Creating a Fenland force

Words by:
Caroline Bingham
Featured in:
August 2011

Retirement has given Joy Ellis time to fulfil a journey from floristry to fiction and Fenland has been the inspiration for her crime thrillers.
For anyone familiar with south Lincolnshire it is not difficult to identify the inspiration for the location of Joy’s ‘Greenborough’ police force. There are the 360 degree skies, the open flat fields and the inky black night skies but the urban action is gritty and uncompromising. Her heroine, Nikki Galena, is a tough detective inspector who carries her own baggage of personal troubles, as well as tackling sinister local crime.

Joy grew up and lived in Kent, trained in floristry in Mayfair and ran her own highly successful floristry business in Weybridge for many years. The 1990s recession led her to withdraw from that business and she followed her lifelong love of books, firstly by working for WH Smith until finally managing an independent bookshop in Leatherhead, Surrey.

“I really enjoyed working in bookshops. I liked organising events and signings and introducing people to new writers; my own interest has always been focused on mysteries,” Joy explained.

Joy’s writing career began after she attended a course, along with Sue Townsend, at the Skyros Institute in the mid-nineties. “I had written some short stories before then, but they lacked structure and the course taught me how to build and develop characters and storylines across a greater breadth.”

Just before the turn of the millennium, Joy suffered a fall which finally prompted her retirement. Her partner, Jacqueline, had also recently retired from a long and successful career with Surrey Police and they planned to find a new home in Norfolk. Following advice from a friend they explored across the border and fell under the spell of the Lincolnshire Fens, settling in a village just outside Boston. “We love the large skies, the miles of fields where we can walk our two Springer spaniels and the mists and perfumes that rise at different times of the day. We have made so many friends and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else now.”

Joy’s contentment is far removed from the storylines in her books; she knows that authenticity is vital in any crime thriller and she is able to draw on Jacqueline’s inside knowledge, to confirm procedures and the reality of tackling brutal crime and criminals in a modern police force.

Joy has written eleven books to date but her breakthrough only came five years ago when she was able to secure an agent and Robert Hale as her publisher. Writing is a time-intensive profession and accurate research and reading of drafts takes many months. It can then take up to another two years to actually have the printed book ready for sale. So it was in 2010 that her first hardback book, ‘Mask Wars’, appeared. A sequel, ‘Shadowbreaker’, will be published next month with a launch at her old bookshop in Leatherhead. Nikki Galena has to get the whole team on side to solve the crime and save her fragile career.

“Mask Wars has had some very positive reviews on Amazon and the crime writers website, Mystery Women,” Joy continued. “People locally, when I have held signings and been at events, have been so encouraging.

“I would rather write than promote my books but it is part of what you have to do to get your books sold these days.”

Joy has spotted a trend in fiction of topics crossing genre and has a work in progress that combines mystery with a twist of the paranormal. Time will tell if Joy is nurturing a bestseller.

Locally you can buy ‘Mask Wars’ from all good bookshops as well as the Stump and Fydell House in Boston and from Amazon online.

The books are also available by post from the Lincolnshire Shop at

For further information about Joy Ellis and her writing visit:

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