It's good to meet you, Jo. I see you live near Bath - lucky you, I love Bath - and are the author of several previous novels, but that you are now signed to the multi-award-winning independent publisher Choc Lit under its new imprint Ruby Fiction. So you enjoy writing about villains, do you?
As I write this post in flaming (ahem) June, it's not very summery here in Devon. But Jo's new novel A Cornish Affair - set (of course) in Cornwall - is a brilliant antidote to the grey skies and gloomy vistas on view from my office window. Look at that cover - isn't it beautiful?
The story introduces us to the close-knit community of Carrenporth, to which Luke Carrack returns after two years of absence, only to be cold-shouldered by people who know about his past - or think they know. The only person who seems to warm to Luke is a hotelier's daughter Cat Trevelyan, although even this blossoming friendship turns out to be a focus for gossip. But Luke's return also heralds the unearthing of scandals and secrets which shake this little town to its core.
So what is it about villains, Jo? Why do they engage us so much?
'Drama is at the core of my writing, and what better way introduce it into a story than by creating a villain?' says Jo. 'My heroes are fairly straightforward. They’re decent guys, sometimes misunderstood, sometimes with a painful past, but I’m not letting them simply wander through 300 pages without having to work for their happy endings.
'Enter the villains. Just like their pantomime counterparts, the villains are there to be disliked, hated even, for their manipulative and deceitful ways. They create havoc in the lives of the main protagonists, usually because of some selfish need or plan of their own which they want put in place. They are controllers of the first order. And most of mine have been women. Mel the social climbing mother, Marcie the ex-lover, Thérèse a hard-hearted stepmother, and Lily, a girl with absolutely no moral scruples. There’s a saying that the female of the species is deadlier than the male. It’s something I tend to agree with; women are definitely more devious than men … and more subtle in the way they operate. At least the ones I create are more subtle!
'This month, my debut for Choc Lit, A Cornish Affair, broke that mould as central characters Cat's and Luke’s problems are caused by several different individuals, both male and female. Currently, I’m writing another Cornish coastal novel and breaking more new ground. This time a brother and sister are determined to cause problems for my two main characters.
'I have to say that in whatever guise they come, I do love my antagonists. They’re great fun to write, but of course their stories don’t have happy endings. With the best will in the world, I couldn’t possibly let that happen, could I? That is something reserved exclusively for my heroes and heroines.'
Thank you, Jo - that's good to hear! I'm half way through your novel and loving it, so it's nice to know that a happy-ever-after is coming to the people who deserve it, not to those who don't.