Jo Bavington-Jones is the author of two novels: Lucy Shaw’s Not Sure and Lucy Shaw Wants More, both published by The Conrad Press. I first met Jo when she worked at my local vet’s and, when she told me she was leaving to write her third novel, I begged her to a) be my friend; b) join my writing group; and c) let me interview her for my blog. She kindly agreed to all three and also gave me a copy of her second novel.
Review: Lucy Shaw Wants More
Lucy Shaw Wants More by Jo Bavington-Jones tells the tale of – you guessed it – Lucy Shaw, a wife and mother who, despite loving her husband very much, is no longer in love with him and ponders looking elsewhere.
While adultery isn’t usually a subject you associate with humour, Jo achieves this with ease while never patronising her reader. The humour is subtle, intelligent, never in-your-face and there’s plenty for readers to relate to – from wondering whether it’s best to stay in a marriage for the sake of the children, to asking yourself whether you can bear to date someone whose spelling on a dating site leaves a lot to be desired (in case you’re wondering – my answer to the latter question is a resounding HELL NO). She also explores the all-too-common conundrum of how many x’s to put at the end of a message to a man you’ve only just started communicating with online.
Speaking of dating sites, when Jo told me she’d met her agent on a dating site, I thought THIS IS SO COOL and asked her to tell me more about her, her books and her writing process.
Author Interview: Jo Bavington-Jones
Jo Bavington-Jones, 52, was born just outside Dover and obtained an English and American Literature degree from the University of Kent which she says was completely useless for a job. She ended up in quality assurance for pharmaceuticals then had a variety of jobs, including membership and events manager for Texan fitness celebrity, Jessie Pavelka.
After working for Jessie for two years, redundancy struck and Jo decided to unearth the manuscript that had been stuck in a drawer for ten years. She dug it out, shaped it into what she thought was an okay novel, sent it out to a few publishers and waited for the offers to come rolling in.
I was on a dating site and found a guy who was … a literary agent.
‘Then’, Jo tells me, ‘I was on a dating site and found a guy who was–‘ she pauses and whispers, ‘…this is embarrassing …a literary agent.’ I tell her there’s no need to be embarrassed – I’d have been well in there.
Jo decided it was a sign, met up with the agent – James – and, although there was no romantic spark, James insisted Jo send him her manuscript. Jo’s inner critic/imposter syndrome/world-weary cynicism kicked in and feared it to be a cunning ploy from James to wangle a second date with her. Jo had a word with herself, and came to the conclusion it was all upfront and professional. ‘It’s his reputation. He’s going to be submitting this manuscript to publishers and his reputation’s at stake’, she says.
That was the birth of Jo’s first book – Lucy Shaw’s Not Sure – which, according to Jo, ‘is quite anecdotal. In a way, it’s almost a book of short stories that have been turned into a novel.’
I’m much happier with my second novel as it feels like a proper novel. It’s got a start, a middle and an end and I’m proud of it.
Was writing her first novel difficult? ‘It was very much a learning curve for me. Learning my craft – can I actually write, or can I write something people will want to read. I’m much happier with my second novel as it feels like a proper novel. It’s got a start, a middle and an end and I’m proud of it.’
Jo has every right to be proud of it and I’m not just saying that because she was nice to me while in her role of vet’s receptionist when my cat died. When I tell her it’s better written than a lot of mainstream-published ‘chick-lit’ I’ve read, she glows with relief and gratitude. ‘I feel so uncomfortable when I know someone’s reading my book,’ she says. ‘It’s like sending your baby out in the world to be judged. It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, I appreciate that but, if someone can appreciate the writing then – amazing – that makes me feel so good.’
I’m never going to make it as a writer if I’m not writing.
Jo gave up her job at the vet’s to write her third novel. She must be minted then, eh? ‘Am I making a living from writing?’ she says. ‘No, I am absolutely not making a living from writing and I am still thinking “Is the big break ever going to come?” You’ve just got to keep plugging away. Hence giving up the job at the vets after a year because I didn’t have time to write. I’m never going to make it as a writer if I’m not writing.’
Jo’s third novel is a departure from the first two. ‘It’s not a Lucy book. It’s a bittersweet love story set over about three or four decades. I don’t know how it’s going to end yet but it’s not funny – there’s not a single laugh in it – which is quite a departure for me.’
Knowing Jo hates editing and planning and makes it up as she goes along, I wondered if – with the novel being set over three or four decades – she’d planned this one? Surely making up a coherent plot that covers three or four decades isn’t something to be attempted by a pantser?
I keep putting it off and look at my split ends for half an hour instead.
‘I’ve got a kind of umbrella picture, but I’m getting a bit bogged down with it because I haven’t got enough of a plan and normally my books are quite organic. I’ll just be writing and something will come to me and I’m “Ooh, ooh, ooh, okay, yeah!” and it takes me off. I’m at the point where I need to make some decisions about where it’s going but I keep putting it off and look at my split ends for half an hour instead.’
I’d never heard of one before so – purely for research purposes, you understand – I joined one.
‘With Lucy Shaw Wants More, I had a rough idea about what I wanted to write after dating sites for adulterers were featured on an episode of This Morning. I was like “Good God!” I’d never heard of one before so – purely for research purposes, you understand – I joined one.’
As a mum and divorcee, Jo doesn’t usually need to do much research as she’s already lived what her characters have been through, but adultery and adultery websites were new to her and she wanted to know all about it. She joined the site and – in the guise of being a paid up member – only chatted to men, giving Lucy Shaw Wants More its air of authenticity. It’s eye-opening, indeed, and probably not what you’d expect from a site like that.
I asked Jo if she felt the book condoned adultery. ‘Yes and no would have to be my answer. I don’t think it’s necessarily condoning it, I think it’s just tackling a very real issue that maybe some people wouldn’t admit to.’ Like staying in an unhappy marriage? ‘Is that right or wrong?’ Jo says. ‘Do you stay because of the children? I wanted to explore these themes and also challenge things a bit.’
I’d say Jo achieved her goal.
Lucy Shaw Wants More by Jo Bavington-Jones is available from Amazon and all good bookshops.
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