I’ve blogged about Me Before You before, a novel right up there with The Fault in Our Stars in weep ratings. Last night I had the opportunity to meet Jojo Moyes at a reading she did from her newest U.S. release, The Girl You Left Behind. She was delightful and answered our questions without spoiling the ending or ruining Me Before You for the poor souls who haven’t read it yet.
Some interesting tidbits from her Q&A:
- She’s been getting up at 6 a.m. every day for the last 18 months to write. Her husband wakes up before her, makes the coffee, and returns to their bedroom with a mug and her laptop, propping her up with a pillow so she is forced to wake up. She says as a woman, and a mom, that 6 a.m. writing is the most productive because it’s a time when her subconscious hasn’t kicked into full gear and she isn’t thinking about everything yet, like the dog, school uniforms, homework, etc. She also plots out her novels – whether it’s on a giant white board in her kitchen or on scraps of paper. She always knows how the books is going to end.
- Me Before You was a hard title to arrive at because it’s a book that isn’t easy to describe in a way that would make people want to read it. Or rather, it’s really easy to simply categorize it as “man in wheel chair who wants to die,” and the audience for that story is very small. She wanted an opaque title. Other titles, like The Girl You Left Behind and The Last Letter From Your Lover, just came to her.
- A few years ago, she was contacted about making a movie version of Me Before You. Agents and studios gathered for a meeting and there was strong interest in it. A few weeks later, she got a phone call from her agent telling her that Harvey Weinstein was making a movie called The Intouchables, about the relationship between a quadriplegic man and his caregiver. The interest in her book waned until Me Before You was released in the U.S. The movie rights have since been purchased and she already wrote the script. My vote is for Benedict Cumberbatch to play Will!
- Her writing process involves a lot of research, including visiting the locations she writes about. She has been invited to visit Dignitas but hasn’t yet. She creates character dossiers and most of the information she creates about the characters don’t end up in her books. However, this lets her get to know her characters and write them more authentically. She also puts her characters through the “kick the dog test,” which means she imagines how each character would react to seeing a dog kicked. Would they stop to help? Ignore it?
- As a mom she feels guilty all the time. But she and her family – her husband and three children – decided together that she would continue to pursue this career, including a book tour. She was a journalist and transitioned into writing novels so she could spend time with her children. She told the story of how her husband told her their youngest was very sad when he found out she wouldn’t be coming home today as she had told him she’d be home on Tuesday. Her husband told him that mommy had to work so she could bring more presents home and would even have to purchase a new suitcase to hold all the gifts.
- I told her I listened to Me Before You and was weeping on my commute. She said she had a similar experience listening to My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult while riding the train to London.
- Again, about the mommy thing: she is just like the rest of us. She had a meeting at her Penguin UK office and invited her teenage daughter to go with her. Her daughter agreed to come after she agreed to take her to see the Christmas lights on Regent Street with a friend after the meeting. And her daughter was dumbstruck when she realized her mother was sort of famous and people loved her books. Here she was, taking a meeting with readers who had won the chance to speak with her via video chat, whereas her daughter’s view was that she was just a mom, typing away at her home office.
Again, I highly recommend Me Before You, and if you get a chance to meet Jojo Moyes or hear her read, do! Here’s her U.S. schedule.