Jojo Moyes, The Shard.. and I spot a STAR!

Bonnie in the leaves

Bonnie in the leaves

I whizzed back to Cheltenham for the last day of the festival last Sunday (but not alone this time, so I can’t count it as an ‘artist’s date’!), to see an interview with novelist Jojo Moyes.

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…?

In The Shard - 4th Highest Building in Europe!

In The Shard – 4th Highest Building in Europe!

And on the subject of *films (bit of a tenuous link there, I know), I was in London last Monday to visit The Shard (I bought it for my man as a birthday present in the summer – with lunch included – and we had to use it before the voucher ran out!)

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.

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9 Responses to Jojo Moyes, The Shard.. and I spot a STAR!

  1. Heather Walker says:

    Shame you didn’t see Colin Firth (drool). I’ve been to the Shard and know the area around there well as I often visit Southwark Cathedral by Borough Market.
    I like Jojo Moyes ‘kicking the dog test’. I do spend time profiling my characters but it made me think about how well I really know my characters. I picked a few at random and thankfully I did know what they would do! Phew!

  2. Heather, we saw Southwark Cathedral when we were up in The Shard – it looks beautiful (and I must admit, I didn’t know it was there). Didn’t have time to visit it but maybe next time…!

  3. Nicola says:

    Glad you had an exciting day out filled with surprises, Helen. I went up the Shards during the Summer but as I stepped out of the second lift, my body started to sway. My husband and daughter told me I looked green and so, before the lift doors had the chance to close to collect the next group of visitors, I stepped right back in and headed down to the gift shop. An unfortunate bout of vertigo (and expensive:)).
    Jojo was over in Cologne last week. I didn’t find out until after the fact. Shame. It would have been a lovely evening out to attend her soirée.
    Thanks for a great post!

  4. Linda says:

    Sounds like you’ve had a brilliant time recently. I’m a bit fan of JoJo Moyes, so thanks for the insight into her writing. As for meeting Rene, I must admit to being jealous. I lived in London for nine years and never met anyone famous – must have been too busy working!

    • Ah, Linda, I didn’t exactly ‘meet’ Renee (if only!) but yes, it was nice to see her and be that close to her! (she’s tiny and, sadly, I must report, that she doesn’t look quite the same… botox? plastic surgery? I think so!)

  5. Wendy Clarke says:

    I hate heights (and lifts!) so have been too scared to go up to the top of the shard. Everyone says it’s okay.. but I know they’re lying!

  6. It is OK – I didn’t feel funny when I was up there and I’m not great with heights BUT it’s really expensive (over £30 per person if you don’t pre-book), so it would be galling to get half way up in the lift and then realise you couldn’t do it! My advice is – stay well away!

  7. juliathorley says:

    Envious of your trip up the Shard, but not so much the Renee encounter. I’ve heard tell she’s barely recognisable post-surgery (miaow). As for the RD comp, I’m not keen on those where the result is decided by votes. However, it’s free to enter and if I got as far as the final three I’d count that as a win in my head.

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