Our guest today is Jo Kessel, author of the new adult contemporary romance, Weak at the Knees. Jo is a journalist in the UK, working for the BBC and reporting and presenting for ITV on holiday, consumer and current affairs programs. She writes for several national newspapers including the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Express and was the anonymous author of the Independent’s hit column: Diary of a Primary School Mum. When Jo was ten years old she wrote a short story about losing a loved one. Her mother and big sister were so moved by the tale that it made them cry. Having reduced them to tears she vowed that the next time she wrote a story it would make them smile instead. Happily she succeeded and with this success grew an addiction for wanting to reach out and touch people with words. Other books by Jo Kessel include Lover in Law.
Thank you for this interview, Jo. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
Hi there, and thank you so much for having me. Well, what can I tell you? I’m British and come from London and have been writing since I was about 5 years old. It started with short stories which my mother and big sister used to love reading and their enthusiasm motivated me to continue writing. In fact, writing was all I ever wanted to do. After university I started working as a journalist (both in television and print) and it wasn’t until after I had my children (I’ve got three little ones who keep me on my toes) that I decided to try my hand at writing novels. I just love it and can’t believe I didn’t try sooner.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
Weak at the Knees is a story about love, loss and relationships set between London and the heart of the French Alps. When somebody close to the heroine Danni dies tragically young, it sends her life into a tailspin. Seeking a new beginning she runs away to France, where she falls hard (in more ways than one) for French ski instructor Olivier du Pape. The problem is he’s married, and she’d always promised herself that she would never get involved with a married man. Cue big moral dilemma – her heart’s saying one thing and her head’s telling her another. But which one will win the battle?
Why did you choose your particular genre?
Weak at the Knees is in the new adult/contemporary romance genre. For me, love is what makes the world go round and I can’t imagine writing a story in which romance wasn’t a pivotal feature. And the reason for writing ‘new adult’ is that it appeals to all women, of all ages. Between 18 – 30 years is such a key period of a woman’s life (it can be pretty tumultuous too) when you’re fleeing the nest and trying to find out who you are and which paths to take. It’s daunting and exciting at the same time, and readers who are currently going through that will be able to relate to this story as much as women who have already been there.
What was your greatest challenge writing this book?
My greatest challenge was writing the portion of the book where Danni loses someone very close to her – I don’t want to give out any spoilers so I’ll be careful with what I say. But I sadly lost my mother in tragic (and not dissimilar) circumstances to the person who dies in Weak at the Knees – although the person who dies is in her 20s and my mother was older than that. Anyway, I struggled to keep my keyboard dry as I wrote those chapters because the tears kept on flowing as I remembered the passing of my mother. I still miss her, terribly.
Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?
I’m self-published with Amazon, both paperback (Create Space) and e-book.
Was it the right choice for you?
It was definitely the right choice for me. My first novel Lover in Law had been signed up by a top literary agent in the UK who’d been certain that they would be able to secure a book deal for me. When that sadly failed to happen, I was left with a good manuscript sitting around and no home for it. So, inspired by EL James, I decided to self-publish it. And I’ve not looked back. It makes much more sense for an author to cut out the middle-man……….although obviously, I’m sure the backing of a major publishing house has its own advantages too, so I would never rule that out in the future.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
It’s been a huge learning curve for me. Lover in Law was never properly promoted and it doesn’t matter how good the book is, if readers don’t know it even exists, how will they be able to buy it? So with Weak at the Knees I’m doing a few book blog tours as well as doing some more conventional book signings/appearances both at a major Literary Festival in the UK and at book stores both here and in France, where the book is half-set.
How is that going for you?
My book is only now just published (literally) so it’s too soon to tell. The response, however, to my Cover Reveal (I absolutely love my cover and so, it would seem, do the readers) back in July was phenomenal. The cover clearly hits the spot and makes people want to buy and read the book.
Can you tell us one thing you have done that actually resulted in one or more sales?
I would say that investing money into designing a striking cover proved key to good sales.
Do you have another job besides writing?
Yes, I’m a freelance print journalist for national newspapers in the UK. I write features on travel, parenting, education, health and a lot of first person experiential pieces too.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
You must garner exposure for your book (which probably includes investing a small amount of money into it) to give your book the best possible chance. Like I said before, your book could be absolutely brilliant and the next bestseller – but if readers don’t know it even exists, how can they buy it?
What’s next for you?
Next is moving the story of Weak at the Knees along as well as hearing things from Olivier’s point of view.
Thank you for this interview, Jo. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
Thank you for having me. I love to connect with and hear from my readers, who can find me on:
Twitter: @_jo kessel