- By Emma Sanders
- Culture Correspondent in Hay
Novelist JoJo Moyes says that the thing that has affected her most since turning 50 is „the sheer joy of the solidarity of other women”.
Speaking at the Hay Festival on Friday, the writer behind bestsellers such as Me Before You said: „I’ve always been a girl’s girl.
„In your 20s, there’s an anxiety…you’re constantly measuring yourself against other women,” she explained.
„Right now, there’s nothing but empathy and support.”
Moyes credits co-writers Sophie Kinsella and Jodie Bigold.
He grew up in Hackney, London, which was then „not overburdened with literary genres” – although his parents were „penniless sculptors”, he was exposed to the arts at home.
Moyes, 53, credits his Protestant work ethic for his success, which was evident from an early age. At the age of 14, he saved money from cleaning jobs to buy a stray horse called Bomber, which was kept in a stable behind Hackney Town Hall.
After school jobs at a market stall and a mini-cab office, she was sent to study management at Oxford University before moving into a bank job.
„My schoolmates’ boundaries were all very limited, so I had no idea what I was supposed to do,” she says.
„It wasn’t just the environment…I was surrounded by really ambitious young people. Everyone had a goal. They were the first people I met who had goals, and at the end of that weekend, I was like, 'Go home.’
She broke off her engagement to her then-boyfriend and applied to London City University before starting a career in journalism, ending up at the Independent alongside the likes of Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding.
„At that point — in my early 20s — I saw it become a talking point with a lot of women my age, and suddenly I had this feeling of, 'Wow, if she can do it, I can.'”
But Moyes rejected her first three books, which she describes as „crushing…like someone telling your child that they’re ugly”, though she wasn’t about to give up.
„I definitely have a bloody mind running down my spine. I can’t see why I can’t do anything.
„My mom was cutting it because I was so premature as a baby. She was told I was going to die. I was 10 weeks early. I have this bit of, 'No, I’m going to do it!'”
Her third book, about an art thief, was knocked back after being deemed too political for the female market and too romantic for the male market at the time.
Moyes’ next eight books went into print, but didn’t exactly set the publishing world alight.
By the time she wrote her best-selling novel Me Before You in 2012, a publisher had called her life „irretrievable” and she had built an extra room in her house so she could rent it out to a lodger.
Me Before You – about a girl who sees a stroke victim and then falls in love with him – is credited to Sophie Kinsella, bestselling author of the Shopaholic series, for getting past a few thousand words.
„She took me out to lunch and I told her about this idea I had for a book. I said I wasn’t sure about it. I told her the whole thing. At the end of it, she said: 'You should write this book.'”
The same thing happened with her latest book, Somebody’s Shoes, and co-author Jodi Bigold encouraged her to keep plowing on.
The two female protagonists in the book come from different backgrounds and Moyes recognizes that „social inequality, whether it’s class or money…has been a big factor in many of my books”.
He adds: „But it’s not about how much money you’ve got, it’s how much you’re loved and connected to other people.”
Having moved back to London after 22 years in the Essex countryside, Moyes is now enjoying a renewed connection with his best friend.
It follows a tough two years for the author, who has sold more than 38 million copies of her books worldwide.
His prolific publishing and screenwriting began to take its toll.
„I was overworked for 10 years. I was burnt out. So I thought, 2020 is going to be my year of retirement and retirement. I’m going to see people, take a day off. I decided to take time off and see friends. . . . Then my mom died of cancer, and I Divorced, we had an epidemic!”
But writing has always been available to her.
„Often when I write a book, it’s only four or five years later that I realize it’s actually therapy, and I haven’t processed something at the time.
„It’s cheaper than treatment.”
„Totalny pionier w sieci. Specjalista od piwa niezależny. Ewangelista popkultury. Miłośnik muzyki. Nieprzepraszający przedsiębiorca”.