Janet Ellis Publishes Her First Novel

Former Blue Peter presenter writes 'bodice-ripping thriller'


I Feel So Lucky To Live Here, says Janet Ellis

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We've seen her present Blue Peter, take part in celebrity singing competitions and tread the boards at local Tabard Theatre for cancer charity Maggie's, but at the age of sixty, actress/presenter and local resident Janet Ellis has written a novel.

The buzz around 'The Butcher's Hook' ( published by Two Roads, an imprint of John Murray) has been feverish since it was published a couple of weeks ago, with references according to one industry insider to 'early Sarah Waters'.

The novel tells the dark tale of a young girl set in 18th century London and has been described as 'a 'bodice-ripping thriller'.

Reviews have used phrases as 'a strange, unsettling story (The Times), "dark, weird and gloriously feminist (Elle UK); "a boldness rare in a first novel" (Mail on Sunday).

It is not exactly the sort of book people expected her to write. Indeed, the Ravenscourt Park resident, mum to three grown up children, one of whom is singer Sophie Ellis Bextor, and grandmother of four, originally submitted her debut manuscript under a pseudonym.

"It may not be the book people might have expected me to write but once I'd started telling my heroine, Anne Jaccob's story, she and I went to some unexpected places and I really enjoyed her company", she says.

She describes her novel as "a dark twisted love story full of surprises, sadness and humour."

The heroine, a nineteen-year old daughter of wealthy parents, Anne Jaccob lives in an uncaring household, with a sick mother and her younger brother dead. She falls for a butcher's apprentice, though her parents have already chosen a suitor. But the young heroine is determined to pursue her own happiness, even if it means bloodshed.....

Writing means more to her than anything else she does, "it's the most personal and the most important thing", she says and now that she has a two-book deal, she looks forward to describing herself as a novelist. When she was little she wrote all the time but then it got buried as other things in life took over.

She and husband John Leach have lived in the area for years. She grew up in an Army family and sent to seven schools. After getting married (she first met her husband when she was sixteen and married at 21,) she lived in St Margaret's.

When she had her three children, she felt it was time to settle in a place where they could walk to their day schools. Sophie and her sister Martha were educated at Godolphin and Latymer school while son Jack, a session drummer, went to Arts Educational in Chiswick.

Before she attempted the novel, radio and television work, projects with primary schools, her involvement on the Board of the Lyric Theatre, and her charity work left her with little time. She attended a creative writing course at Curtis Brown given by Erin Kelly, (The Poison Tree).

Janet has wanted to be an actress since she was a little girl. After drama school she worked in a variety of jobs, including as a receptionist at the Richmond and Twickenham Times newspaper and later at the Orange Tree theatre in Richmond .She got her big break in the early 1980s on BBC Children’s television show, Jigsaw, and became a household name as presenter on Blue Peter for four years from 1983-87.

You can hear Janet Ellis read an extract of her book on this podcast from Hodder Books.

March 1, 2016

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