“I had 10 to 12 years of constant rejections from publishers, but I never gave up.”
These are the inspirational words of a 71 year-old crime author who has just celebrated reaching 1.5 million book sales - and being named Audible’s ‘breakthrough crime author of 2018’.
Joy Ellis’ latest novel Fire on the Fens has recently been published - making it the fifth novel in her Fens detective series. All her novels take inspiration from the ‘eerie’ landscape of the south Boston fens on a misty morning.
The novelist, who has been writing creatively since childhood, said she didn’t believe she would ever see one of her books published. But having now been told sales of her five Fens novels have reached 1.5 million in just two years, Joy is having to pinch herself.
“I couldn’t believe it, I was completely overwhelmed,” she said. “And I was even more surprised to learn that if you add the number of people of who have read the book’s pages on Kindle, you could double that figure.”
Indeed, Joy’s last five crime thrillers all reached the number one slot on the Amazon Kindle bestsellers chart.
All of her books feature the fictitious police force Fenland Constabulary - with Joy receiving invaluable help in the research from her partner Jacquie - a highly-decorated retired police officer.
Joy, who relocated from Surrey to a village just south of Boston 18 years ago, has previously had short stories published in magazines - but it wasn’t until she retired early in 2000 that she put her novel writing cap on.
“I began writing novels more seriously at this point, but had rejection after rejection,” she said. “So I just thought, I’ve got to work through this somehow and not give up. But it’s not easy. Thankfully I found an agent who really loved what I had written.”
Fire on the Fens follows detective Nikki Galena in a ‘cat-and-mouse battle with a killer’. The synopsis reads: “Someone is lighting fires. First they target homes and businesses, but then a body is found at one of the crime scenes. More fires are lit and now at each one a single person dies. But the victims have led spotless lives and apparently there’s no connection between them. Meanwhile, the town is facing a very peculiar threat from a group of sinister Satanists led by a charismatic businessman. Who is burning with anger, and can Nikki stop them before anyone else dies?”
Joy said she takes much of her inspiration for the macarbre mysteries from the landscape of the fens - which she regularly takes to with Jacquie and their three dogs.
“All of my novels are location driven,” she explained. “We go out for long walks with the dogs and I sometimes see an eerie spot on an early misty morning that inspires my imagination. I get an awful lot of good ideas just looking at the landscape around me.”
Another book of Joy’s, the first in a new crime series, is enjoying a different kind of success. Their Lost Daughters, featuring detective duo Jackman and Evans, has even been advertised on television - in a dramatisation featuring actor Richard Armitage, who narrates the audio book for Audible.
Audible says: “Their Lost Daughters is the first in an unmissable new series that has everyone at Audible HQ hooked. Performed by Richard Armitage, we join the CID team of the Lincolnshire Fens as they hunt a merciless and twisted killer responsible for a series of shocking disappearances and murders.”
Joy added: “It was just fantastic to see it on the television, especially with such a well-known actor as Richard Armitage narrating it. they invited me along to the shoot and it was just amazing to see this whole big film crew there just for my book - plus I got to hug Richard himself.”
Jasper Joffe, founder of Joffe Books, which has published Joy’s books, said: ”Joy’s a phenomenon. She is wonderful to work with and she’s always writing. It’s amazing how her books really strike a chord with readers and a million and a half sales is a testament to her hard work and dedication to writing brilliant mysteries. We’re proud to publish her.”
Fire on the Fens and Their Lost Daughters are both out now on Amazon, priced around £8-9 for the paperbacks.