of the largest indy publishers in the UK. Everyone seeing the whole book, from editorial to marketing to getting it in the hands of the reader, means everything about a book can be got right (or as good as possible). And that thinking means we are all committed to getting a book in the hands of as many happy readers as possible. I also think this way is more fun. We all see what we’re making!
3. I understand that you were so keen to sign Joy Ellis that you had to go to some lengths to track her down. What was it about her writing that made you want to sign her up?
Yes, I tracked her down detective-like from clues in a local paper! Joy tells brilliant stories. That’s what I am always looking for. She draws you into the tale. And it’s a very rare skill to be able to construct such enthralling, complex books. Her characters share the same empathy that Joy has, so people really love them (not the murderers obviously!). You put these things together, add a touch of magic, and you get the inimitable Joy Ellis!
4. How has Joffe Books fared during the Covid-19 pandemic? Has being a primarily digital publisher helped you to weather the storm? I understand sales are up by 28% on the previous year, which is fantastic.
It’s been such a hard time for so many, but books are a real solace for people stuck at home. I am so proud of our team, who went from the office to working from home with one day’s notice! And we have really increased the number of books we publish and sell, and our staff. So our little world has weathered the storm well, thankfully.
5. Do you have time to read and if so what kind of books do you enjoy?
I read non-stop. Before I go to sleep, and then usually at 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.! I love fiction mainly. I still have that childish desire to find out what happened. And this includes anything from literary fiction to crime thrillers to biographies. The last three books I read were: Philip Roth, The Biography by Blake Bailey; New Yorkers, A City and Its People in Our Time by Craig Taylor; and Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu.
6. Joffe Books is going from strength to strength with each passing year. What do you think the future holds for you and the publishing house?
I am really enjoying growing with our authors. I love the way we now have a whole team of people working here. I want to nurture our talent and keep innovating, as well as finding brilliant new authors while building huge careers for our current authors. I am particularly excited about a competition we’re launching to find authors from under-represented backgrounds. There are so many amazing talents out there to discover. I think publishing has a brilliant future if we can stay flexible and open-minded.
Joffe Books was founded by Jasper Joffe in 2014. Disillusioned by the art world, Jasper turned to publishing when he found an old Mills & Boon-style manuscript, written by his mother but never accepted. He decided to go ahead and release it.
And so, Joffe Books was born.
In 2018, Jasper was named one of the Bookseller’s rising stars in the publishing world, and now, three years later, the publisher has made the shortlist for the British Book Awards.
Joffe Books is a publisher of commercial fiction, specialising in crime, mystery and psychological thrillers. They are open to submissions from authors and literary agents but also look for overlooked, forgotten or out-of-print authors, such as Faith Martin https://www.joffebooks.com/faith-martin and Joy Ellis https://www.joffebooks.com/joy-ellis.