Episode 4

An accidental bestseller and the life-changing world of amateur drama with Janice Hallett

Janice Hallett is the author of three best-selling novels. Her debut, The Appeal, was awarded the CWA Debut Dagger of 2021. Her second novel, The Twyford Code, was named Crime & Thriller Book of the Year in the British Book Awards 2023. The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels was an instant Times and Sunday Times bestseller on its launch in January 2023. Janice is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist, and government communications writer. As a playwright and screenwriter, she penned the feminist Shakespearean stage comedy NetherBard and co-wrote the feature film Retreat. Today, we're discussing her festive novella returning to the world of her debut: The Christmas Appeal.

Our interview begins at  21:00

We've got a Substack publication now! On the last day of the month, we share recommendations for two things we reckon you should read/watch/listen to. The beauty of Substack is you can revisit all our old editions and comment on our episode updates to share your thoughts. Come say hi!

Caitlin has been shimmying away in Jersey Boys and hasn't had time to read much, so instead, Michelle is giving two recommendations for the week.

Michelle recommends: Strong Female Character by Fern Brady

This memoir is, at times, tough to read because it is unflinchingly honest. Fern was told she 'couldn't be autistic' because she had boyfriends and made eye contact – but this book explores the ways that being female has got in the way of an autism diagnosis and how understanding herself as autistic has helped her understand herself better.

Michelle recommends: The Schoolhouse by Sophie Ward

This literary thriller introduces us to Isobel – a woman who lives an isolated life and feels safe in her routines. When she gets a letter from an old teacher and a local schoolgirl goes missing, it sends her spiralling into the memories of a traumatic experience at an experimental school from the 1970s. The story dips between the present investigation in 1990 and Isobel's diary entries from 1975.

In this interview, we chat about:

  • Janice's almost accidental turn to book publishing after a decade of trying to get a screenwriting career off the ground – and how this inspired The Appeal's groundbreaking format
  • The joy of community theatre and how it's shaped Janice's life
  • How Janice plans and writes her novels
  • Revisiting the world of Lockwood for The Christmas Appeal
  • A little teaser for Janice's 2024 novel, The Examiner
  • How Janice feels about the success of her books after so many years of screenwriting

Books and other things mentioned:

Follow @janice.hallett on Instagram

The Christmas Appeal is available now. Thank you to Viper Books for sending us copies of the book to read in preparation for the interview.

Connect with us on Instagram: @betterwordspod

About the Podcast

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Better Words

About your hosts

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Caitlin Toohey

Hi, I'm Caitlin! I've been on bookstagram since 2016, a podcaster since 2017, and worked in publishing since 2019. So books and reading are my entire life. When I'm not reading, I like listening to Taylor Swift, watching sitcoms, and generally being a theatre kid.
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Michelle Gately

Hi, I'm Michelle! I'm an Aussie living in the UK, working as a bookseller at Waterstones. I'm obsessed with storytelling in all its forms – I spend as much time watching TV or listening to podcasts as I do reading. Other hobbies include bouldering, hiking and generally obsessing about my pug Percy.