This time ten years ago I was probably reading through the proofs of my book LOOKING FOR JJ, which was to be published in the following January (2004). This was my seventeenth novel and truthfully speaking I hadn’t made much of a splash before then. LOOKING FOR JJ was to change that. It found a wide audience and won prizes and sold lots and was made into a play. I list these things lightly but it was the most fantastic experience. To have one’s work taken seriously and yet to find it had a mainstream appeal. Things couldn’t have been better. The result of this meant that I was able to write the kind of books I liked, crime fiction for teenagers.
Many people at the time asked me if I would write a sequel and I said an uncompromising NO. It was a book that people liked, I thought, why spoil it by doing a follow up that people would probably say wasn’t as good as the first one? Why do that?
Years passed and still, whenever I went to schools or met people at events, their first comment or question was about LOOKING FOR JJ. It was wonderful for a book to be still read and enjoyed even though it had been published so long ago.
Some years ago I began writing a four book series called THE MURDER NOTEBOOKS. This was a long project, a real joy for a writer. A crime story that unfolds slowly (too slowly for some) over four books. A series that raises the question, in a number of ways, 'Can murder ever be justified?' After I’d finished this I felt pretty wrung out and looked for a comfortable place to rest for a while.
I began to think again about LOOKING FOR JJ. I’d just read The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier and the sequel, written TEN years later, Beyond the Chocolate War. I’d been blown away by these books (how was it that I had never read them?). I also noted that Robert Cormier had allowed a ten year break between the two books. Ten years is enough time to stand back from the thrill, the feeling of invincibility that came about with the success of the first book. Ten years is enough time to feel humble again, uncertain. Can I do this? Can I take this character and write about her again?
Other things happened. A high profile case of a child who had killed another child had broken down and the offender had been returned to prison. It made me start thinking about Kate Rickman, the new name that Jennifer Jones had taken at the end of LOOKING FOR JJ. She was at
. Would her
life be smooth? Or would she be destined to fail whatever she did? The new book
is called FINDING JENNIFER JONES and is published next February by HOTKEY. Exeter
And many thanks to SCHOLASTIC, the original publishers, for giving me a lovely new cover to celebrate ten years since original publication.