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Book Talk: Jojo Moyes talks about her writing style, visual thinking and socioeconomic inequality

Thursday, 28 August 2014 - 2:37pm IST | Place: NEW YORK | Agency: Reuters

Fresh off a string of literary hits, British journalist-turned-fiction novelist Jojo Moyes has penned her latest best seller, "One Plus One."

At the heart of the book is the unlikely pairing of successful technology executive Ed and single mother Jess, who hail from opposite walks of life and undertake a mutually transformative road trip.

Moyes spoke with Reuters about her writing style, visual thinking and the growing divide between rich and poor.

Q: How did you handle the transition from full-time journalism to writing fiction?

A: It was hard. Being in a newsroom is very stimulating and buzzy, with lots of camaraderie. I would start the day and did not know where I would wind up. I had a child and was pregnant with my second, and I realized that I could not run around with a passport in your handbag with children at home.

I went from the heart of everything to feeling like it's just me and a computer surrounded by empty silence. I wound up getting an office, which gave me a reason to get up with a coffee and paper in hand.

Q: How did you develop your fiction writing skills?

A: I have always written. I was one of those kids who would always fill exercise books with girls and telepathic ponies. I started working nights for the newspaper where I had quite a large amount of the day to fill between waking up and going off to work. This was before the Internet and daytime television in the United Kingdom. I wrote to fill my day.

I then lived a Bridget Jones existence in a house with lots of different apartments. I would hand chapters to different flats to see whether they were interested enough to keep reading. It became a challenge to see whether I could get to the end of the book. It was not enough to write -- I wanted to write well. I ended up writing three books before getting published.

 

Q: How did you choose "One Plus One" as the title?

A: It is almost an ironic title because both Edward and Jessica are at pains in the beginning to stress they do not want a relationship. They do not have room for it. Jessica says, "I do not want a one plus one ..."

We wanted a slightly mathematical bent in the title, without alienating all the readers who didn't like math.

Q: Can you describe your narrative process?

A: Writers divide fairly cleanly into those who only work through what they hear and those who are more visual. I am the latter where I lie down on my office floor and play scenes through my head to cinematically -- several times with different elements -- to see what works. I can't write a scene until I can see it. I know a lot of writers who would never do it that way and prefer focusing their time crafting a perfect sentence.

Q: Were there any social messages that you wanted to convey?

A: I wanted to look at the widening gap between the rich and poor. When I was growing up, I was told that you could do whatever you wanted to do as long as you worked hard enough and were bright and good to people.

I wanted to look at a family with that natural optimism, determination and talent, in a society where the odds are increasingly stacked against them. I break Jess down, but I was told the story was getting bleak so I decided to give the family a slightly happy ending.

This book was inspired partly by a true story. My cleaner told me about a neighbor who had slammed the door in her face to take a call, which happens to Jess in the book. My cleaner felt like she was treated like she was nothing. I know this neighbor, who is smart, polite and articulate. I found it hard to
reconcile these actions with the person.

I look at the growing social divide, and it makes me think about where are we all going. What happens with the mutual lack
of understanding and trust that comes along.




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