An ever escalating review of email, letters, and documents by two young lawyers at the behest of their supervisor, The Appeal tells the story of a small-town fundraising appeal for a little girl’s life-saving cancer treatment and all the machinations that go along with it.
“While the alpha family, leading lights of a community drama group, desperately try to raise funds any way they can, some members throw themselves into the campaign, while others harbor nagging suspicions,” says Janice Hallett, a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist, and government communications writer, and author The Appeal. “When a body is found, 15 suspects come under the spotlight.”
It’s an intriguing way to draw us into the small town theater group and the many assorted people involved.
“We approach the story in hindsight, from the point of view of two law students, set the task by their tutor to read correspondence pertinent to a legal case of appeal – because he believes the wrong person may have been convicted,” says Hallett, who was struggling with trying to get a succession of screenwriting ideas off the ground and decided to instead write her first novel.
“I wrote The Appeal with no expectations that it would ever be published, no deadline and no pressure,” she says. “If I’d thought more about it, I may well have decided against these formats. Ignorance was confidence in this case – it didn’t occur to me it wouldn’t work.”
And worked out it did. Her book has been named The #1 bestselling debut in the UK in 2021, An Apple Books 2021 Bestselling Crime & Thriller (UK) and an Amazon UK Editors’ Picks: Best Books of the Year, 2021.
Before she branched out into writing screenplays and mysteries (Hallett has a new mystery out next year titled The Twyford Code), she spent 15 years writing about bubble bath, mascara, sun cream, cologne, soap, and more.
“ I wrote about every beauty and personal care product on the shelves,” says Hallett. “I edited trade magazines for people who sell beauty products to the public – whether they work in high-end department stores or local drug stores. It’s a dynamic industry that blends science, art, psychology and creativity. I loved it for about 12 twelve years, but by 15 I fancied a change.”
As complex her book is, Hallett says she’s no planner when it comes to writing.
“You won’t find swathes of sticky notes or a dry-wipe board in my study,” she continues. “I set off, let the story evolve, and allow the characters to develop in an organic way. Planning everything beforehand would take all the joy and exploration out of the process for me. Years of screenwriting and playwriting have worked in my favor because you develop a sense of story, pace and timing. If there’s a potential downside, it’s that I never know what the story is about until I reach the end of the first draft. At that point I go back, make the beginning fit the end and put in all the glorious twists and details that make the story so rich and satisfying. I’m a reverse engineer.”