Jojo Moyes spent a decade working as a journalist before becoming a best-selling author. It was that time working as a reporter that gave her the tools to write novels like “Sheltering Rain” and “Me Before You.”
“What my time in journalism taught me was to hear people’s stories and to see stories everywhere. When people say to me, ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ I say just look around,” Moyes says. “You could sit and talk to a person for an hour and get three novels out of them.”
Everybody has a fascinating story in there.
Moyes has published 13 books. Her 2012 release, “Me Before You,” has been adapted into a feature film, which opens Friday, June 3.
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Emilia Clarke, best known for playing Daenerys Targaryen on “Game of Thrones,” plays Louisa, a high-spirited woman hired as the attendant for William (Sam Claflin), an adventurous young man left fully paralyzed by a motorcycle accident. Louisa is determined to infuse some of her passion for living into her patient, especially when she learns he’s ready to end his life.
The idea for the novel came from a radio news story about an athlete who had been left quadriplegic after an accident and later convinced his parents to take him to an assisted suicide facility in Switzerland.
“I found this story profoundly shocking. I couldn’t understand how a parent could agree to take their own child to end their life,” Moyes says. “I started reading more about it and the more I read the more I realized it wasn’t quite as straight-forward as I wanted it to be.”
Along with the natural curiosity she had as a journalist, she was also interested as a parent of three children. That made her start asking questions about what she would do if she was in the same situation as the paralyzed man. She also wondered how she would react as a mother.
She learned over the years that any story that lingers on is a good subject.
The writing process starts with creating the characters with the plot to follow. If she doesn’t get the characters right then no amount of plot can save the book for her.
Then she writes everyday, early in the morning when there are not distractions. When deadlines begin to loom, she checks into a hotel and does nothing but write for days.
“That’s my idea of heaven. Although I miss my kids, just to be able to just focus on one thing is great,” Moyes says. “And, my husband knows I need to do that because we have a busy life.”
Moyes wrote the screenplay for the film and was involved in many of the production decisions. But, just like a reporter finally has to give over their story to an editor, Moyes had to trust director Thea Sharrock to make the film a match to her novel.
The writer and director got along well. Moyes would handle questions about the story, while Sharrock focused on getting the most out of the actors. That meant there were no big deviations from the popular book.
Those who have read “Me Before You” (Pamela Dorman Books, $9.99) know how the story ends. Moyes did write a version where events played out in a different way.
“But, I had to be true to the character,” Moyes says, “and I felt that was the ending that was true to the character.”