Jojo Moyes shocked at success

By Ingrid Tiriana


Jojo Moyes grew up in London and after stints as a mini-cab controller, braille typist and brochure writer, became a journalist, working for the Sunday Morning Post in Hong Kong and for The Independent for 10 years.

She has been a full-time novelist since 2002, when her first book, Sheltering Rain, was published. She lives on a farm in Essex with her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, and their three children.

The huge success of Me Before You, her ninth novel, came as a shock.

"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," she blogged. "Even when I finished it and Penguin bought it, I still felt anxious. There were brow-furrowed discussions about how best to pitch it. 'This may be the book that kills my career!' I would joke to friends."

Moyes couldn't have been more wrong. It is a huge hit.

Now working on another novel, she took time to share some insights into her life, her writing and her latest book.

HOW DO YOU DECIDE STORYLINES AND WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO DELVE INTO SUCH A SERIOUS SUBJECT?

I usually just get my ideas from people around me, or snippets of news or conversation. With Me Before You I heard a news story about a young man who had persuaded his parents to take him to Dignitas, and it just wouldn't leave my head. I couldn't understand what would make parents agree to help end their own child's life. And yet the more I read about the story, the more I realised these things are rarely clear-cut.

CAN WE EXPECT MORE OF THE SAME IN FUTURE?

I am interested in issue-led stories, so I'm sure there will be more of them in the future. Ultimately though, they're always just stories about people; what motivates them, the messes we get ourselves into.

WHY DID YOU THINK YOUR FANS MAY BE PUT OFF BY ME BEFORE YOU?

I really did worry; it was just such a dark subject. If you describe the book in the wrong way it sounds very gloomy and depressing. I was also worried that it was such a controversial subject. What has been amazing is that it seems to have touched a nerve in the right way; so many people have contacted me to say it really made them think about the issue in a new way.

WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THE RIGHTS OR NOT OF PEOPLE TO DECIDE HOW AND WHEN TO END THEIR LIVES IN SITUATIONS SUCH AS WILL'S?

I don't think you can make a blanket ruling to cover everyone. However, I have a relative whose life has been completely compromised by a terrible disease, and I find it very hard to believe that she would have wanted to end up in the state she is in. I think that I would like to be able to make my own choices. I hope I wouldn't want to end my life prematurely, but most of all I hope I never have to make that decision.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS GET OUT OF THE BOOK?

I hope it encourages people mostly to see beyond the disability to the person. Half of what makes Will's life unbearable is other people's attitudes, and I have seen this in my own life. Someone's disability should be the least important thing about them. I also hope that people try to open their minds and not judge people too harshly for the decisions they take.

One of the unexpected lovely things to have come out of this book is the number of people who have written to me telling me that it made them want to make the most of their own lives.

WAS IT DIFFICULT TO WRITE?

It was actually one of the easiest books I've ever written, oddly. I could see Will and Lou so clearly that it was often just a matter of putting them in different situations and seeing what happened. Writing the last few chapters was harrowing though. I cried a lot (and yes, I'm conscious that this makes me sound a bit odd ... ).

WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW PROJECT?

I've just finished the edits on a new book called The Girl You Left Behind, which will be out in the UK in September. It's very different to Me Before You, but hopefully still has a lot of emotion. It's a huge book that begins in Occupied France in 1916 and ends in the modern day, and it's about how a portrait of a young woman affects the lives of two couples over 100 years.

WERE YOU ALWAYS AN AVID READER?

I love reading; always have. My grandmother used to call me "bookworm". Right now my reading habits are insanely varied; on one hand I'm ploughing through the Game Of Thrones books, on the other the Hunger Games series. I've also recently got into thrillers; I just finished an amazing new book called The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood.

At the more "literary" end, I recently loved Andrew Miller's Pure.

DO YOU SEE BOOKS SIMPLY AS ENTERTAINMENT OR DO YOU HOPE WHAT YOU WRITE MAY SERVE A GREATER PURPOSE?

No, I really just try to write a good story; something that will entertain for a few hours. But I hope they have some characters who readers might be inspired by, rather than depressed by.

WHAT IS THE WRITING PROCESS FOR YOU - AN AVERAGE DAY IN THE LIFE OF JOJO MOYES?

I have three children and lots of animals, so any planned routine tends to get sidelined by things that happen each day. I try to write 1000 words a day at least five days a week; if I start to slip behind I get up at six and write for an hour before the children get up.

I also periodically take myself off to a hotel until I have unravelled whatever tangle I have written myself into. That always works.

I also have an office where I go at least twice a week. That stops me putting on the washing and cleaning kitchen cupboards as work avoidance ...

HOW DID YOU FEEL SENDING ME BEFORE YOU TO THE PUBLISHERS AND THEN AWAITING THE REVIEWS AND READER REACTION?

It was frightening, as I wrote it without a contract, and I wasn't sure anyone would want to pick it up. And I had a massive crisis of confidence at about 20,000 words. But it was just a book I felt I had to write. And Sophie Kinsella, who is a friend, had talked to me about it and convinced me I should carry on. And I trust her advice implicitly, so I carried on. And of course ... she was right. I think I owe her a big lunch ...

HOW DID YOU BECOME AN AUTHOR?

I actually wrote three books before I got one published, all of them while I was working full time at The Independent. I look back and I have no idea where I found the energy. Working on a newsdesk was quite stressful, and writing books was a bit of a stress reliever; but it did get a bit boring being rejected every couple of years. I was just convinced that eventually I could do it.

When I finally got a book contract, with book four, I was pregnant with my second child; so that was my excuse to focus on writing books full time.

TELL US THREE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW OR MAY BE SURPRISED TO LEARN

I can read braille; I own an ex racehorse called Brian and I was once serenaded by David Soul of Starsky and Hutch.

- Hamilton News

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