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An Interview with Jojo Moyes

JojoMoyesMe Before You

Jojo Moyes is the English author of Me Before You: A Novel, which is already an international bestseller. Her prior novel was The Last Letter from Your Lover. She recently completed a tour of bookstores in northern California and here she answers a few questions.

Q: Tell us a little about where your ideas for your characters and their stories come from.

A: They come from all over the place. It’s often a snippet of conversation or a news story that just lodges in my head and won’t go away. Sometimes I get an idea for a character too, and then unconsciously start knitting them together. Me Before You is the most “high concept” book I’ve ever written – in that I could describe it in two sentences. But most of them are a lot more organic, and just contain lots of ideas and things that I’ve pulled together. With this book I think the issue of quality of life was probably to the front of my mind as I have/had two relatives who were facing life in care homes, and I know that in one case she would probably have chosen any alternative to that existence.

Q: Which of the characters in Me Before You do you identify with the most?

A: Well, there’s definitely a bit of Lou in there. I did have a pair of stripy tights that I loved as a child! I think you have to identify with all your characters to some extent, or they just don’t come off the page properly. But I also identify with Camilla a bit. As a mother I can’t imagine the choice she has to make, and I could imagine in those circumstances you would just shut down a bit emotionally.

Q: We love the way you draw the social distinction between Lou’s working-class upbringing and Will’s upper-class background. Did you do that deliberately to introduce humor into what could otherwise have been a deeply tragic situation?

A: Yes I did. I thought that the subject was so bleak potentially that it was important to have a lot of humor in the book. But it adds a useful tension to the narrative too: offsetting the warmth and chaos of Lou’s home life with the more formal and reserved nature of Will’s relationship with her parents. And it gives Lou an added reason to feel totally out of her depth once she arrives there. From the point of the reader, it also gives Will a subtle advantage that is vital if we are to see him as Lou’s equal, and not just an object of pity.

Q: Your books always have an incredibly moving love story at the heart of them. What is it about the emotional subject of love that makes you want to write about it?

A: I have no idea! I’m not very romantic in real life. I guess love is the thing that makes us do the most extraordinary things – the emotion that can bring us highest or lowest, or be the most transformative – and extremes of emotion are always interesting to write about.

Q: Have you ever cried while writing a scene in any of your book?

A: Always. If I don’t cry while writing a key emotional scene, my gut feeling is it’s failed. I want the reader to feel something while reading – and making myself cry has become my litmus test as to whether that’s working. It’s an odd way to earn a living.

Q: Where do you write? Do you set hours or just put pen to paper when inspiration strikes?

A: I work in roughly set hours, but with three children and a lot of animals I’ve found you have to be flexible. If there are no disruptions I roll out of bed and straight to my desk and work from 6:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., and then again after I’ve done the animals from roughly 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. My ideal time to work would be from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. – but unfortunately that only happens if I go away and hide in a hotel.

Q: When you form characters do you ever incorporate aspects from people you know?

A: Yes – but often without realizing (it). Luckily if you write a negative character trait people are rarely likely to recognize themselves. More often though the characters have elements of myself which I then stetch and exaggerate until they become their own. Lou, for example, contains something of the character I could well have been if I had married the man I got engaged to at 17. I would have led a very different life.

Note: Me Before You is an Amazon Book of the Month for January 2013. “(It’s) a word-of-mouth sensation from Britain.” USA Today

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A Summer Reading List

Our local fish wrapper challenged its avid readers to come up with their own list of books to read this summer.   Here’s my list of ten (10):

Shut Your Eyes Tight: A Novel by John Verdon (July)

The second retired NYPD Detective Dave Gurney novel from the author of the mind-blowing Think of a Number.

Very Bad Men: A Novel by Harry Dolan (July)

Not quite as good as Think of a Number, but a close and exciting runner-up.

Fault Lines: A Novel by Anne Rivers Siddons (January)

From the author of Off Season, it’s set in the redwood country near Santa Cruz, with stops in Atlanta, San Francisco, and Hollywood-Los Angeles.

Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger (June)

The true story of the monumental love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.   “Reads like a Shakespearean drama.”   USA Today

Skipping a Beat: A Novel by Sarah Pekkanen (February)

Her debut novel, The Opposite of Me, was endorsed by Judith Weiner.   Enough said.

Guilt by Association: A Novel by Marcia Clark (April)

I’ve read it, but it was so much fun that I look forward to reading it again!

The American Heiress: A Novel by Daisy Goodwin (June)

What happens after a storybook wedding?

The Astral: A Novel by Kate Christensen (June)

This story has as many weaknesses as it has strengths, but it is highly engaging in an inexplicable way.

Robert Redford: The Biography by Michael Feeney Callan (May)

Biographies of famous but  secluded figures tend to be either brilliant or full and complete disasters.   I’m interested in seeing which category this one falls into.

Before Ever After: A Novel by Samantha Sotto (August)

A debut novel about a woman who finds out that her dead husband (going on three years) may very well be alive.

Joseph Arellano

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A Golf Giveaway

Thanks to Hachette Audio, we’re pleased to announce that he have three (3) audiobook copies of John Feinstein’s latest sports-related book to give away!   Moment of Glory: The Year Underdogs Ruled Golf is told on 11 CDs and has a list price value of $34.98.   Here is a synopsis of the book and a few comments:

After winning 6 of the 12 Majors from 2000 to 2002, Tiger Woods struggled in 2003.   Four unknown players would seize the day, rising to become champions in his wake.   Mike Weir – considered a good golfer but not a great one – triumphed in The Masters, becoming the first Canadian to win a Major.   Jim Furyk emerged victorious in the U.S. Open.   In the British Open, Ben Curtis became the only player since Francis Ouimet in 1913 to come from nowhere to prevail at the PGA Championship.   How does one moment of glory affect the unsung underdog for years to follow?

Feinstein chronicles the champions’ ups and downs, giving readers an inside look into how victory (and defeat) can change players’ lives.

“(Feinstein is) One of the best sportswriters alive.”   Larry King, USA Today

“Feinstein is the most successful sportswriter in America.  …He has the gift of re-creating events known to us all while infusing them with excitement, even suspense.”   Jay Nordlinger, The Wall Street Journal

“John Feinstein…  has done perhaps as much for golf writing as Arnold Palmer has for golf.”   Ron Rappaport, Washington Monthly

Keep in mind that John Feinstein is the author of the previous mega-selling nonfiction book about golf, A Good Walk Spoiled.   And here he writes about the fall of Tiger Woods before The Fall.   If you would like to try to win a copy of this unabridged audiobook, simply post a comment here or send as e-mail message to Josephsreviews@gmail.com .   This will count as a first, initial, entry.   To enter a second time, just explain why you are or are not a fan of the sport of golf.

Yes, these are the simple rules.   In order to be eligible to enter this contest, you must live in either the United States or Canada and have a residential mailing address (audiobooks will not be shipped to post office boxes).   You have until midnight PST on Wednesday, June 30, 2010 to post your entry/entries.

The 3 winners will be contacted by e-mail and asked to supply their mailing/shipping address within 72 hours.   If any winner fails to respond within this timeframe, his/her audiobook will be given to the 4th name drawn by Munchy the cat, our contest administrator.

Good luck and good reading/listening/golfing!

 

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