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Jojo's found her mojo on the silver screen

Jojo Moyes is living the dream - her novels sell in the millions and two have made it to the big screen, but she was close to giving up before the breakthrough book that changed her life, writes Esther McCarthy

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Several of Jojo Moyes’ books are being adapted for cinema and TV productions.

Several of Jojo Moyes’ books are being adapted for cinema and TV productions.

Several of Jojo Moyes’ books are being adapted for cinema and TV productions.

She's one of the world's most-successful writers of romantic fiction. But Jojo Moyes has revealed that she wrote three novels before even getting published and eight before penning the smash hit that changed her life.

Me Before You sold a staggering 18 million copies and was adapted into a successful movie starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. But previous publishers had passed on the book and Moyes was at a crossroads before it caught fire on the bestseller charts.

How did she manage to persevere? "I think I'm just really stubborn!" laughs the Londoner. "Plus I couldn't work out what else I would do. I thought, 'Well, I'm just gonna give it one last shot'. I believed in the story that was Me Before You. And even if all I did was put it out there for free, I just needed to tell this story."

The novel, about a young woman who becomes a carer to a quadriplegic man, was a global hit and made Hollywood sit up and take notice. Now a second story from Moyes is coming to the big screen - with several more on the way.

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Moyes with Felicity Jones and film director, Augustine Frizzell

Movie:
The Last Letter From Your Lover

Moyes with Felicity Jones and film director, Augustine Frizzell Movie: The Last Letter From Your Lover

Moyes with Felicity Jones and film director, Augustine Frizzell Movie: The Last Letter From Your Lover

The Last Letter from Your Lover spans two generations, the 1960s and the present. It tells the story of an ambitious journalist (Felicity Jones) who discovers a trove of secret love letters from the 1960s involving the unhappily married Jennifer (Shailene Woodley) and a charismatic journalist (Callum Turner) who falls in love with her.

Woodley and Jones were so enthused by the project that they signed up as executive producers to help get it made. That mattered "absolutely hugely" says Moyes, given that it had been delayed for years.

"I had met Felicity in the hope that we were going to work together on another project that didn't come off," she says. "So when I heard she was interested in doing this, I was really excited.

"I thought she'd want to play Jennifer, because I'd always thought of her as playing quite traditional parts. When I heard she wanted to be Ellie, who's this messier, foul-mouthed, disastrous comedic foil, I thought, 'Oh, this is going to be interesting'. I think she wanted to show that she has comedy chops, which she does.

"I'm obviously a huge fan of Shailene, because I've seen Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars and then Big Little Lies was massive. Finding out she wanted to be involved was great, because I think she's an extraordinary actress. Then things moved very quickly.

"It went from being a thing that I didn't even think about, because I just assumed it would probably go round in circles forever, and then suddenly everything came together very quickly."

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Shailene Woodley and Callum Turner in The Last Letter From Your Lover.

Shailene Woodley and Callum Turner in The Last Letter From Your Lover.

Shailene Woodley and Callum Turner in The Last Letter From Your Lover.

She spent a great deal of time on set for both movies, but says she will never tire of seeing the characters she dreamed up in her novels being brought so vividly to life.

"I have been lucky enough to work on the two productions of my books that have come out in the English language. It's been kind of mind blowing actually to suddenly see this man who was in my head walking down the street in front of me.

"It's just such a strange sensation. And you also become aware that there is this whole industry of people who are really smart at their jobs, all these people whose sole job is to make your characters as much like themselves as they could be."

Jojo worked for many years as a journalist before turning her hand to romantic fiction, and still contributes to various UK publications.

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She won a bursary from The Independent newspaper and worked there for a decade, first as an assistant news editor and then as an arts and media correspondent. But as she started her family, she began to consider writing novels.

"I didn't know any writers of fiction. I didn't think it was the kind of job that you got to do. But after 10 years writing the odd feature, you start to find your voice.

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Felicity Jones and Nabhaan Rizwan in The Last Letter From Your Lover.

Felicity Jones and Nabhaan Rizwan in The Last Letter From Your Lover.

Felicity Jones and Nabhaan Rizwan in The Last Letter From Your Lover.

"I was doing it at the same time that there was an explosion of female fiction. I've always written fiction in my spare time, and I found myself thinking, 'Well, if these can get published, why can't I?' I started writing books in my spare time, and I say that advisedly because I actually wrote three books before I got one published and managed to get an agent.

"Number four was published and by that time I was pregnant with my second child. I was kind of ready to quit news journalism, because it was very hard balancing the needs of a young child with news journalism, and I couldn't see how I was going to manage it with two. So it was really lucky timing as well."

Several novels have followed including Sheltering Rain, which is set in Ireland and inspired by a real-life experience.

"I had step-grandparents who lived in Wexford. They came into my life when I was about 14. They lived in an amazing, crumbling Georgian mansion, and they were really interested in horses. I think it just provided such a perfect setting. I grew up in Hackney. So it was like nothing I'd ever been to before."

Expect to see lots more of Jojo's work on the big and small screen. Top studios New Line and Universal both have adaptations of her novels in the pipeline. She has also turned her hand to screenwriting.

"I'm writing a comedy pilot for Sky with a writing partner and I'm also working on a pilot for an American television company. So it's another new experience. I just want to produce the best work that I can and hopefully keep having an audience."

The Last Letter from Your Lover is in cinemas nationwide now, with the novel also available from all good bookstores

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