The Appeal writer Janice Hallett: ‘I wrote about bubble bath for 15 years’

The author of the bestselling whodunnit on co-writing a 2011 film about a pandemic, her love of suspense, and what Dickens has in common with Jackie Collins

Janice Hallett, 52, is the author of The Appeal, an ingenious whodunnit and a new take on the epistolary novel, composed of emails and texts. She studied English at UCL, screenwriting at Royal Holloway and co-wrote the film Retreat in 2011. She has worked as a journalist and in government communications for the Cabinet Office, Home Office and Department for International Development. The Appeal, which centres on an amateur drama group, is a runaway bestseller and has been shortlisted for Waterstones book of the year

You must have felt like a detective yourself when planning the plot – your book is so meticulously detailed…
I never plan a thing in advance – it takes the joy out of it. I drew up a blank page and wrote for about a year and then there was a lot of reverse engineering. I’d been working on an idea for a TV series but wasn’t getting anywhere. So when Cameron Roach, head of drama at Sky, who’d been mentoring me, suggested I write a novel, I wondered if I could focus on minor characters from the TV series and the emails between them.

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