‘My Therapist Thinks I’m A Workaholic’: Jojo Moyes On Reducing Her Hectic Schedule

Best-selling author of Me Before You and Still MeJOJO MOYES tells TRISH DESEINE how success has CHANGED HER LIFE, but not her attitude. A gruelling book tour schedule keeps her FEET ON THE GROUND 

Photograph by Stine Heilmann
Photograph by Stine Heilmann

If I don’t write for more than a few weeks I get a bit scratchy, like there’s an itch I can’t quite reach. I’m forever turning potential ideas for books or films over in my head – is this interesting? Would this work? Is this more a visual story? I love it. It keeps life interesting.

My therapist thinks I’m a workaholic. I’ve been supporting myself since I was 17 and I’m very disciplined. At the moment I’m having some downtime – doing research, instead of juggling half a dozen projects as I have been for the past couple of years. I haven’t quite adjusted to the pace yet. I keep thinking I should be doing more.

Given the number of years for which I was not a particularly successful author, the greatest change in my life since Me Before You took off is the feeling that I have an audience who is interested in what I write. I can’t really underestimate how validating that feels. Of course, publishers and agents take me more seriously now too, but I have had the same agent [Dubliner Sheila Crowley at UK agency, Curtis Brown] for twelve years. One of the things I love about her is that she has always treated me exactly the same. She convinced a new publisher to take me on when my previous novels weren’t making anyone any money. It was a complete leap of faith, so I’ve been delighted to prove her gamble was a good one. It feels like we’ve been on this journey together.

I have just come off a promotional tour of the US. A typical day would involve getting up at 6am, packing my suitcase, travelling to the airport, flying to a new city, doing interviews, an evening talk and then a couple of hours’ signing books. I’ve learned over the years that there are things I can’t do, such as go out for a drink at the end of the evening, no matter how tempting. When I get back to my hotel room I can usually just about muster up enough energy to order up some soup before I have to begin the cycle again. I once had a bout of flu on an international tour – I was passing out in the car between events and living on Lemsip. I am now fanatical about my health and take anti-bacterial hand gel while travelling – as I never want to go through that again.

When I’m on the road, I always start out fully intending to hit the hotel gym daily but more often than not the schedule defeats me. And if I have a couple of hours’ downtime they’re usually spent catching up on email in bed and conserving energy. It’s exercise carrying unused running shoes in your suitcase, right?

I like to book a deep tissue massage about halfway through a tour – I get pretty bent out of shape flying all the time. And I try to eat well, minimising sugar and alcohol, but to be honest, by Day 10 I’m less likely to order tofu scrambles and kale salads than the greasy comfort of chips and a salmon burger. When I went to Brazil last year I took a friend who does hair and make-up. That made a huge difference – to have someone with me (it can get very lonely) but also to look professionally “done” at every event. I can see how that would get addictive.

One of the great unexpected bonuses of Me Before You’s success is that I now work in film – I have several scripts out with studios at the moment. I’m glad I got into it at the age I did as I think it would be very easy to get it wrong – there is a clear hierarchy and it’s very different in approach from publishing. There’s a definite language you need to learn. But I now feel like I have two careers, which is amazing.

I’ve had many “pinch me” moments this year alone, the most recent one was a couple of months ago when I appeared on a chat show with Matt Le Blanc, who now presents Top Gear. I went slightly slack-jawed and, of course, he was completely charming.

Still Me by Jojo Moyes (€20.30, Michael Joseph) is out now.

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