Lockdown Fiction is a blog series, curated specially for our States 2021 festival. We’ve asked 4 authors to reflect on the experience of bringing out a book with an indie press in the middle of a pandemic.

We continue with indie author Jonathon Wilkins, whose debut novel, Poppy Flowers at the Front, came out just as the first UK lockdown took hold in March 2020.

I am often moved to tears when I see newsreel, films or read about the First World War period. Since 2014 I have been working on my own novel to show what life was like in those days. Among other sources I was inspired by Evadne Price’s 1930 book “Not so Quiet … Stepdaughters of War”, based on the diaries of an ambulance driver behind the front line. Similarly I wanted to show how women contributed to the war effort and I wanted my book to be as realistic as possible. In addition, I introduced the theme of two women falling in love and made my story a crime novel. 

Once I had written my novel, by happenchance, I met an old colleague Phil Tew, at DMU’s Cultural Exchanges festival in 2018. He worked with Brigand Press and they agreed to take my novel on an assisted publishing basis. Poppy Flowers at the Front was published by Brigand Press on March 23rd, last year. A time of celebration and wine filled launches you would assume. But no. It came on the very first day of the very first national Covid 19 lockdown. So that put paid to almost a dozen events that I had arranged in various parts of the country.

Credit: Jonathon Wilkins

During that lockdown period, self-doubt set in. I re-wrote my novel changing the point of view and then put it out for a Blog tour where over a dozen bloggers reviewed it and were universally positive. I started to get some mentoring from the wonderful Tana Collins, author of the excellent Inspector Jim Carruthers series and refined my work further. I am now self-publishing this novel and hope to see the revitalised title taking off.

Writing crime is such a pleasure as you can meet so many evil characters who brighten up the page. It is true that your characters lead the way and Poppy and Élodie run a fine race with me chasing behind. My novels show the true spirit of the post war woman as she evolves into the 1920s flapper and beyond. If you enjoy the writing of Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd and Frances Brody I think you will love Poppy.

To buy Poppy Flowers at the Front, follow this link. £10.99

Our next Lockdown Fiction Blog will feature Drew Gummerson and be published on Sat. 17th April 2021.

Don’t miss our related festival blog in which editor Farhana Shaikh reflects on Ten Years of Indie Publishing with Dahlia Books. This will be released on the day States 2021 goes live: Sat. 24th April. Book your FREE tickets here.