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Book Talk - Jojo Moyes on family history and creating real characters
February 12, 2015 / 1:06 PM / 3 years ago

Book Talk - Jojo Moyes on family history and creating real characters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - British novelist Jojo Moyes found the inspiration for her new book “The Ship of Brides,” during a conversation with her grandmother that revealed a surprise about love in the aftermath of World War Two.

Moyes had known that her grandmother, Betty McKee, is Australian and her grandfather was Scottish. But she was an adult when McKee, now 92, mentioned her 1946 journey from Sydney to Plymouth, England on an aircraft carrier with more than 600 Australian women who were to be reunited with British servicemen they married during the war.

“It really made me think about how many family stories die with the people who hold them,” Moyes told Reuters. “My grandmother honestly didn’t think it was that remarkable.”

Moyes, 45, spoke with Reuters about the book and how she develops characters:

Q: How did you research the historical period in which the novel is set?

A: I entered the name of my grandmother’s ship (HMS Victorious) and couldn’t find anything. I started to think that my grandmother had been mistaken. One night I was tooling around on the Internet and found a self-published book about the Victorious. Buried in this incredibly well-researched labour of love were two pages on the time that the Victorious was used to transport war brides from Australia to England.

Slowly, this voyage just started to come to life. If you thrive on tension for your story, what greater tension than 600 completely overexcited war brides ... on board the most militarised, orderly, male war machine?

Q: How do you develop the characters’ personalities?

A: I do a lot of cooking, as I call it, before I start writing. For every book that I write ... I develop a history for each person and make sure they are well rounded and flawed. You have to know everything about them from their shoe size, to where they went to school, to what their first pet was, to what they like to eat, to what they want out of life.

Q: How long does it take to develop a character?

A: It depends. In “Me Before You,” the two characters popped into my head fully formed, which is really strange and unusual. Other books, I sit on them for two or three months. I have a whole routine: I buy a nice book, I hand-write all their characteristics. I put them through little tests just to see how they would react to things.

Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn, editing by Patricia Reaney and G Crosse

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