In 2019, HQ ran a competition with Gransnet to discover writers over the age of 40 who were writing about characters of a similar age. The winner of this competition was Jane Bettany’s gripping crime thriller, In Cold Blood, which publishes August 27th this year!
We asked Jane what winning the Gransnet HQ Prize means to her.
When Kate Mills from HQ rang to tell me that I’d won the Gransnet HQ novel competition, I was completely bowled over. I confess, I even did a happy dance when the call had ended.
Writing my first novel had been a leap of faith. I began in January 2019, eager to make a start and determined to maintain that same level of enthusiasm through to the very last chapter. I had no way of knowing whether the book I was writing would be any good, but regardless of whether it succeeded or failed, it was a story I felt I had to tell. I’d written plenty of short stories over the years, but never anything longer than a few thousand words. For me, writing an 85,000 word novel was the literary equivalent of running a marathon. I was more of a quick sprint-around-the-block writer.
I went ahead anyway and quickly realised that the novel writing process didn’t have to be a marathon. I didn’t need to write the whole thing in one long stint. Short, daily writing sprints worked equally well. I kept going. Kept on writing.
I’m lucky enough to live in Derbyshire – a county that offers a huge range of events for writers. The Derby Book Festival brings a host of inspiring authors to the city every year, and there are regular writing workshops and festivals at QUAD, the city’s cultural hub. Derbyshire is also home to many experienced crime novelists, who pitch in at local events to share their expertise with new writers.
Before starting my novel, I went along to a crime writing workshop in Bakewell, run by Derbyshire crime author Sarah Ward. Her advice, support and encouragement definitely put me on the right path and made me even more determined to crack on.
I was about half way through the first draft when I heard about the Gransnet HQ novel competition, which was aimed at women writers over the age of 40 whose stories also featured a leading character aged 40 or more. I decided to enter. At 56, I had no trouble meeting the age criteria, and I liked the idea of being published by a company that was actively looking for novels with middle-aged or older women as the main protagonist. I think it’s important for older females to be portrayed accurately and more frequently in fiction. Women of my age are waiting longer to receive our state pensions than previous generations and, consequently, I think we have developed a different mindset. Women are working longer, taking better care of their health and fitness, and are using the latest technologies both at work and at home. No-one wants to read about stereotypical female fictional characters. The days of women pottering around the house wearing slippers and a housecoat are long gone – if they ever existed in the first place.
The main character in my novel is DI Imogen Blood. She is 56, good at her job and physically fit. She does occasionally have nostalgic yearnings for things from the past (things that are gone for good), but she also embraces new opportunities and technologies, especially if they can help her solve crimes.
Writing my first novel was a challenge, but an enjoyable one. Deciding to enter the Gransnet HQ novel competition and working towards the entry deadline motivated me to finish the book. I’m delighted and very proud to be the Gransnet HQ winner. It’s wonderful to know that the judges enjoyed reading my novel. I’m now looking forward to working with an HQ editor in the new year and seeing the book published.
Discover In Cold Blood for yourself here.