Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jojo Moyes in the Big D

Me being all awkward fangirl next to Jojo Moyes.
By Julie

It was a nice little oasis in the middle of this otherwise averagely hot summer in DFW to drive over to see British novelist Jojo Moyes speak at the gorgeous University Park Library last Thursday evening in support of her latest release, One Plus One.

I've been a huge fan of Moyes since ... I don't even know when. I was ordering online wherever I could and devouring her books even before they were available stateside, and I'm not even sure how I heard about her. Maybe I lucked into a copy of one at Half Price Books or something, but once I got started, I was hooked. In her novels and in person, she's charming, funny, and lovely in general. I was thrilled to get a chance to meet her, and I suspect I might have gone a little fangirl in my level of awkwardness as I approached the signing table.

Moyes has published twelve books since her debut in 2000, and I've long admired her courage to write the story her heart desires instead of trying to brand herself as an author with one very particular type of novel. This matters to me because I suspect I'm headed that direction. Nope, I'm not plotting a sci-fi, fantasy, or cozy mystery. Not hot and heavy romance. But I don't see myself writing "fiction that blends historical with contemporary," like Calling Me Home, every time I write a novel. It can be a little intimidating to step out onto that little ledge in this brand-heavy world.

I asked Moyes about this during the Q&A -- how her pubishler reacted, how her readers reacted -- and whether or not she saw a particular theme emerging even if she was writing fiction that didn't quite fit a mold. I knew the first part wasn't a new question. She's mentioned it in other interviews. Her response was that it was not so great when her sales weren't hopping, but since Me Before You broke out and proceeded to sell something like three million copies, it's been considered a plus. She smiled, and I suspect her answer was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I think I understood. What that said to me is, "Write your heart out, and when you break out, nobody will care anymore." Good to remember.

As far as the second, she said it was a new question. She thought for a moment, then said each novel seems to reflect the big question she's processing at that moment in life, even if it doesn't manifest the same way. That made sense to me as well. She mentioned it was less expensive than therapy. I quite agree.

I admire several authors who seem to have similar paths and responses to these questions, in particular Chris Cleave and Chris Bohjalian. Not surprisingly, these two plus Moyes are three of my favorite authors in general. (Or, I really like the name Chris.) This path doesn't seem to have damaged their careers much at this point in life, so I think I'll follow their lead, and in the process, follow my heart. Never a bad place to begin.

In the meantime, I can't wait to get started on Moyes' newly minted One Plus One, not least because it explores a topic dear to my own heart -- single parenting. I also picked up a copy of The Last Letter from Your Lover, one of the three in her list I haven't read yet. If you're new to Moyes, I suggest you start with Me Before You so you can see what all the fuss is about. If you're not so new but have missed some of her previous novels, give The Ship of Brides a try! I don't think you'll be disappointed, wherever you start.

Many thanks to Jojo Moyes for coming all the way to Texas, where she claims the backyards are as big as her English farm, and the hospitality and barbecue are overflowing, too!

Oh, and on the book front, while I'm talking about a UK author, is it okay and appropriate for me to brag that the UK version of Calling Me Home zoomed all the way up to #1 on the Amazon UK Kindle chart last weekend while on sale? I first ate seared duck breast in London last summer during a publicity day, so to celebrate, I had a not-nearly-as-good Texas version with my husband. Here I am looking equally as awkward, but not so excited about the duck. :)

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