Confessions of a Literary Traveller with Jo Thomas
On the road with Literary Traveller Jo Thomas
What does Jo Thomas get up to on the road? She travels for research and for book events. Who is the author who makes her go astray? What’s the funniest thing someone has asked her at a book event? What does she miss most from home? Why are cars and cafes important to her?
Describe how it feels being on the road as a writer. What do you do and where do you go?
All my books are set in fabulous locations, so I am often visiting the countries that I write about. Or I’m writing about places I have already been to. My first book was set in Galway, where me and my family were living at the time. We spent three years there. Then, I wrote about the olive groves of Puglia, where my brother was living. I also spend a lot of time in France where friends of mine have a lovely house from where they run writers retreats and courses, www.chez-castillon.com.
I often go with a group of other writers. It’s a great setting to get work done. The rooms are lovely as is the town. When we’re not writing there’s a great market, bar and restuarants for the occasional lunch out. The swimming pool is great for thinking time as is sharing plot problems with other writers over a glass of wine and dinner. So of course I’ve written about France too, along with Swedish Lapland, Spain and Crete. I either go away with family, or my good friend, writer Katie Fforde. We great fun on our research trips together.
Do you get to see the places you stop at for literary events?
Sometimes. Last year Katie Fforde and I did Broadstairs Lit and did a tour of the area before our event and I also spent a lovely night in Crickhowell after an event at Bookish there. But often it’s a case of travelling to the event and leaving again. Jill Mansell and I did an even at Bristol Library recently, it’s an amazing place. It would have been great to see more.
What has been the best place you have visited?
I love France, I really do. Recently I was in Provence and adored the smell and feel of the place, and of course the food and wine too. I feel very at home there. But I also loved a river cruise I did some time ago, as writer in residence on board with Titan Travel, to Amsterdam and Belgium. That was fascinating. I’ve spent a lot of time in Iceland where we have friends and really love the wildness of the place. And one of my other favourite places was my honeymoon in Vermont. I’m hoping to revisit that one some day soon!
What do you call a good event?
I think any event where you’re asked along to talk to people who are enjoying your books is a great event. Especially when they’re accompanied by wine! Rosanna Ley and I did one where they served pink gin and tonic! But it is great to get out and meet readers who want to meet you, no matter how big or small the gathering!
Any funny stories?
I did do one event where I was asked to sign a book, written by a completely different person! I’d give a quote for the book and they came to tell me how much they’d loved the book I’d written and would I sign it. I was also complimented for writing one of Milly Johnson’s book once too! I was tempted just to take the credit, but did put the lady straight!
Research trips with Katie Fforde..
When I go on research trips with Katie Fforde, we find ourselves laughing from beginning to end. On our first trip together when we went husky racing, the man teaching us was so terrifying, we got back to the hotel, cold, wet and terrified; we clutched our boots to our chests and got half way up the stairs and collapsed into uncontrollable giggles, not being able to move, through fear and relief we’d made it through the day, but had another day to go tomorrow! The receptionist sent up gins to our rooms, she thought we needed them.
It was much the same in Swedish Lapland, when we were picked up from our cabin by a Sami reindeer herder, a tall attractive Viking, pulling a sled, with reindeer hide covered seats on the back of his snow mobile. We were wearing so many clothes we couldn’t actually get onto the sled and had to be helped. We couldn’t move for laughter!! And then we took the ice road over the lake!!!
What is the hardest thing about being away from home?
The hardest thing about being away from home is missing the family and juggling their needs too. My husband works away from home, so sometimes we’re like a tag team, one walking in through the door as the other leaves!
Cars or cafes?
I don’t like writing in cafes. I always feel a bit awkward. But I do love writing in my car. I wrote my first two books entirely in the car, waiting for the children outside school and events.
Favourite writing spot?
After writing in my car, I upgraded to a camper van with a table. But now, I write at a desk mostly by a window. My favourite place to work though is in bed, in the mornings, before the house has woken, with a cup of tea and a cat beside me!
Best food tasted during an event?
I did an event with Griffin Books in Penarth to celebrate the launch of Sunset Over the Cherry Orchard. They ran it in a tapas bar. We had prosecco and tapas after the talk and so I got to eat and drink with the people who’d come along. It was so sociable, which is what tapas food is all about! Sharing, chatting and enjoying!
How hard is it to write, travel, do events and still find time for family and for reading?
The wonderful about being a writer is I don’t leave the house to go to an office, so when I’m home, I home and here with the family. When I go away, it does take some organising, but now the teenagers are becoming young adults with their own jobs and will soon be driving, life will get easier, I hope!
That’s quite some confessions there Jo! Haha thanks so much! Now you and Katie Fforde behave yourselves!
BookTrail Boarding Pass: Jo Thomas Books