This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Jo Thomas hit the Amazon bestseller list with her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, about a small town in Galway, where Fiona Clutterbuck becomes part of the local oyster trade. We’ve lapped up everything Jo has written since so we’re delighted to welcome her here today for a chat.
I have a new novella out called The Red Sky At Night, set in West Wales. It’s about autumnal boat trips, beaches, barbeques and new beginnings. My new full-length book is called A Vine Romance, and is set amongst the vineyards of South West France and will be out in the summer!
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Where do you find inspiration for your books?
I’ve always been fascinated about how the food that is grown in a place can give the area its identity. In Galway, the city opens its arms and welcomes the world in for the annual oyster festival. In Puglia, Italy, where I set The Olive Branch, all the talk in the town is about ‘when to pick’ each olive harvest. In South West France, their vines and wines are the very life blood of the area. Everywhere I visit, I love to look up the food of the area. I even take cook books on holiday! For me, when you start to find out about the food, you’re being taken by the hand and introduced to an area, its history and the stories about the people who live there.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
Once the kids have gone to school and the dogs have been walked, I get in the van and drive to my favourite beach. As I drive, my mind starts to switch from home life to story world. I drive to my favourite beach and write there. I love it most when it’s raining. I switch on the fairy lights and disappear into my own little world.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
I sometimes think ‘who would play this part in a film?’ I recently cast Johnny Depp…
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I think it would have to be Jilly Cooper’s Riders – I love all of Jilly’s books. It was her books that made me realise I could escape and live in a whole different world in my head when I wanted to dip out of everyday life for a while. Oh, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I always thought I was Jo.
What female writer has inspired you?
It was Jilly to start with. But then I discovered Christina Jones, Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Wendy Holden and Carole Matthews and thought, if only I could do that!
Can you give us three book recommendations?
Filthy Rich by Wendy Holden – brilliant fun!
Lots of Love by Fiona Walker. This book just sucks you in!Calling Mrs Christmas by Carole Matthews, because there are two characters in this book I still wonder about and hope they’re doing fine.
I write a synopsis and then do a sort of plan. It’s like going on a long journey. I need to know where I’m going even if I take the scenic route in parts. I think I do about four drafts.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I wrote short stories when the children were young and they got published in women’s magazines. Then, finally, after four other attempts at writing novels, I wrote The Oyster Catcher. It got taken on by Accent Press as an ebook, went to number two in the Amazon Kindle charts, and then I joined Headline. I am now writing my fourth book and third novella.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That stories fall, fully formed, into your lap! Ideas are like a lump of clay that need moulding and modelling. It might not look right at first, but the more you work on it, the more it starts to take shape. You just have to keep going.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
The novelist and author of Wannabe a Writer?, Jane Wenham-Jones, once said to me ‘get the story safe and worry about the twiddley bits later.’ And she was so right. Get it down and then make it better.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m just starting my fourth book, set on the island of Crete.