Friday, 27 May 2016

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Everyone is talking about the book and the film is about to be released with huge media attention. If you haven't read the book yet, here is my review of Jojo Moyes' latest bestseller. This post doesn't contain any spoilers.

Me Before You is a story about Louisa Clark, a bright young woman who is growing bored of her fitness-obsessed boyfriend and is fed up when the café in which she's worked for years, closes down. Reluctantly she accepts a temporary six month post as a carer to a young man who has been left in a quadriplegic state following a road accident two years earlier. It was either that, or work at a local chicken factory!

Will Traynor used to have an exciting well paid job, buying and selling businesses. He’s travelled the world, skiing, parachuting, diving and climbing. In the blink of an eye, his life was turned up-side down one morning as he crossed the road to hail a taxi. Will is bitter and angry, especially when his glamorous girlfriend moves on and dates a mutual friend of theirs. His family are at the end of their tether and shortly after Louisa is taken on as his carer, she hatches a desperate plan to try to convince Will that his life is worth living.

This storyline may sound a bit grim and depressing - I thought the same when I read the blurb, but I’m so pleased I overlooked my initial misgivings. Jojo Moyes writes with sensitivity and humour. She tackles the subject of quadriplegia and the rights of disabled people with great perception and compassion. The descriptions of Will's day to day existence which involves relying on others for almost every aspect of his personal care, was written with warmth and understanding.

Jojo Moyes has written a novel which has left me emotionally exhausted, inspired and incredibly impressed. Me Before You gripped me like a spiny teasel clings to clothing. I resented being drawn away from the story by household chores and the necessity of sleep and work. I frowned at the dogs as I sensed the hues outside the window become darker because a dog walk would tear me from Will and Lou. It took three days to finish Me Before You due to daily commitments, but even at work or trudging around the village green, with my spaniels, the story never left my thoughts. I found myself grinning inanely at a page one minute and wiping tears from my cheeks the next. It was an emotional, uplifting, life-affirming read. I became emotionally involved with the characters and in the storyline.

Jojo Moyes has written a book which will stay with me for a long time.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The London Book Fair 2016 And Meeting An Agent

Every New Year I start counting down the weeks until I visit The London Book Fair in the Spring and this year I spent two days at the fair's 45th anniversary event. Although Olympia is more difficult to get to than Earl's Court (where the fair used to be held), its natural lighting and a balcony view of events and stands, make it an altogether more pleasant internal space. There's always a huge amount to be discovered at the fair. There were companies that could convert your book to digital, seminars that showed different approaches to marketing and the exciting thing is, you just might have a chance meeting that could lead to future success. Publishing professionals from around the world meet each year, to learn, network and do business. The London Book Fair is the leading global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels. The fair is a unique opportunity to explore, understand and capitalise on the innovations shaping the publishing world of the future.

On Tuesday 12th April I saw some of the industry’s leading names, including acclaimed British novelist, screenwriter, director and actor, Julian Fellowes and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale. Jeffrey Archer was also spotted in the English PEN Literary Salon where he shared his thoughts on all things publishing.

Tuesday’s Author of the Day was Marian Keyes. Marian is one of the most successful Irish novelists of all time. Storming into print in 1995 with Watermelon, Marian created a genre that she has dominated and redefined ever since. What a lovely lady with a delicious sense of humour.

Wednesday was a Shakespearian experience which was apt as it was the eve of the four hundred year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. There was a full line-up of inspired readings, talks and appearances about and written by the Bard of Avon. The London Book Fair 2016 welcomed renowned writers to the stage in his honor. I listened to Tracy Chevalier at the English PEN Literary Salon, where she told a packed audience about her upcoming Hogarth Shakespeare project.

Wednesday’s Fair was also visited by prolific cookery book authors, Si and Dave. (Maybe you know them as the Hairy Bikers.) They visited their publisher Orion, at the Hachette stand.

It's easy to meet fellow writers in the cafes and become engrossed in conversation, swapping notes and simply enjoying the company of other writers who'd come to explore. This year a handful of writers had been given the chance to secure a one-to-one chat with a literary agent by submitting a chapter and synopsis, weeks before The London Book Fair started. I was delighted to have my work chosen and I was emailed by Midas PR and given a time to meet the agent. I met another lady who had also been selected to speak with a different agent, and I was delighted to have a chat with her and ease our nerves before our meetings. Sadly it wasn’t a pitch with an agent, but I had an interesting talk in the Author HQ theatre with Ed Victor Limited’s, Charlie Brotherstone. We discussed Vichy France, the continued popularity of war novels and the publishing industry in general. I did wonder why we'd been asked to submit sample work, but I imagine it’s because they wanted agents to meet with writers who were serious about their craft and had written complete novels.

Now it's back to work by continuing to write my fourth novel. I have until the end of August to send my manuscript to the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' Scheme, so I'd better get writing...