MADE BY MEMBERS • November 2023
Jojo Moyes has captivated millions with her adventure-seeking characters and emotional stories. Now, the award-winning romance novelist, journalist and screenwriter speaks to The Club correspondent Emma Blackmore about overcoming her fear of flying, airport reunions and becoming a BBC Maestro
What Tier are you?
I’m Silver now. I used to be Gold before the Covid-19 pandemic, but I don’t fly regularly enough these days! I do miss the ease of passage through the airport when travelling First, though.
Where did you last fly back from?
Gothenburg. I was at the Swedish Book Fair. It’s a lovely event. As a writer, it’s a joy to see people bringing their families and getting excited about books.
When did you last fly in business?
That would be LA. I used to have a house there back when I was doing a lot of work in the States and I could be flying back and forth four, sometimes five times a year.
What’s one thing you missed about London when you were in LA?
My dogs! And when I’m in London, I miss the Californian weather and the swimming pool. One of my biggest joys in life is sitting with a cup of tea by the pool at the end of a long day, which, thinking about it, is probably not a very LA thing to do…
What kind of packer are you?
I’m a master! Half an hour pack, done.
How do you collect Avios?
I used to collect Avios through buying wine when I used to drink, and these days it’s more through purchasing flights for my kids. I haven’t spent them in ages, though. I just quite like having them sitting there, knowing that at some point I could disappear to South America or someplace spectacular.
Your favourite thing about flying with us?
I love the food on board. I’m a massive foodie. Another thing is not being contactable for 11 hours – I’m absolutely the person who doesn’t want any Wi-Fi!
The First lounge at Heathrow T5
How do you feel about the lounges?
It’s so much more pleasant and peaceful to start your travels sitting with a hot coffee in a hushed environment. I’m not great with noise and busyness and I often find it exhausting. For years, I had a fear of flying and part of me being able to overcome that fear was being calm before boarding. Now, I’m the kind of person who falls asleep during take-off! I love your First lounge at T5. There’s always someone famous or interesting there, too.
Funniest encounter you’ve had at an airport?
I did have one experience where I was coming back from holiday, and I realised someone was reading my latest book on the plane. She was almost finished, and I was watching her flick through the pages. My partner asked me if he should go and tell her it’s me, and I said, “No, absolutely not!” I later saw her while waiting at baggage reclaim, and then I met her by the loo! I said to her, “Oh, excuse me, I was on your flight, and I noticed you were reading a book. Did you enjoy it?” She just replied, “Yeah, it was good but nothing fantastic.” Well, that humbled me!
And do you ever people-watch at airports?
I love a reunion and when you get to see people who clearly haven’t seen each other in a long time. I’m at that age where everything makes me cry and I will be that ridiculous person wiping away a tear at the corner of arrivals. To see love in that pure form makes me so happy.
Has any of your trips inspired your writing?
The Giver of Stars is based in Kentucky, and I knew I couldn’t write that book without travelling there. I travelled four times in the end with British Airways on a dual flight trip. It was vital for that book for me to be immersed in that world repeatedly over several seasons so that I could experience what the women there experienced. I could hear the way people spoke, see the way the landscape changed and do the ground research, talking to people and going to libraries and schools. It’s also been the other way. I lost my fear of flying when I wrote Me Before You. When you write about someone who’s desperate to travel but is confined to one room, you end up thinking: why am I not brave enough to get on an aircraft? Why have I limited myself? It completely changed my mindset.
You’re a BBC Maestro: what do you think people will get out of your course?
Mostly, it’s about giving people confidence – when I was doing the research for this, it was fascinating how many people want to write but have all sorts of emotional blocks. And what I’ve tried hard to convey is the fact that you should just try and enjoy the process, because you are going to fail. You’re going to have a million bad writing days – I do, and I’ve been doing it for 20 years – and that’s fine. I want people to shun perfection, because that’s not going to come, not for a long time. You have to keep chipping away, like a sculptor working from a block. So, if you go into it thinking of it as a process, rather than having to put a perfect paragraph on a page, then it becomes a lot more manageable, both functionally and emotionally.
A lot of practical tips, then?
There’s everything from psychology of writing and getting over a writing block to how to create characters and structure and use notes. It’s a mixture of practical, psychological and emotional tips to really get you going, all in your own time. I’m looking forward to hearing from somebody who’s written a book as a result of the course. That would be wonderful.
BBC Maestro ‘Writing Love Stories’ with Jojo Moyes is out now