Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Straight From the Mouth of 'Weak at the Knees' Jo Kessel

Jo Kessel 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.
P.S Jo’s pretty certain one of her daughters has inherited this gene.  

Other books by Jo Kessel include Lover in Law.

Her latest book is the new adult contemporary romance novel, Weak at the Knees.

Visit her website at www.jokessel.com

Thanks for letting us interrogate interview you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

You know the saying ‘writing a book is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration’? Well, it’s true! Everyone thinks they’ve got a book in them (and perhaps they do) but actually knuckling down and writing it is another challenge altogether. So yes, it is hard work, and sometimes I look back at the finished product and think ‘how on earth did I manage to do that?’ But hey, that’s what it’s all about - the ‘finished product’. And nothing beats that feeling of holding a book in your hand that has your name on it. Actually, that’s a lie. What does beat that feeling is when a reader tells you how much your story touched them. It makes all the sweat and tears worthwhile. 

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

I’ve gone down the self-published route, although it wasn’t what I initially set out to do. My first novel Lover in Law was taken up by a top literary agent here in the UK who felt pretty certain they’d be able to secure a book deal with a good publishing house. Slightly dejected (ok, that’s an understatement) I shoved the completed manuscript on my bookshelf and let it gather dust. But, When EL James had such a success with self-publishing Fifty Shades, I thought why not give that avenue a try? And so I brushed off the dust, had it formatted into an e-book for kindle and paperback with Create Space and I haven’t looked back. It feels quite empowering to cut out the middleman and do it yourself.

What’s the snarkiest thing you can say about the publishing industry (e.g. rejections, the long wait, etc.)

Actually, I don’t have anything particularly snarky to say. Yes, it is demoralizing when you get the rejections – when Penguin, followed by Hodder and Harper Collins all turned down my first book, it was upsetting. But hey, that’s part of the game and you have to be tough to it. It’s important to remember that some of the greatest authors of all time have experienced similar rejections and gone on to be read and enjoyed by millions worldwide…………which goes to show that anything is possible. I think, as with so much in life, it’s all about the timing. And so I try not to think of it as a rejection of my work – but just the wrong place, wrong time.   

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

Writing a book makes you fairly introverted for a long period of time as the story plays itself out in your head. It can utterly consume you and then, even once it’s finished, it’s still not quite job done. As you say, the masterpiece has to be polished, edited, formatted, published and then publicized (which is in itself a full-time job). I’m a terrible perfectionist, although I fear that ‘obsessive’ is the word my husband and three children would use. Luckily they put up with me and my moods and the hours spent at my computer and I think they’re secretly all very proud and wouldn’t have it any other way. My children are all passionate readers and think it’s so ‘cool’ that Mom has written two books. They particularly love the cover of Weak at the Knees.

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

I wouldn’t describe this as exactly ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’, but I remember not being certain what to call my first novel Lover in Law and decided to canvass other moms in the school playground to help me decide. One of my possible titles was Pink Panties and the shock/horror on the other Moms faces when they realized that I’d written a ‘sexy’ book (yes, a book which contains sex scenes) was very funny.  I’m not sure some of them have known how to treat me ever since! I also still wonder whether Pink Panties would have been a better title………………………….

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

I don’t think there’s any social network one should avoid – they’re all useful in spreading the word, although I’m still very much a novice in working out how to properly use the system to my advantage. But one thing authors should definitely avoid is touting their books on Amazon romance forums. Those discussion groups are for readers alone to share books they’ve enjoyed and they do not appreciate authors promoting their own work on these strands. And I’m on their side, actually - it makes sense for honest opinions not to be tainted by self-promotion.  

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

When I published my first novel Lover in Law I was clueless. I genuinely thought you could just ‘publish’ your book and expect instant sales. And whilst I did (and still do) see sales, I learned early on that however good your book is, if people don’t know it exists, then how can they buy it? And so it’s been a steep learning curve in self-promotion. Back then I didn’t even know what a book blog was let alone a book blog tour or the website Goodreads! So now I’m much savvier, and have treated the publication of my second novel Weak at the Knees completely differently. I set a publication date and spent the preceding three months or so arranging for exposure around release date and for plenty of book bloggers etc to review my book. Fingers crossed it works.   

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

Right this second, on the brink of publication, I want to shout to the world that Weak at the Knees is a beautiful new adult contemporary romance which is an absolute must-read. It’s a story about love, loss and relationships, set in the heart of the French Alps - a backdrop which I hope distinguishes it from so many other novels in its genre. I’m hoping readers will feel they’ve so been transported to France (arguably the most romantic country in the world) that they can smell the croissants baking and taste the deliciously velvety red Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine. As well as fall in love with Olivier du Pape, the sexy male French love interest. 

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

Actually, mine’s either a Green tea or a Mint tea…………but hey, I’ll have Chamomile just for today. I love your cabana by the way, as well as the waves rolling in (it’s so much nicer than the gray London drizzle outside my window). And now that I’m so mellow in the seaside heat, I will confirm that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Before I published my first novel, I told myself that if I touched just one person with my story, then it would have been worth it. And happily I’ve touched so many more people than I ever dreamed possible………and I hope to carry on touching even more.    


1 comment:

Joanna Kessel said...

Thank you so much for featuring my new release Weak at the Knees on your blog today.
Looking back at the interview I now laugh to think that I was going to call my first novel 'Pink Panties' instead of 'Lover in Law.......and then Moms in the school playground put me off! But I'd love to hear from readers out there whether they actually think 'Pink Panties' would have been a good/or even better title?! Jo