J.J Ellis’ debut novel, The Flower Arranger, is published by Agora Books on 26 September 2019 in ebook and 5 October 2019 in paperback.
Today J.J. kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Flower Arranger.
It’s a crime thriller set in Japan – pairing twin protagonists with very different ways of working. Holly Blain is a young British journalist writing teenage Kawaii fashion stories on a Tokyo newspaper, but desperate to get on the crime beat. Inspector Tetsu Tanaka is a methodical detective with the city’s police. When teenage foreign girls start disappearing from fashion shops, the two find the only way to crack the case is to work together, but that leads them both into life or death situations.
2. What inspired the book?
My daughter won a trip to Tokyo by singing in Japanese at a London convention some ten years ago – and as she was under eighteen, she needed a chaperone, which was me. Japan is just so different – it’s a real culture shock. Then later she went out to work there, I began forming ideas for the book, and visited for research. We went in cherry blossom season – which is so important in Japanese culture – and I decided that flowers would be an interesting theme for the book.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
Definitely a planner. I’ll usually start with some thought balloons and diagrams – and from that work up a chapter plan. So I have a clear idea where the book should be going and what should happen at each point – but I often go ‘off-piste’!
4. Is there anything about the process of creating a novel which surprised you?
I don’t think so, no – because like many other would-be writers, I’d written other full-length manuscripts before my debut that ended up in the bottom drawer, or didn’t find a publisher for various reasons. I suppose when you set out it seems a huge, insurmountable task. But you just have to keep chipping away at the word count and eventually you get there.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
At the moment, writing seems to fill my life one way or another. If I’m not actually typing down the words, then I’m researching or thinking up ideas for the next novel. I think it’s something you have to fully immerse yourself in.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
I really enjoy Victoria Hislop’s novels set in Greece. My particular favourite is Cartes Postales – it’s just so evocative of a country I love.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
The question might be something like: “If you had a time machine, what do to change about your life so far?” My answer would be to try to persuade my parents not to send me away to boarding school at an unfeasibly young age – it was a miserable time!
About the book
And now he knew what was wrong with the arrangement. It was the Ma… the negative space… There was only one thing beautiful enough to fill it and — finally — she was with him. Ready, if not willing, to play her role.
Holly Blain wants to cover real news. The entertainment beat — pop stars and teen trends — was not why she moved to Tokyo. When she meets Inspector Tetsu Tanaka, head of Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police’s Gaikoku-jin unit, it might just be her big break.
Tanaka isn’t so sure. Always one to do things by the book, he’s hesitant about bringing this headstrong reporter into his carefully controlled investigation.
But young women keep disappearing and Tanaka is given no choice. He and Blain must trust each other if they are to stop a tormented killer from bringing his twisted plan to its shocking conclusion.
About the author
JJ Ellis was born and raised in Yorkshire in northern England although now lives near London. The author’s interest in Japan was sparked when a family member won a trip there by singing in Japanese at an exhibition in the UK. Several visits followed — to Tokyo and further flung places such as Ishigaki and Iriomote — as Ellis developed the idea for The Flower Arranger. Two more crime novels featuring the team of Tanaka and Blain are planned.
The Flower Arranger is JJ Ellis’ first novel.
*I was asked to host this Q&A to help promote The Flower Arranger. I received a copy of the book but did not receive any other payment for doing so*