Guest Blogger ~ Joyce Woollcott

I’ve always been a reader, always. Even as a child when I look back, I remember particularly enjoying adventure and mystery. I grew up just outside Belfast and in those days, I couldn’t lose myself in social media so I lost myself in books. The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, anything I could get my hands on really. I think you can see the beginning of a trend.

I read the classics too of course, for school and pleasure, but I always enjoyed a good murder, just like my mum.

After graduating I came to Canada, got a job, married, raised a daughter and read. Michael Connelly, Lou Berney, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, P.D. James, and the like. I wrote while I still worked, as I suppose a lot of aspiring writers do, but only in a half-hearted way, feeling out of depth. When I took early retirement and could finally take the time, I enrolled in some night classes and learned how to format, what typeface and size to use. It was from those classes that I started to read my favourite books again and actually learn from them.

I started to paint too, somehow the idea of just writing seemed so foreign to me. Could a person write? I used to paint when I was younger and I thought I could fill my days doing both, and if the writing didn’t work out, well I could always fill my days painting …

Mist on River.
Early Fall
Loch Erne, N. Ireland.

I signed on for a summer workshop at The Humber School for Writers in Toronto and the next year was accepted into a year-long, on-line, post-grad class there with Canadian novelist Robert Rotenburg. This was the beginning of a journey to complete my first ever manuscript. Abducted.

I passed the year with a Letter of Distinction. Encouraged, I entered Abducted in the Arthur Ellis Awards Unpublished contest. I was long-listed in December 2018.

Spurred on by this, in February 2019 I entered the Daphne du Maurier Awards with my second novel, A Nice Place to Die. In May, 2019 I got a call from New York, telling me I was a finalist. On 24th July I watched the Awards via video link. I won the Daphne! This is for their largest group, Unpublished Mainstream Mystery/Suspense.

January 2020, I received notice that A Nice Place to Die made the long-list of the Arthur Ellis Awards, Unpublished, and finally in 2021, I made the short-list as a finalist in the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence.

As you can tell from this, my road to publication has been long. I was full of doubt and sought a backup plan, but in the end, writing took over and I was offered and signed off on a two-book contract in 2021. That contract is for A Nice Place to Die and the second book in the series Blood Relations. It’s been a lot of work but it’s been worth it and I do believe this is a process most writers have to go through. Yes of course there are debut novelists who hit the ground running, straight out of school or university or college, but I think this is the exception not the rule. We need to read, we need to write and we need to learn. This takes time and determination. Take courses, ask for help, seek out critique partners and readers. And listen to the criticism, because it will come. And when all that is done, submit your work. And good luck!

A Nice Place To Die

The body of a young woman is found by a river outside Belfast and Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride makes a heart-wrenching discovery at the scene, a discovery he chooses to hide even though it could cost him the investigation – and his career.

The victim was a loner but well-liked. Why would someone want to harm her? And is her murder connected to a rapist who’s stalking the local pubs? As Ryan untangles a web of deception and lies, his suspects die one by one, leading him to a dangerous family secret and a murderer who will stop at nothing to keep it.

And still he harbors his secret …

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J. Woollcott is a Canadian writer born in Northern Ireland. She is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers and BCAD, University of Ulster. Her first mystery, Abducted, was long-listed in the Canadian Arthur Ellis Awards in 2019. Her second book, A Nice Place to Die, won the RWA Unpublished Mystery/Suspense Daphne du Maurier Award in 2019 in New York. A Nice Place to Die was also long-listed in the Arthur Ellis Awards for 2020 and short-listed in the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence in 2021. She is working on part two of the Ryan McBride Belfast Murder Series, Blood Relations, due out in August 2023.

She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers,  and the Suncoast Writers Guild.


Twitter: @JoyceWoollcott

4 thoughts on “Guest Blogger ~ Joyce Woollcott

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. This kind of post encourages many and reminds some of us of our long journey. Your backup plan looks pretty good too–you are obviously multitalented.


  2. Such an interesting journey, Joyce. And, yet, you are right. We all need to put in our time and our dues. Success at writing seems to always be earned. Congratulations on your awards, too. Very exciting.


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