Fiction Addiction
Book news and reviews with Bronwyn Sell and Christine Sheehy

Fiction Addiction: Q&A with author Jojo Moyes

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Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

In 2008, a 23-year-old England junior rugby player made headlines when he persuaded his parents to take him to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland for an assisted suicide.

Daniel James had been paralysed from the chest down following a scrum collapse 18 months earlier.

Novelist Jojo Moyes found herself intrigued by James' story.

"I couldn't believe any parents would agree to it," says Moyes.

"But the more I read up about it I also found myself wondering what I would do in the same position."

The story provided the inspiration for Moyes' latest novel Me Before You. Soon after Lou is made redundant from her much loved job as a waitress, she is offered a six month contract as a companion for Will, a former high-flying banker and adrenaline junkie left paralysed after a motorcycle accident. Will has lost the desire to live and Lou takes it upon herself to change his mind.

Their story is both funny and moving, as Moyes does not shy away from the practical realities and the raw emotion of Will's situation. Here, she talks about the issues at the heart of Me Before You and "cooking" up her next project.

Q: The book deals with sensitive issues like quality of life, disability rights and assisted suicide. What interested you about these topics?

A: Issues of quality of life are uppermost in my mind, because I have a relative who is unable to live without 24 hour care, and I wonder constantly what she would have chosen. Assisted suicide has been much in the news over here these last couple of years, and as the parent of a disabled child, I feel very strongly that a person's disability is the least interesting thing about them. I want people to take my son for what he is - smart, funny, bright and loving - and not see him through the prism of what he cannot do.

Q: Did writing the book alter your own views on these issues?

A: It certainly made me think about what life means - and perhaps made me a little braver. I kept hearing Will's words about really living - and as a result I have booked a scuba diving holiday for this summer - even though the prospect of it scares me silly!

Q: You've written nine novels in the last ten years. How do you go about planning and then writing a new book?

A: Novelists seem to fall into two distinct categories - those that plan and those that just see where it takes them. I am very much the former category. I try to 'cook' an idea for a few months before I start writing, then I try to flesh out the main characters, and then I write out a rough 'shape' of the novel, using huge whiteboards. Of course I tend to throw it all up into the air at least once.

Q: Where do you write and how do you get into the writing zone?

A: I write in all sorts of places; it's a legacy of my time as a journalist, where I could turn out copy in a hotel corridor. But I have a little office that I rent in my local town and that's my ideal place. I also love writing in bed, but it seems to be terrible for your back.

Q: What is your favourite book and why?

A: Oh what a difficult question to answer! I love To Kill A Mockingbird - it seems to offer up new layers every time you read it. I also love Kate Atkinson's Behind The Scenes At The Museum - that's the book that started me writing.

Q: What's your next writing project?

A: I'm working on a book called The Girl You Left Behind. It's an epic love story that begins in WW1 in occupied France and ends in the modern day. It's probably the biggest book I've ever attempted, and is pretty different from Me Before You.

Q: What are you reading now?

A: I've just finished Andrew Miller's Pure, which I thought was wonderful.

Have you read any of Jojo Moyes' books? Any favourites?


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