We’re delighted to welcome Jo, from Jaffa Reads Too, to our virtual coffee morning for Macmillan Cancer Support. You can donate to Macmillan Cancer Support at the end of Jo’s chat.
What is the first book you remember reading?
The first book I can remember reading for myself was Enid Blyton’s Family at Red Roofs. I was completely enchanted by the story of Molly, Peter, Michael, Shirley and their dog, Bundle and of their beautiful house at the top of a hill. The image of this lovely white washed house which ‘smiled in the sunshine’ was far removed from my childhood home in a small Northern town, but it made me realise that books could open up a whole new world of adventure.
Do you have a favourite literary character?
Without question my favourite literary character is Jamie Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series of books. Scottish highlander, James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, my eponymous hero, sets the standard by which I judge all male protagonists. He’s up there on a high literary pedestal alongside, Romeo, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Heathcliffe, Edward Rochester, Gabriel Oak, Philip Pirrip, and James Bond. Jamie is my all action superman; gentle as a lamb and as fierce as a warrior. He is as bold as he is beautiful, wise beyond his years, and yet as vulnerable as a kitten. He is the reason I have been reading the Outlander series since 1991.
Which is the best book you have received as a gift?
In 2001 a group of American friends attended a book event in New York at which the author Diana Gabaldon was signing and dedicating copies of her exclusive twentieth anniversary edition of Outlander. Because I was in the UK and unable to attend this event, these very special friends organised a dedicated copy to be shipped to me, needless to say, I cried when I opened the package and saw the book and the messages written inside.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading The Silversmith’s Wife by Sophia Tobin which is a deliciously dark historical novel set in London in 1792. There’s murder, intrigue, gossip and innuendo and at the heart of the mystery is Mary, the eponymous silversmith’s wife, for whom life is about to change forever.
Who would be at your dream dinner party (living or dead)?
My dream dinner party guests would be an eclectic mix of the great and the good of the literary world – Jane Austen so that I could ask her who she based the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy on, and why, if she knew someone so divine, she didn’t marry him herself! I’d also like to ask Thomas Hardy just why he made Tess of the D’Urberville’s life so unhappy and if he ever regretted Angel Clare’s decision. And my final guest at the table would be D H Lawrence, simply because I love his writing, and more especially I’d like him to read aloud his poem, The Mountain Lion.
Who is your hero or heroine (real or fictional)?
My 93 year old mother is my heroine in real life. For the past few years I have seen her fade slowly due to debilitating Alzheimer’s disease. It’s rather like watching the colour seeping out of a brightly painted picture and as the colours of her memories bleed away I like to think that the happy memories are still there and that she’s just misplaced them for a while. She’ll always be my heroine.
Where are you happiest?
I’m happiest at home, curled up with my cat Jaffa, and sitting in my favourite chair, with a cup of Darjeeling close at hand. I always have a teetering pile of books and the luxury of having the time to read is one of my greatest pleasures.
What’s your favourite building and why?
My house is my favourite building because that’s where my heart lives, where my children grew up and where all my memories are ingrained.
Who would you like to star in the film of your life?
That’s a difficult question to answer as I’m not sure my life would be interesting enough to film, but I’ve always loved the delicate simplicity of Audrey Hepburn and the feistiness of Lauren Bacall, so a combination of these two fine Hollywood stars would be my ideal casting.
Some “either or” questions…
Big night out or quiet night in?
Definitely quiet night in.
Holiday in the city or the countryside?
Countryside – the UK has some of the best countryside in the world.
Coronation Street or EastEnders?
I’m a true Northerner, so it has to be Coronation Street.
X Factor or Strictly?
Live TV or catch-up?
You Tube or X Box/PS4?
You Tube is a great resource.
Twitter or Facebook?
I’m only just getting the hang of Twitter but I like the immediacy of it.
Shopping – High Street or online?
High Street – I’m not a confident online shopper unless it’s for books!
Home cooking or handy microwave meals?
I’m an old-fashioned home cook, so it’s home cooking every time.
Honesty always or little white lie?
Honesty is always the best policy!
Thanks very much Jo for taking part in our virtual coffee morning for Macmillan Cancer Support! We hope you enjoyed reading Jo’s interview and it would be great if you could make a donation to Macmillan Cancer Support to support their great work. And don’t forget to read about how we are donating our medical fiction royalties today.