Jojo Moyes is the bestselling author of no less than nine novels, with her latest work Me Before You riding high in the Sunday Times bestseller list and receiving rave reviews from the press. Me Before You is also one of eight books selected for the Spring 2012 Richard and Judy Bookclub. Acknowledging the phenomenal success of the book, Jojo says, ‘My previous eight books have barely snapped at the heels of the bestsellers’ lists, so the last few weeks have been overwhelming. Actually, it has felt a little like Christmas every day.’
Describing Me Before You, Jojo explains that this is a departure from her previous novels. ‘It is truly different to what I’ve written previously. It’s a love story about a woman who falls in love with a man who has decided he wants to die, and what happens when she tries to change his mind. It’s a very controversial subject and is a real weepie – possibly even more than my previous books – but it also has a lot of humour in it, which is a new thing for me. Every now and then you write a book which just writes itself, and this was one of those books for me.’
I asked Jojo about her writing career and how she got started. She revealed, ‘I’ve always written – as a child I filled piles of exercise books with stories about incredibly brave girls with ponies doing death-defying things. But I took it up professionally when I was working nights at The Independent and needed something useful to do with my days. It was that or shopping, and I didn’t have the money for shopping! My first novel Sheltering Rain was published in 2001.’
Jojo describes her writing style as, ‘emotional, heartfelt, and I’d really hope for intelligent. I try to write characters who are properly complex and I trust the readers to work out some things for themselves.’
Many of Jojo’s novels are set in different periods of history. I asked her what is it about history which inspires her and how she does her research, she told me,
‘I love that period of the late fifties and early sixties. I’ve written several books – Foreign Fruit, The Peacock Emporium and The Last Letter From Your Lover partly based in that time. I like it because you still have a lot of the restraint and inhibition of earlier times, which is so useful for fuelling plot, and really good for setting a love affair. Relationships are far more interesting for what stands between the two people, and there was so much stopping people getting together back then. It was also a time when the world teetered on the edge of a change – towards greater personal freedom and a more permissive society – and yet there were plenty of people who would take years to get there. I do my research a number of ways, but one of the most important is visiting the British Newspaper Library at Colindale. There I go through newspapers of the era and study them – the advertisements, the preoccupations, the stories. I bring home loads of copies and pin them all over my office; you find that the names, the language, and the feel of the era seeps into what you are writing. I love the television series Mad Men, which seems to illustrate a lot of these issues beautifully and subtly. It would be my dream to write for that show.’
In terms of what life is like as a writer, Jojo admits to enjoying some of the privileges of the job such as launch parties, award ceremonies and lunches in nice restaurants with editors and agents. ‘Believe me, when you spend the vast majority of your time alone in a room in your pyjama bottoms wrestling with things that only exist in your head, those events are really welcome!’
And finally, I asked her which book would she love to have written? ‘I think the first book I really envied was Behind The Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson. A perfect example of a great plot, cleverly told, a bunch of really original characters, and more than anything else the most amazing tone. More recently I also loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett.’
About the author
Jojo was born in London and lived there on and off until she was thirty. ‘I now live near a town called Saffron Walden on a farm in the middle of nowhere. I have three children, 13, 10 and 6 and we have two horses, two dogs and one cat. Before I was a writer I was a journalist for ten years, and before that my jobs included brochure writer for club 18-30 and typer of braille bank statements for blind people.’ She is currently finishing her tenth novel The Girl You Left Behind which we can look forward to reading in September.
You can say hi to Jojo on Twitter @jojomoyes or visit her website www.jojomoyes.com
Synopsis of Me Before You
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.