Author Interviews

“I would say my career has been a hymn to persistence”: Jojo Moyes talks to World of Books about Richard and Judy, her bucket-list, and newest novel – ‘Me Before You’

British novelist Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London. After a varied career including stints as a minicab controller, typist of Braille statements for blind people for NatWest, and brochure writer for Club 18-30, she completed a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University.

In 1992 she won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to attend the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at City University, and apart from 1994 when she worked in Hong Kong for the Sunday Morning Post, she worked at The Independent for ten years, including stints as Assistant news editor and Arts and Media Correspondent. Even today Jojo continues to write articles for The Daily Telegraph. In 2002, however, Jojo became a full-time novelist, when her first book, Sheltering Rain was published. Since then, she has become one of the only few authors to have won the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Romantic Novel of the Year Award twice – first in 2004 for Foreign Fruit and second in 2011 for The Last Letter From Your Lover. Jojo now lives on a farm in Essex with her husband and their three children.

JoJo Moyes

JoJo Moyes

Hi Jojo,

Since your newest novel, Me Before You, was released on January 5th this year we know you’re busy with promotional work (even recently being interviewed by Richard and Judy!), so we appreciate you chatting to us today.

Q: What is the average day in the life of Jojo Moyes?

– If I’m writing, I get up at 6, write for an hour or so, and then get the animals fed and the children off to school. I might ride my horse for half an hour, then muck out, and then I’m back to work until they get home. I tend to do admin in the evenings, when they’re in bed.

Q: Your new novel, Me Before You, was released on 5th January 2012. It tells the story of Lou Clark and Will Traynor, who meet one day and who change each other’s lives irrevocably forever. When we meet the two characters, Lou is working in a tea shop and is in a strained and loveless relationship, and Will is recovering from a motorcycle accident, that has broken not only his body, but his joy too. In your blog you say, “It is fair to say that even when starting it I knew the book would not be an “easy sell”. Books about quadriplegics tend not to be, especially when you throw in the words ‘carer’ and ‘Dignitas’. When I tried to describe the plot, people gave me the same look you give the woman who sings songs on the bus and tries to show you her socks”; what made you choose such a difficult subject area?

– I don’t really know. I can only say that experience has shown me that you can only write the book that you are burning to write, and that was the issue that wouldn’t leave my head. It was in the news, and in the newspapers, and it had that ‘what would I do?’ factor. Plus it had ordinary people dealing with extreme situations, which is always fascinating if you are a novelist. I am just glad that other people found it a compelling issue too.

Q: Have you had any feedback yet from people who are quadriplegics themselves, or their carers?

-Yes, and it has been overwhelmingly positive, which I must admit is a relief. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to feel that I was suggesting Will’s life wasn’t worth living. A few carers have said that the book gives an accurate representation of their lives, which is very gratifying as I did a lot of research. But best are those who said they were glad that I had created a properly sexy, compelling hero – who just happens to be quadriplegic.

Q: What have been the biggest influences of your career?

– Influences? That’s a hard one. My parents taught me the value of hard work, and I would say my career has been a hymn to persistence. But I’m friends with lots of other writers, and their wisdom and encouragement is vital when you work alone. More recently, my career has been influenced by Penguin, my new publishers, and of course Richard and Judy, who have helped bring me a whole new audience.

Q: Now it’s got to be asked, what was it like meeting Richard and Judy? Does it feel surreal that your novels are now a topic on their show?

– I blogged about this, but they are exactly as you see them on screen. I have loved them for so long that meeting them in person was completely surreal. I could not be more delighted that they picked up this book. Their backing made it feel like it was a worthwhile book – and a legitimate topic.

Q: Throughout your career you have also written as a journalist. How different do you find the style of writing you adopt for newspaper articles compared to novels? Which do you prefer?

– I prefer writing books, just for the immense freedom you have. But I do enjoy writing odd bits of journalism; it’s refreshing to start and finish something on the same day, instead of knowing you’re in for a year or more…

Jojo Moyes - Hard at Work

Jojo Moyes – Hard at Work

Q: Three of your books, The Last Letter from your Lover (2010), The Peacock Emporium (2004) and Sheltering Rain (2002) tell stories of people who are looking back on and rediscovering the past. How important is the past for you in sculpting the person you have become?

– One of the things I find increasingly fascinating about it is the degree to which we all carry the past with us, even if we try to ignore it. I, like most people, am very much the product of my experiences. But without wanting to sound all New Age-y, you have to be able to create new paths and patterns for yourself too.

Q: Just to add a little stir, do you own a kindle? And how do you feel about them?

– I do have a kindle, although I was reluctant at first. I don’t use it every day (I do love proper books) but e-readers are pretty unbeatable when it comes to travelling.

Q: What top three things would be on your bucket list?

– Hmm. I’d like to ride with the Cadre Noir riding school. I’d like to scuba dive around the Great Barrier Reef. And I’d like to learn to sing properly. Will that do?

Q: And the one we ask everyone – World of Books is dedicated to providing good-quality second-hand books to the public. In a world with an ever-growing digital media base, and increasing environmental concerns, do you believe in the importance of giving each physical book the chance of a new home?

Absolutely. I am a great fan of second hand book shops. I hate the idea of anything going to waste.

Thank you for spending time with us today JoJo! And to our World of Book readers, make sure you get yourself a copy of Me Before You it’s well worth the read! And want to catch up on any of Jojo’s other books? Visit the World of Books site today and have a browse. Alternatively visit Jojo’s site here.

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