By Pierangelly Del Rio
In the UK, crime fiction has become one of the best selling genres. Killings, gripping mysteries and complex detectives have captured millions of readers and TV enthusiasts.
Author and editor J.V. Baptie enters the world of literary crime with her debut novel, The Forgotten, a formidable murder mystery that has gathered rave reviews from popular writers ahead of its publication in June. J.V. Baptie, Jodie, achieved publishing success before graduating from a Creative Writing masters in Manchester Metropolitan University. She shared with Humanity Hallows her road to publication and more about the captivating and twisted world of The Forgotten.
Before conceiving the novel, Jodie’s short story WPC Mavis Hart, centred on the world of crime. Jodie’s passion for the crime genre is a result of reading and watching crime shows avidly.
“I also review crime thriller for my book blog on my website. Every time I’d think about a potential story it would naturally fit into this genre,” she says.
From her experience as writer and reader of crime fiction, Jodie tries to explain why the genre is so engaging and among one of the favourites of the public.
“Good crime fiction is addictive with a mystery that the reader gets to solve. It’s also relatable – we see crime everyday but rarely get to delve into them and see how they are solved.”
The Forgotten, to be released on the 13th of June, centres on newly-promoted but not welcome in CID, Detective Sergeant Helen Carter, who is tasked with investigating a murder in an old abandoned picture house. The case takes a chilling turn when the business card of an ex-cop is found at the scene. Helen must piece together the case before the bodies mount up around her, and before the killer strikes closer to home.
The novel, published by Crooked Cat Books, has been praised by bestselling authors such as Frances Di Plino, who called it a “fast-paced and gritty Tartan Noir. A Brilliant Debut”. Of the most captivating elements of The Forgotten is its setting: Edinburgh 1977 which emphasises the sense of mystery and intrigue. For Jodie, setting the novel in 1977 helped her to do more with the story.
“I also wanted to capture the change in the police force which is similar to what’s happening at the moment with the creation of Police Scotland. In the late seventies, Edinburgh was on the cusp of a massive drug problem and there was a huge amount of regeneration and slum clearances going on at the time, all of which I found really interesting.”
Not only does the setting and the tensions in Edinburgh make the story remarkable, but also its female protagonist, Helen Carter. In her short story, WPC Mavis Hart, Jodie also introduced an intriguing female protagonist, caught out in the middle of a complex mystery. Although crime fiction and thrillers have featured popular female characters such as Miss Marple and Lisbeth Salander to name a few, the truth is that crime fiction is still predominantly male. Jodie recognises there is not enough female representation in the genre: “I don’t think there is enough representation, although that’s starting to improve. I wanted to write something different and I’m not aware of any other author that’s written a crime novel with a female detective in a seventies Edinburgh.”
The choice of writing about female professionals instead of men was deliberate as Jodie explores the obstacles women experienced for the mere fact of being women.
“My novel explores the difficulties of being a female police officer at the time and life for women in general in the seventies. For example, the struggle to be taken seriously, the sexism, and the long-term impact of crime on people. I tried to write the novel that I’ve been wanting to read. I was bored of the expected detective.”
Helen Carter promises to be different from the detective figures we have read before. “Helen is strong but flawed,” Jodie explains. “She is good at her job but doesn’t quite have the confidence in herself to see that. She’s brave but frustrated and lonely.”
When she’s not writing crime novels, Jodie is an editor and actress who has appeared in a variety of children’s shows and plays. Jodie was also a student and mentions how her creative writing course impacted her writing.
“I worked with a talented bunch of writers who gave me useful feedback to develop it. The reading novels module allowed me to study a wide range of well-crafted novels and learn from them. We also had regular seminars with industry professionals. Of course, the regular tutorials with my tutor, Catherine Wilcox helped me to learn what worked and what didn’t.”
Writing The Forgotten took Jodie three years. She confesses the process of writing the novel was much different from writing WPC Mavis Hart.
“Writing a novel requires a lot more time and dedication. It took me three years to write this novel as opposed to a month for the short story. I had the chance to develop my characters and story more in a longer piece of work. In my novel, I was able to spent a lot more time developing my setting which is something I found extremely satisfying.”
Achieving publishing success at such a young age is something remarkable, and we had to ask how about the experience of getting her work recognised by the publishing industry. Jodie opens about the process, saying: “I developed my novel through the master’s course. Once my first draft was finished I took a break from working on the novel, then edited it again and sent it out to publishers that were open to un-agented manuscripts. (The writers and artists yearbook lists them.) I didn’t rush the process. Publishers expect a professionally edited and properly formatted submission, so it’s very important to get the manuscript right first.”
When asked what is the best writing advice she can think of, Jodie says: “Keep writing. Network and build your online profile and read. Take your time, join a writers group and learn from their feedback.”
J.V. Baptie’s The Forgotten will be released on the 13th of June and can be pre-ordered clicking here.