Thursday, 22 November 2012

Interview with Joanna Rees

Today, I have the great pleasure of talking with novelist Joanna Rees, author of A Twist of Fate. She's here to brighten up the otherwise bleak Thursday I'm having (have you looked outside yet - yeah, it's pouring - again!) Might need a boat to leave the house...
So without further ado, let's grill her!

 I came across A Twist of Fate by chance(and I am so glad I did) but I hadn’t
 realized initially that you were the same Josie Lloyd who wrote with your
 husband Emlyn Rees. Why the departure from writing together and should we
 expect you to write together again at any point?

Emlyn and I loved writing together, but after seven books, we were
ready for a change. He wanted to go back to writing thrillers and I
wanted to write a bigger kind of book, with lots of characters and
international locations, so we decided to go our separate ways. It
sounds dramatic, but we both work at home and still edit each other's
work, so lots of the skills we learnt writing together, we still use.
We still collaborate on some projects and we have plans to screen
write together.

 In A Twist of Fate, you write in great detail about the countries involved.
 Have you been to all of the countries/places in the books and could vividly
 imagine them as you wrote, or did you have to also rely on internet
 research, Google Earth, etc?
For me, the important thing is the character curve, so it's important
to get that right first. I do do a bit of research about the
locations, but I find if I do too much research, it hampers the story.
I have been to a lot of places, but mostly I use a healthy dose of
artistic license and add in lots of sensual description to create a

The scenes in the orphanage are quite harrowing, but seem very realistic and
I could completely imagine Eastern Europe being like that at that time. How much and what kind of background work did you have to do to ensure the time
 periods and occurrences were plausible?

Again, the drama is character based, so that is all fiction made to
sound plausible. The old saying is true: life is stranger than
fiction. I think one of my writing rules is not to get too hung up on
whether it would actually happen like that in real life and to just go
for it. I tend to drop in period details - music, political events,
clothing etc in the final edit.

 As I said in my review, there was one character I hated, Thea’s brother
 (actually two - I couldn’t stand the stepmother either) . They were both
 very easy to detest. Do you consciously apply any techniques to make your
 readers feel strong emotions like this, do you subtly lay clues, or do you
 prefer to let shocking actions make the reader experience emotion?
I wanted the baddies to be really bad. I didn't want them to have any
redeeming features, or to spend too long justifying their psychology.
If you create a truly evil villain who gets away with it, like Brett
does, then you build up a sense of indignation in the reader, by
denying justice for the character. It's fun dynamic to play with and
helps build tension and makes the dramatic denouement all the more
satisfying. A book like 'A Twist Of Fate' set over 40 years with a
large cast of characters relies on using very broad brush-strokes to
paint the story, so you have to be bold with your colours.


 How did you go about interweaving the different time periods, linking past
 and present and how much of a challenge was this? (for the record, I loved
 this feature)
The challenge was giving both girls an equal amount of plot and
interweaving their stories. I moved the story on a couple of years at
a time, so they were both at the same stage. The hard bit was making
sure that by the end, they were both at the end of their character
curves at the same point.

 There were a lot of sub-plots in A Twist of Fate and plenty of twists and
 turns. Do you have a favourite you can allude to, without providing a
My subplots revolved around minor characters which are always so much
fun to bring to life. I was particularly fond of the photographer,
Nico who gives Romy her first break.

 Do you prefer to write male or female characters and why? Or does it depend
 on who the character is? Who has been your favourite character to date that
 you have written?
That's a hard one. I like writing both men and women and have enjoyed
all the characters in my books. I'll always have a soft spot for Amy
Crosbie in 'Come Together' the first book I wrote with Emlyn, as she
was partly autobiographical and the actual period of writing that book
together was so special as it was how we got together in real life. I
really liked writing Peaches Gold, my L.A madam in 'Platinum'. I
based her loosely on Heidi Fleiss. She was so sassy. Generally,
though, I'm always into the characters I'm writing at the moment as
they feel so exciting and new.

 I absolutely loved A Twist of Fate, so much so I stopped writing my own
 novel for two days. This, if I am not mistaken is the first novel as Joanna
 Rees, although you had 2 others as Jo Rees. Why did you change your name
 here, was it to separate subject matters? Will we possibly see future books
 by Jo Rees, too?
I changed publisher and wanted to divert away from the slightly brash
bonkbuster image my Jo Rees books had into a broader appeal, so
Macmillan, my brilliant new publisher decided to rebrand me using
Joanna Rees (which is actually my real name).

You have written lots of books (and I have read almost, but not quite, all
 of them!) Which book means the most to you and why?
They are all my babies, so it's hard to say. 'It Could Be You' was my
first, and I will never forget the feeling of holding my first proof.
'Come Together' because it was how I got together with Emlyn. Each
book we wrote together is special because of what was going on whilst
we were writing them - like moving house and having babies. I am
very proud of 'A Twist of Fate', I have to say, because it is such a
big story and I absolutely loved writing it.

 I believe you are working on something new at the moment. What can you tell
 us about it and what should we expect?
I'm writing a book called 'The Key To It All' and I'm about half way
through. I'm not going to give too much away, but it's another great
big international story with a big intrigue at its heart. It'll be
out in Feb 2014.


 Fun stuff

 Almost everyone knows I am absolutely mad about Rupert-Penry Jones. Who,
 apart from Emlyn, gets your heart all aflutter?
Between you and me, I do have a bit of a secret crush on Damian Lewis.
 Comedy or music? Who are your favourites?
Comedy, probably, although I love both. I live in Brighton so there’s
lots of comedy on here and I particularly like seeing comedy in small
venues. I think these enormous stadium gigs lose something of the
edge and I like reactive comedy, when the comedian responds to the
audience, rather than doing their slick, practised stuff. I have
several friends who’ve done the stand-up comedy course down here and
I’m full of admiration. It’s a lot more difficult than it looks.
Music-wise, I’m a sucker for the eighties. I don’t think I ever got
past Duran Duran and I know every word of Queen’s greatest hits. When
we had a street party for the Jubilee, I had all the neighbours
singing Bohemian Rhapsody in my living room! Emlyn is a huge music
fan and we have thousands of CD’s. Recently Spotify has
revolutionized my music listening and I’ve discovered a lot more bands
I like.

If you hadn’t become a writer, what career do you think you would have been
happy with?

I’d have loved to have been a radio presenter and to be able to have
my own chat show. Over the course of my career, I’ve done loads of
radio interviews here and abroad and I’ve always met nice people at
radio stations and love the whole world of it.

Favourite country in whole world and why (except for UK!)
India, definitely. I’ve travelled there quite a few times and we have
another trip planned in January to Kerala. I love the people, the
colours and sounds, the sheer difference of it. It’s so beautiful in
such an earthy way and very romantic, too. I’ve been writing about
Rio recently in my new book an I’d love to go to Brazil. I find it
fascinating. Before I had kids in my twenties, I travelled quite a
bit and I’m looking forward to doing some more.

Favourite genre to read and childhood book which meant the most to you
Too difficult to call. I love all sorts. I love a good thriller.
One of my favourite books in the last few years was Justin Cronin’s
‘The Passage’. SO scary and brilliantly written. I can’t wait to
read the sequel, ‘The Twelve’. I don’t tend to read commercial
women’s fiction so much, as it feels too close to my working day. I
like anything with an unusual setting.

Favourite childhood books? I’ve recently tried to give the books I
remember from my childhood, like ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ to my own
kids to read and they’re not interested, as kids books have moved on
so much. Enid Blyton just seems very dated. That said, I still read
them ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ stories and they love them just as
much as I did.

TV series or films?

Both. As we both work at home, Emlyn and I have to get out a couple of evenings a week, otherwise we go stir crazy, so we go to the cinema alot. (Although I didn't think much of the new James Bond last week.) We are total box-set junkies, and often watch episodes back-to-back until our eyes hurt. We're half way through season 4 of 'Breaking Bad' which is just masterful. Next up is season 3 of 'Friday Night Lights'. I have a bit of a soft spot for Coach Eric Taylor, so I'm looking forward to that.

Have you ever had a wardrobe disaster and if so, what? (hopefully not as bad as Janet Jackson)
Hmm. Tricky. My wardrobe disasters tend to be more to do with wearing
the wrong thing to the wrong occasion, rather than exposing myself.

 Favourite time period in history?

  I'd love to time travel. It's a recurring fantasy. I'd love a day in a Tudor court, or to be at a posh party at the height of the Raj. The Victorians were pretty snazzy.

 Do you have any gifts, apart from writing?

  I can play any tune on a recorder. Does that count?

 Reality TV shows or quiz shows?

  Neither. I'm too busy watching box sets to bother. I can't bear reality TV. It's like going to a zoo. Quiz shows are generally quite banal, apart from University Challenge, which makes me feel a bit dim.

Well, that's it for today. Thanks very much Joanna for joining us.
You can catch up with Joanna here:-

Twitter @joannareesbooks
You can also buy A Twist of Fate on Amazon -
Tune in tomorrow for The Black Friday Blog Hop (yes, I had to google Black Friday, too...)

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