Today I am delighted to have the fabulous Jo Platt at my blog!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I was born in Liverpool, moving to Devizes, a small Wiltshire market town, when I was eight. I lived there until I went to study English Literature at King’s College, London, in the late ‘80s. After university, I stayed put, working in the City for ten years, before relocating, with my husband and young daughter, to Seattle. Two years later, we returned to the UK, with an additional daughter in tow, living in St Albans for eighteen months, before finally settling in Bristol in 2004.
Why did you want to become a writer?
I’ve described myself as an accidental author in the past because although I’ve always loved writing, I had never considered it as a career. My novel Reading Upside Down was written purely for fun, and it was thanks only to the prodding of family and friends that I took it further, first self-publishing it in 2013 and then sending it to an agency. That led to the rights being picked up by publishers internationally and a deal for a second book.
Tell us a bit about your recent release
My second novel, It Was You, is all about changing relationships within a small, Bristol-based, book group. In particular, the novel focuses on thirty-something Alice Waites. She’s been single for almost two years and when her friends gently question her reluctance to meet a new man, even for a coffee, she decides it’s time to start dating again. It’s most definitely a romcom but, be warned, it has its darker moments too. Alice’s journey is far from plain sailing.
What genre are your books?
I’ve described my novels as chickwit in the past and I think I’d like to stick with that description. My purpose, when writing has always been, first and foremost, to entertain – initially myself and now a wider audience. But although my books are, I hope, feel-good and funny, they also work hard not to insult or under-estimate the intelligence of the reader, in terms of writing, characterisation and plot. Both novels were written with the members of my book group in mind and they’re a bright bunch. So I wanted to present them with characters and situations which would not only make them laugh, but which also made them think and gave them something to discuss.
What draws you to this genre?
I like to laugh and feel uplifted and I love the idea that my books might make other people feel the same way.
Where do the your ideas come from? / What was the inspiration to write your most recent book?
My ideas come from friends, family and overheard snippets of conversations in coffee shops, post offices, trains and, most recently, in my GP’s waiting room. Each book is the result of a myriad of minor inspirations, but my book group was obviously a significant one when writing It Was You. I love the idea of a diverse group of people, coming together with perhaps little in common other than an affection for each other and the book they have read that month.
Plotter or pantser? – Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I’m a bit of both. I know where each chapter will start and finish, but I don’t always know exactly how I’m going to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.
Describe what a typical writing day involves for you. / Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
My typical writing day involves an awful lot of tea and a whole heap of procrastination. After the school run and any admin, I usually aim to be at my laptop by 10am. I then do a lot of staring out of the window. I tried for a short while to write a certain number of words per day but that often resulted in stilted, stressed prose, which I then deleted first thing the following morning. So my approach is now very much quality not quantity.
What’s the toughest part of the writing process for you?
I love every moment of writing a novel but I find the prospect of sharing it with others absolutely terrifying.
What’s the most enjoyable part of writing?
Making myself laugh, without a doubt.
Do you ever get writer’s block?
I do but try very hard not to get frustrated about it. I overcame my most recent bout by thinking about the plot problem as I switched off the light to go to sleep. I probably lost about thirty minutes’ sleep each night for a week, but it was a more relaxed approach than staring desperately at the clock and a flashing cursor on my laptop screen.
Out of all the wonderful books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
That is such a difficult question and tempted though I am to choose something by Dickens (A Christmas Carol) or Austen (Sense and Sensibility), I’m going to plump for To Kill a Mocking Bird, which has been my favourite book since I first read it at the age of sixteen. It’s such a powerful story, told with simplicity and complete authenticity.
If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character, who would you spend it with and what would you do?
Fitzwilliam Darcy. And I’d like to keep the details of our hypothetical day private, if that’s ok.
What can we expect next from you?
My recently completed third novel is about an author who has been temporarily derailed both professionally and emotionally. All names have been changed to protect the innocent.