Q&A With Jojo Moyes, author of THE GIVER OF STARS

Still Me

Jojo Moyes

THE GIVER OF STARS is based on the true story of the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. How did you discover this piece of history?

“I was reading an edition of the Smithsonian Magazine and came across an extraordinary series of pictures of women on horseback. They were on rough, mountainous terrain, clutching parcels of books, gazing out proudly. I read the accompanying text, about the real-life horseback librarians of Kentucky, and knew immediately that I wanted to write a book about them.”

What was your research process like?

“Oh, I love research. I don’t believe you can write effectively about a place without immersing yourself in it. I need the sights and smells and stories. I visited Kentucky three times between 2017 and 2019 and stayed in a tiny cabin on the side of a mountain, rode horses along the trails the women would have ridden, and talked to a lot of people, to try and get not just the facts, but the rhythms of the language.”

Giver of Stars

Libraries play a key role in THE GIVER OF STARS,  and keen readers will notice you often include a library in your novels. Why are libraries so meaningful to you?

“I was built in a library. My parents didn’t have much  money when I was growing up so the weekly visit to the local library was a key part of my education, and my love of reading. Libraries are one of the few resources where people can be sheltered, educated and entertained without having to pay, and it pains me that they are under such threat.  Without knowledge, people have fewer opportunities to move upwards.”

The protagonist in THE GIVER OF STARS, Alice, is a British woman who moves to Kentucky after marrying an American man. Why did you choose to include a British character in this very American novel?

“Well, it felt pretty audacious to be writing about Appalachia, even with research. I felt that if much of it was seen through the eyes of someone unfamiliar with that world, it made everything a little more accessible. Given it was such a closed world, I also liked the tensions inherent in introducing someone “foreign” into it.”

What does the title THE GIVER OF STARS mean?

“The Giver of Stars is the title of a poem that forms a pivotal moment of the story. It’s a beautiful, tender, romantic poem that spells nothing out but leaves you a little breathless and it was written by a woman who couldn’t express what she really felt–a little like Alice and Frederick. “

What are the main themes of the book? What do you want people to take away from reading THE GIVER OF STARS?

“I wanted to write a book about women who had agency, and did worthwhile things, rather than simply existing in a romantic or domestic plotline. These women achieved epic things, and, more importantly, supported each other while doing it. I reject the constantly pushed narrative that says women must always be in competition with each other; in my experience other women have been my greatest friends and supports and i wanted to show that. Mostly, I want to entertain and transport the reader a little, to make them laugh and cry. I really hope readers enjoy reading THE GIVER OF STARS as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.”

This is a portion of a Q&A sent to me from Viking to post on my blog. I think it’s important because it gives the reader a good perspective of how and why this wonderful new novel came about. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have!!

Happy Reading. Cheers!

Two-Book Winner!

Giver of Stars

One winner; two books!! Great giveaway. Thank you all so much for taking the time to enter this giveaway.  I am so pleased to tell you that since I wrote the post last week I have finished THE GIVER OF STARS.  I absolutely loved it. It is superb. I will post the interview either later today or later this week.

Moyes has changed her game with this novel. It is all good.

Without further ado, here’s the winner. Jill Ducatman, you’ve won both books! Congratulations. I  know you are going to love these books. And a big thanks go out to Viking Publishers for providing both books! Thanks so much.

Peacock Emporium

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Olive, Again

I was thrilled to see a new novel from Elizabeth Strout.  She’s decided to share with us what’s going on in Olive Kitteridge’s life since the end of the first Pulitzer Prize winning novel, OLIVE KITTERIDGE.

I dove into this novel head first anxious to find out what’s going on in the small seaside town of Crosby Maine since last we left it. Small towns are notorious for goings on. And since several of these characters are already known to us it  brought back memories both good and bad.

OLIVE, AGAIN, is written in interlocking stories just as OLIVE KITTERIDGE was more than ten  years ago. That format was new then, but now we know Strout practically invented it and it’s ubiquitous nowadays. I love it.

Olive is now a widow at the age of almost eighty as her husband, Henry, died two years earlier. She’s lonely.  But she’s not the only lonely soul in town.  Even though Jack Kennison who is also recently widowed doesn’t understand why he likes Olive, he does. And soon they decide to tie the knot and not be so lonely.  It’s not that they’re madly in love, they are feeling the effects of the loss of their loved ones. So they cleave to one another.

Has Olive’s personality softened at all? Possibly.  We can see she is at least trying. Trying to be nice. Trying to not be so darned brash. We get a glimpse of a side of her we had not seen before. It’s refreshing.

Olive comes in contact with people who are suffering, or grieving, or being abused, or dying. So many issues.

E. Strout

Strout is brilliant at character study in all its complicated messiness. This novel made me think. Made me look aging right in the face. Let’s face it, we’re all going to get older, face challenges, and possibly deal with loneliness. How we manage it will tell the tale of our future. Happiness or despair.

There are disturbing scenes that might make you look away from the page. It is not candy-coated. Strout writes with honesty and great depth. I loved this novel.

The ending of OLIVE, AGAIN will stick with me forever. It’s so honest that it’s painful.

Come to OLIVE, AGAIN, for the rest of the story, and stay for the brilliant writing. Bound for greatness! Do not miss OLIVE, AGAIN by Elizabeth Strout.

My review copy arrived from Random House. It is superb.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

We’ll have copies of OLIVE, AGAIN for sale at Copperfish Books. On sale at 20% off. Come on in to pick up your copy of the novel. Then stay to browse our brand new gift items. We’re gearing up for the holidays and our season is starting to ramp up. Lovely!

On The Plain Of Snakes by Paul Theroux

On The Plain of Snakes

Along comes Paul Theroux with  a heart-pounding epic journey along the border between Mexico and U.S. It’s not a novel. It’s a tell-all travel documentary written in Theroux’s signature voice. I got so involved that I whipped out a big atlas of Mexico and the border and began to voraciously follow along….sharpie in hand.

Map Mexico-U.S. Border

This book could not be more timely. Surely, I can’t be the only person who’s been wondering about the border, lately. My mind  has pictured areas of crossing both legal and illegal. Immigrants so desperate they are swimming across the Rio Grande sometimes hanging onto the back of another.   Yes, this actually happens daily. And I have spoken to a woman who did just this.

As Theroux drives his personal car across the harsh desert and dangerous roads of Mexico ( and they’re all dangerous) we begin to understand the  potential for disaster around every curve. At one point he was told if  he had chosen to drive a truck it would most certainly have  been stolen. He’s stopped by corrupt government police and officials on every leg of his journey.  Each one extracts  payment for some ridiculous infringement they have cooked up. Non payment is not an option here.  One incident comes to mind where he  encounters a policeman on a motorcycle as he reaches Mexico City.  The policeman  pulled up next to his car and indicated with the fat finger of a leather-gloved hand that he must follow him.  He was lead through heavy traffic  and down a side road, then through a series of slummy streets and finally to the end of a dead-end street.  The policeman approached his car shouting at the top of his voice.  Theroux indicated that his Spanish was poor and asked that the cop speak slowly.  More shouting. The policeman wants to see the papers for the car saying he can take it. It’s illegal to drive this car in Mexico. On and on. Theroux tries to explain that he has the proper permits etc.  By now Theroux is actually afraid. And rightly so. And he writes: ” I have written elsewhere about how I have been frightened in travel, nearly always by someone with a gun–a boy in Malawi, a shifta bandit in the north Kenya desert, and three boys with rusty spears had accosted me in a logoon in the Trocriand Islands, threatening to stab me to death.” Finally, he asked the policeman ,”What do you want?” and that became the game-changer. Money, of course.  Not long after this first encounter, Theroux was again accosted by police for driving down a one-way street. Money was again extracted for the offense. And on and on again and again throughout the  entire adventure. This is a corrupt country.

Theroux gives you a birds-eye view of all that’s hellacious about this often gorgeous but harsh land.  When he teaches a writing class in Mexico City he introduces us to the delicious and unique foods specific to this area.  I enjoyed meeting the intelligent writers in his class. As he walks the streets and uses public transport you feel as if you’re there traveling with him and making new friends as you learn more about the culture and the quirks.

Theroux travels by bus, car, and plane, through the wild wild west of Mexico. Has it always been this way?  Is it more dangerous now than twenty years ago? He even goes so far as to  post about the new four-tier advisory system for travelers to the country.

  • Level 1, Exercise Normal Precautions ( much of Mexico )
  • Level 2, Exercise Increased Caution ( Cancun, Cozumel, Mexico City)
  • Level 3, Reconsider Travel ( Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco )
  • Level 4, DO NOT TRAVEL, ( Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, Taxco )

Theroux goes on to say he knew nothing about this new travel alert until after he returned from his trip. He had been warned repeatedly  to avoid driving in Guerrero state and not to visit Acapulco, warnings he heeded.

Paul Theroux

Reading through these above warnings is daunting. Some of you may remember that I’ve been writing about an upcoming novel called, AMERICAN DIRT, by Jeanine Cummins. It begins in that fine Mexican city of Acapulco. Yes, stay away, my friends!!

I will be talking about ON THE PLAIN OF SNAKES all season long and far into the future.  Get out your atlas and get ready for a wild ride that you will never forget. You need this book.

My review copy was provided by the generous publishing people at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review.  Absolutely on the top of my list this year!!! Loved it.

Two Books For Giveaway! The Star Givers and The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes

Giver of Stars

Jojo Moyes has wowed us with her contemporary romance novels set in England. I was totally blown away by ME BEFORE YOU.  Well folks, she’s come over to our side. This wonderful new historical  novel is set in our own Kentucky. Yes, right here in the good old U.S.A.  And Moyes has done her research. Based on Eleanor Roosevelt’s Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky Program that ran 1935-1943.

Jojo Moyes knows that in order to make her novels sing she simply must submerge herself completely. In order to do  this with THE GIVER OF STARS she visited Kentucky three times from 2017-2019, staying in a tiny cabin on the side of a mountain.  I will be posting a Q&A with Moyes when I post the winner of the two books in this giveaway. You are going to love hearing her story.

Still Me

Jojo Moyes

In this new novel you’ll meet five very unique women and it will amaze you to watch them grow and change over the course of the book.  Alice Wright becomes Alice Van Cleve at the beginning of the story. She believes that by marrying  Bennett Van Cleve and following him to America she will be escaping her stifling life in England. But watch what you hope for…. In Kentucky her overbearing father-in-law makes life so claustrophobic that she almost bursts into flames at the opportunity to work with the women of the Packhorse program. She is one of what will become five of the strongest women you will ever meet in history. What a force!

I am so glad Moyes decided to make this move. And I am delighted to offer two of her books for giveaway. I have one hardcover copy of THE GIVER OF STARS and one trade paper copy of

Peacock Emporium

THE PEACOCK EMPORIUM for giveaway compliments of Viking Publishing. Please leave a comment below and  you will be automatically entered to win both books! I will choose one winner on Monday, October 14. Good luck!

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

Cilka’s Journey

Those of you who are big fans of THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ are going to be over the moon. CILKA’S JOURNEY is the sequel to TATTOOIST.

Continuing on with the journey Cilka began in THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ,  we find Cilka charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and she is sent to a Siberian prison camp.  All this after  three horrific years forced to become  the mistress of a Nazi officer in Auschwitz. It was simply “survival.”

Cilka played a very small part in the first novel. After all, it was about the tattooist and his love. Now it’s time for her story. And what a story it is.  A story of survival. What does it take to survive? No one knows until they have to prove their resilience. Spirits are broken. Lives are taken. Some make it and some do not. This is that story.

Cilka was a very real person in history. Of course this is a novel and the author has added her own dialogue and thoughts. But the long and short of it is that it is a story taken from relentless research.  Some organizations are already calling foul. Saying it’s not exact. No, it’s a novel.

The story begs to be told. Just like TATTOOIST, I believe it could have been done in the form of memoir.  But having said that, I will say that I love learning from reading history in novel form. A great way to gain information. This is not heavy literature. This is a story that reads quickly and aims to finish a story earlier begun.

I already know this book will be a huge seller this season.  I was happy to be a first reader. The publishing people at St. Martin’s Press were kind enough to send my review copy in exchange for an honest review. I’m sure this novel will be a bestseller!

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

We have copies of CILKA’S JOURNEY at Copperfish Books and they go on sale today. They will be discounted 20%. I would love to see you at the store. But you can also buy online. Cheers!

Ribbons Of Scarlet Event At Copperfish Books

Ribbons of Scarlet

RIBBONS OF SCARLET by Kate Quinn, Sophie Perinot, Laura Kamole, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight and Heather Webb is an epic new novel of the French Revolution  written by six best-selling authors and told in the unique voices of six women who lived in that time period.  No one is exempt.  The voices are of women from all walks of life: princess; peasant; harlot; wife; fanatic; philosopher.  Strong women who made a difference. Timely because of the power of women to change the world.

The foreword is written by award-winning author, Allison Pataki.  What an insightful and compelling way to begin the novel.

These six amazing authors will appear together Saturday evening, October 5 at a reservations only event at Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida.  You will have the opportunity to meet them and hear them speak, and have your book signed. This event is being catered by the wonderful people from  Punta Gorda Chocolate & Wine. French wine and cheeses will be served during the event.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

Tickets are very limited at this time and you should grab yours now if you are interested. They will soon be gone! Please call 941-205-2560 to reserve. Or, you can go online to our website at Copperfish Books. Don’t forget, seats are limited.