If you don’t ‘know’ Jojo (where have you been?) let me say firstly that, despite her name, she’s female (I overheard one of the staff in the Town Hall – an elderly man, who, to be fair, probably doesn’t read the kind of books she writes – discussing the fact that she was a woman, with a colleague. He was astonished! To him, I suppose, ‘Jo’ = male).
Anyway, if you haven’t heard of Jojo, she wrote the bestseller ‘Me Before You‘ – which has sold over 5 million copies and which I enjoyed and ooh – I’m so excited – has been made into a film*, due out next year!
Jojo has just published the sequel, ‘After You‘ which is on my birthday list for later this month…!
It was a really interesting interview and this is (some of) what I learned…
1. As part of her novel-writing process, Jojo spends about 3 months (THREE MONTHS!) working on her characters, so that she absolutely knows them inside out before she starts writing.
She applies the ‘kicking the dog’ test. If your character was walking down a street and they spotted someone kicking a dog, do you know what they would do? Would they cross the road, join in, stop the person… ? That’s how well you should know your characters. It made me think that, whenever I’ve tried to write something ‘longer’ and it’s fizzled out, it’s probably because I don’t know my characters well enough.
2. She wrote about 30,000 words of the new novel, with Louisa, the main character, as a paramedic before she realised it just wasn’t working (it was too dark!) and had to SCRAP it all! Aagh – although, she does have another character in the novel who’s a paramedic so I suppose all that work -and research – wasn’t completely wasted. But ouch!
3. When she wrote ‘Me Before You‘ she wasn’t under contract to write another book (which is a nice way of saying, her publishers had made no promises to publish anything else she wrote, although they’d agreed to ‘have a look at it’). No matter how successful you’ve been (and Jojo had had a few novels published by then), there’s always the danger of being ‘dropped’ by your publisher). But being in that position gave her a certain freedom. She could just write what she wanted to write.
4. Jojo is a former journalist and another point she made was that you can find ‘fifteen’ ideas for novels just from flicking through a newspaper (that’s how she got the idea for ‘Me Before You‘). I think that’s probably true – if you look hard enough. But getting the idea’s just the start, isn’t it? You’ve then got to DO something with it – plot, plan and WRITE!
Guess Who I Saw…?
Before we whizzed up in the two lifts that take you to the 78th floor (for some amazing views of London – you can see for 40 miles!), we went for lunch in a lovely Italian restaurant in Borough Market which, if you’ve never been (and I hadn’t) is amazing – a proper market, under the railway arches, full of foodie delights – and we came across a crowd, some paparazzi and barriers.. and the policeman standing nearby helpfully pointed out the actress, being filmed walking down the street was RENEE ZELLWEGER! (as in Bridget Jones!).
“Oooh, I love Renee Zellweger!” I said and the policeman replied, “She speaks very highly of you too!”
Yes, they were filming the third Bridget Jones film (also due out next year. I’m going to need a season ticket to the Odeon at this rate).
We got a bit closer and actually walked straight past her then -and we saw her later in a dressing gown. No sign of Colin Firth, unfortunately…! It was the highlight of my day, even better than being 72 floors up in Europe’s ‘fourth tallest building’ (hmm, has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it…)
Reader’s Digest 100 Word Short Story Competition
And finally… Reader’s Digest have launched their annual 100 word story competition. Free to enter and a top prize of £2000 this time BUT they’ve also introduced ‘voting’ for the top 3 stories..! Have a look and see what you think.