Writer Wednesday: Jo Platt

Jo Platt was born in Liverpool in 1968 and, via the extremely winding route of rural Wiltshire, London, Seattle and St Albans, she is now happily settled in Bristol with her husband and two daughters. She studied English at King's College London before going on to work in the City for ten years. In 2000 she escaped into motherhood and part-time employment, first as an assistant teacher in a Seattle pre-school and then was a Bristol-based secretary to her husband.

1. Why did you want to become a writer? 
I’ve described myself in the past as an accidental author because I didn’t consciously aspire to be a writer: I simply wanted to write. I wrote my first novel, Reading Upside Down, without any idea of publication and I think that was a positive, as I wasn’t distracted by concerns over whether or not the book was marketable. The manuscript might have lain in my knicker drawer forever had I not been gently nudged into self-publishing by the few friends and family members who knew I’d written a book. Reading Upside Down was then picked up by the Darley Anderson agency, things snowballed and it sold to publishers internationally. As I say, I’m an accidental author.

2. What’s the toughest part of the writing process for you?
I’ve now written three novels, and am partway through a fourth, and the challenges have been different every time. Building up the confidence and finding the time to make a start was definitely the biggest hurdle to overcome with Reading Upside Down. But once I was off, that particular writing experience was probably the most relaxed of the four because there was no outside pressure or interest.

Writing my second novel, It Was You, felt harder as there were by then agents, editors and publishers along for the ride, and also because I had a sense of not wanting to disappoint an established readership. But by the time I started writing my third novel, You Are Loved, I had calmed down a lot and felt more at peace with the industry of which I had become a part. I relaxed back into storytelling and, for the most part, didn’t worry too much about how the book might be judged. As for my fourth novel, well, I’m currently tearing my hair out over one particular character. He’s driving me nuts and whether or not that turns out to be the greatest challenge this time around I’ll have to let you know.

3. What’s the most enjoyable part of writing? 
There are so many things I love about every single stage of writing a novel, from the potential of the blank page to the satisfaction of the final full stop. But if I’m honest, making myself, and the reader, laugh and feel better about life has always been the aspect of writing I enjoy and value the most.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which one do you wish you had written and why?
It’s so hard not to answer this question with a list. But forced to choose just one book, it has to be To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It’s such a powerful story, told with complete authenticity.

5. If you could save only one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why? 
That’s such a difficult question. I can think of only two or three of my characters I wouldn’t rush to rescue if they fell down an open manhole. All the rest I love to bits, despite their flaws.

But I guess if you twisted my arm, I’d have to plump for Ros’s dad in Reading Upside Down, because he is actually ninety per cent my own father. The character is the closest I’ve come to simply writing a real person and I couldn’t bear the thought of any kind of calamity befalling him.

6. If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character, who would you spend it with and what would you do?
That would depend upon the day and my mood. I’d like to discuss books and writing with Jo March from Little Women, go for cocktails with Bridget Jones, and I also wouldn’t mind spending some time with Fitzwilliam Darcy. I’ll leave the schedule for that particular afternoon to your imagination.

7. What can we expect next from you? 
My third novel, You Are Loved, was published by Canelo in the UK on 14 August. It’s about Grace Waterhouse, an author whose life is out of control both professionally and personally. You can draw your own conclusions about the real life inspiration for that. And I’m delighted to say that book four, which is about the ups - and many downs - of rediscovering an old friendship, is well underway.

8. Is there any particular advice you wish you’d been given at the start of your writing career? 
I wish someone had told me to brace myself for criticism and comment and not to take either too personally. That’s a very hard thing to do, because writing is such a personal process and your characters and plots become so precious to you. But listening to others and reflecting on their input, even if you don’t act on all of it, will benefit both you and your writing.

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you. 
Cake and procrastination in equal measure.

10. What are you reading at the moment?
I have just finished The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist and now have two books awaiting my attention: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins and Exposure by Helen Dunmore.


Sometimes, life needs a rewrite...

Author Grace Waterhouse has hit rock bottom.  Her ex-husband has just had a baby with his new partner and her latest novel is… well, the less said the better.

Desperate for distraction, Grace impulsively takes on a friend’s cleaning job, parachuting herself into a new social circle including an eccentric OAP, a heartbroken twenty-something and most significantly James Brooke, an enigmatic lawyer with an unblinking stare.

Add to this mix an anxious literary agent, a hairdresser who doesn’t mince words and a newly repentant ex-husband on her doorstep, and Grace's career break soon proves to be more breathless than breather.

Follow Jo on Twitter | Buy You Are Loved on Amazon | Visit her website

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