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Hot Key to publish powerful narrative verse title on County Lines

Hot Key Books, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK, has acquired a stunning narrative verse novel about a boy groomed into working for criminals who run county lines operations – the nationwide problem where dealers in major cities supply drugs to towns and rural areas, often exploiting children and young people to do so.

Emma Matthewson, executive publisher, acquired world rights to Crossing the Line by Tia Fisher from Eve White at Eve White Literary Agency.

Aimed at a teen readership, Crossing the Line is the fictional account of a teenage boy groomed to work for county lines. Written in narrative verse, it is a powerful and hopeful account, inspired by the true story of a young man known to the author.

Crossing the Line has been authenticity-read by The Children’s Society, a nationwide children’s charity working to transform the hopes and happiness of young people facing abuse, exploitation and neglect. The charity, whose work includes services supporting children who have been groomed and coerced into crime, will also provide information on how to get help, in pages at the back of the book.

Tia Fisher has been a TV presenter, ESOL teacher and marketing manager. When not writing, she works as a children’s librarian near London, talking to young people about books and their own stories. Since childhood, Tia has been a writer, with poems appearing in The Rialto. Now she is completing an MA in Writing for Young People and those poems have coalesced into stories, resulting in Crossing the Line.

Tia Fisher commented, “I heard about county lines because my friend’s son was brave enough to tell me what happened to him. Erik’s story is a fiction, but it’s intended to show that this can happen to any child. I hope that Crossing the Line is a gripping read which might even help a future victim or their family.

Emma Matthewson added, “I am so proud to be publishing Tia’s debut novel. The widespread damage that county lines cause to young people and their families is so clear. Tia in her well-researched, immersive and powerful narrative shines a much-needed light on this sadly topical area.”

Claire Alldis, national programme manager for The Children’s Society’s Disrupting Exploitation Programme, which offers one-to-one support and works with organisations across the public and private sectors and community to change policies and systems to help protect young people, said:

“Exploitation of children into crimes like county lines drug dealing is a significant issue across the country and can affect any child in any community. It’s important that young people, families and everyone who encounters children in their lives understand the dangers, and while this is a work of fiction it offers real insight into how children are groomed and coerced by adult criminals. We welcomed the opportunity to offer feedback on the novel and highlight the importance of exploited young people being recognised as victims and getting vital support and protection.”

Crossing the Line will publish in paperback 30th March 2023.