Crime Cymru has three main aims. – To support crime writers with a real and present relationship with Wales – To help in the development of new writing talent – To promote Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world.
2020, a year that brought us Covid 19, months during which many brilliant books have been produced but have struggled to be found by readers. Here is the list of books by our authors that have arrived this year or are in the pipeline: https://bit.ly/2Q2rqpA. I have read quite a few of them but have been remiss in writing reviews, so have set myself the task of catching up over the next few weeks
My fourth review is ofWilderness by B.E Jones.2020 saw its publication in paperback (already available as e-book and audio).
Two weeks, 1500 miles and three opportunities for her husband to save his own life. It isn’t about his survival – it’s about hers. Shattered by the discovery of her husband’s affair, Liv knows they need to leave the chaos of New York to try and save their marriage. Maybe the road trip they’d always planned, exploring America’s national parks – just the two of them – would help heal the wounds. But what Liv hasn’t told her husband is that she has set him three challenges on their trip – three opportunities to prove he’s really sorry and worthy of her forgiveness. If he fails? Well, it’s dangerous out there. There are so many ways to die in the wilderness; accidents happen all the time. And if it’s easy to die, then it’s also easy to kill.
I readWildernessquite a while ago and it’s a book that has lingered in my mind for all this time.
I try not to give spoilers in my reviews(and, here, the book description gives a quick run-down of the story anyway)so I tend to concentrate on what I liked about the make up of a book and the writing style of the author. And I have to say I loved B. E. Jones’ masterful command and stylish portrayal of the English language. This is a skilfully crafted psychological thriller; a story of juxtaposed timelines that, as a reader, swayed me one way and another in empathy with the main characters. Liv and Will, both rounded, both meticulouslydeveloped as the plot unfolds. And supported by a cast of well drawn minor characters.
As the protagonist, Liv tells the story. But from the start it is obvious that she is an unreliable narrator. Her judgement is flawed and erratic; she is ruled by self-doubt and mistrust of others, by her anger and hurt. Although portrayed as a meticulous planner of the journey, her reactions to the unexpected sometimes give the storyan unexpected slant.
Both the internal and spoken dialogue is well written and adds to the layers of all the characters.There is never any ambiguity as to who is speaking. And there is no ‘head hopping’ from minor characters (a pet hate of mine).
The descriptions of the settings bring each to life. From the immense skyscrapers and crowded streets of New York, where it is possible to feel both excluded and at one with the city, to the evocative images of America’s national parksthat are the background of so much of the actionon the road trip, the author manages to draw the reader into each scene. The sensation of being alongside Liz and Will travelling through so many remote areas and also having access to her thoughts and deliberations adds to the tension.
Wildernessis one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in a long time. Threaded throughout the plot are themes that reveal the characters’ strengths and weaknesses: love and hate, rage and revenge, betrayal and forgiveness. Packaged inside the powerful writing style of B E Jones, I have no hesitation in recommending Wilderness to any reader who enjoys a gripping, character-driven crime novel.
About the Author:
Beverley Jones is a former journalist and police press officer, now a novelist and general book obsessive. Bev was born in a small village in the South Wales valleys, north of Cardiff. She started her journalism career with Trinity Mirror newspapers, writing stories for The Rhondda Leader and The Western Mail, before becoming a broadcast journalist with BBC Wales Today TV news, based in Cardiff. She has worked on all aspects of crime reporting (as well as community news and features) producing stories and content for newspapers and live TV. Most recently Bev worked as a press officer for South Wales Police, dealing with the media and participating in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning. Perhaps unsurprisingly she channels these experiences of ‘true crime,’ and her insight into the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales. Her latest novel, Where She Went, is published by Little Brown under the name BE Jones. Visit Bev’s website at bevjoneswriting.co.uk, chat with her on Goodreads.co.uk under B E Jones or Beverley Jones and on Twitter @bevjoneswriting
Why Honno was a question I wanted to ask each of the following Honno authors when I started the interviews with them over the last few months.
I mean, I knew why I liked being published by Honno:
Honno is my kind of publisher; small, independent, and led by strong women who know what kind of books they want to publish and don’t accept anything but the best that an author can produce. So the editing is hard, but fair, and leads to many discussions – and a few compromises on both sides. Because it is known to be a Welsh press it is sometimes assumed that all its authors will be Welsh as well. So, often, when I’ve appeared at events, people are surprised to hear my broad Northern English accent. The supposition is false; Honno’s aim as an inspiring, feminist, Welsh press is to provide opportunities for women writers. The only proviso is that they are either Welsh, are living in Wales or have a connection to the country – which actually covers a great many writers. I love their strapline -. “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” So it always gives me a thrill when the manuscript I’ve been toiling over for months (or years!) is accepted by them.
I’ve had experience of having an agent, of being asked to conform to the commercial market; to fit in. And it wasn’t for me. As a creative writing tutor, I’ve spent the last couple of decades encouraging students to “write in their own voices”. So when the agent told me I needed to conform if I wanted to be published by one of the big publishing companies, I knew it wasn’t for me. This, after she’d placed me with a commercial editor who, not only wanted me to write in a different way, but also wanted me to write in a different genre.”The talent and skill as a writer is there but you need to be open to change.”, was the advice.
I took it; I changed from being a client with an agent ( who had, after all, accepted me on the strength of my first book) to seeking other outlets for my work.
I was lucky, I found Honno.
But, enough about me.
But, enough about me.
Honno’s mission is to publish Welsh women writers – for the purposes of submission to Honno this means that you must be a woman born in Wales or resident in Wales at the time of submission. Honno also publishes titles of exceptional interest to women within Wales from writers who may not meet the first two criteria i.e. that they are female and that they are of Welsh birth or residence.
I started each of the interviews with the statement:”My greatest support has come from the group of authors published by Honno. We’ve met up in real life on many occasions…”
That being said, the question all the Honno authors were glad to answer was: “What do you like most about being published by Honno, an indie press rather than one of the big publishing houses?”
To learn more about the authors and their books, please click on their names
“It’s a small press, which means it’s personal. Maybe famous sportsmen or ex-cabinet ministers can be lauded (promoted) to the skies by big publishers, but most of their less famous authors tend to be lost in a very impersonal ocean, with very little one-to-one attention. They are names on a spreadsheet. With Honno, you know the team and they know you. You feel far more valued, even if the big bucks aren’t there.
And there’s the fact that Honno is a Women’s Press, run by women, publishing women (as well as being Welsh, of course). It’s not an anti-man thing, but I grew up in the era of the rising tide of women’s lib, when women didn’t just sit around arguing their case but took really positive actions to prove themselves, such as setting up publishing companies like Virago. Unlike others, Honno is still going strong and flying the flag.”.
“The intimacy. The sense of being part of a family. Honno’s reputation as an independent press publishing writing exclusively by women appealed to my feminist heart from the start. And it felt like the right fit for my debut, with its connection to The Mabinogion and the legend of Blodeuwedd.
A small press may not have the financial resources available to bigger, mainstream houses; they do tend to have a broad vision. They’re less bureaucratic, more collaborative and if they believe in a project enough, will invest time, expertise and energy in it. This has certainly proved to be the case for me with Honno.”
“It feels like being part of a close-knit family. The small but dedicated and talented Honno team are accessible and supportive at all stages of the process, and it’s been lovely to become friends with so many of the other Honno authors. We’re a wonderful community, and although we’re scattered all over Wales and beyond, it’s particularly lovely when we get to meet up in person.“
“When I was writing ‘Not Thomas’ I knew exactly where I wanted to send it when I’d finished, and that was to Honno. I’d long admired their work and I loved the fact that they’re a female-only press and have a committee of women who decide what to publish. Added to that was my huge respect for Caroline Oakley, a Honno editor who had worked closely in a previous role for a number of years with (the aforementioned) Ian Rankin. I was absolutely delighted when I heard from Caroline that Honno were going to publish ‘Not Thomas’ and my whole experience of being part of the Honno family has been fantastic. All the staff and other authors are extremely supportive and go out of their way to make everyone welcome. I’m constantly recommending Honno to my female friends who are writers. It may be a small indie press but it commands huge respect and publishes wonderful books.”
“Ilove the team spirit which goes with being a Honno author. The other authors are so supportive of each other, and you really feel part of the gang. You get to know everyone who makes Honno work, and feel part of the enterprise, in a way which would surely be very difficult in a larger organisation. I was, and continue to be, overwhelmed at the generosity of everyone involved. It feels like a real joint-venture, which is a pleasure to be a part of.”
“I think with Honno, my forthcoming novel has found the perfect home with the UK’s longest-standing independent press that champions Welsh women and Welsh writing. I am proud that I now find myself among a list of authors I so admire.“
“First, the fact that I am published by a women’s press is a major achievement. I grew into my own identity reading books by Honno and other women’s presses, and I felt that there must be something really special about authors who are published by smaller presses who can’t afford to take a gamble in the way in a bigger publishing house could. I am in awe of my fellow Honno authors, and I really do feel honoured to be in their company. It is so great to have a good relationship with my editor, and the community of Honno authors is so supportive and helpful. It is a huge plus to not have to have an agent to get your work read. I could paper my wall with rejection slips and after a while it just wears you down. Then there’s that personal experience of being nurtured by an editor who really knows her stuff and is invested in making sure your work is the best it can be.
I think with Honno, the authors are all excellent, and that kind of sets a standard. It makes me strive to be better, to be worthy of the association. And it’s a feminist press, so what’s not to like?“
“I’m eternally grateful that I had the experience of being published by Honno before finding an agent and having a two-book deal with Orion. Having been through the process in the slightly less pressurised atmosphere of Honno, and learning the different stages of the editing process, gave me the confidence to feel I knew what I was doing – and even more importantly know that I had done it three times before so could do it again! That experience has been utterly invaluable. Honno also gave me time to develop as a writer and become more certain of who I was as an author.”
“The community of writers and the friendship that has come out of being published by Honno. Having the confidence that I’ll be taken seriously with the next book (though as with big publishing houses there’s no guarantee a book will be taken on). And going to the seaside whenever I go to talk to my editor.”
“The informality and camaraderie of an indie publisher suits me and my way of working. I’ve been a Honno author for fifteen years and everyone I’ve worked with there has been approachable, supportive, flexible and available. I’m extremely blessed to have Caroline Oakley as my editor. She ‘gets’ what I’m trying to achieve and nudges me, firmly but sympathetically, in the right direction. I couldn’t bear to hand ‘my babies’ over to people whom I didn’t know, trust and consider to be friends.”
“My association with Honno began with their anthology, Luminous and Forlorn, which included my short story, Lovey Dovey Cats Eyes. I like that they are real people, who treat their authors as real people, rather than as a means to an end. They respect your wishes, offer sound advice and editing and pull out all the stops to provide a really good quality product you can be proud of.“
“Being published by Honno is like going home. The first publisher of my fiction was The Women’s Press, where writers experienced warm support and a shared outlook on the politics of gender. At Honno there is a sense of solidarity such as one rarely finds in larger and more impersonal firms. Caroline’s editing skills are second to none and I have been grateful for her experience and insight.“
Submitting your work
Honno is always interested in receiving unsolicited manuscripts but currently does not intend to publish poetry, works for children, novellas or short story collections by a single author. Honno does publish full length works of fiction and non-fiction for adults (manuscripts of between 60,000 and 120,000 words).
Honno is open to all genres of fiction and is particularly interested in increasing the number of literary fiction, crime/thriller, commercial women’s fiction, science fiction and fantasy titles it publishes. Honno is also building a list of non-fiction works to include biography (untold tales of remarkable Welsh women, places and industries), memoir, nature and travel writing. For a good idea of the types of work Honno is interested in study the Books pages on this site and the Editor’s blog posts.
However, whatever kind of work you are submitting, please ensure that you meet Honno’s criteria (see ‘Submission guidelines’ below) BEFORE doing so.
Honno is keen to publish work that shows all sides of life in Wales, but will consider stories not set within Wales. Honno is a feminist publisher and that influences the kinds of work selected for publication.
During the Coronavirus crisis we are happy to take submissions by email. Please attach your covering letter and submission and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘submission – your name ‘ as the subject line.