Best-selling author Jojo Moyes speaks at Rancho Santa Fe Library event

Although best-selling author Jojo Moyes visited only seven cities on her latest U.S. book tour, she made sure San Diego was one of them.

“I love San Diego so much,” she said, admitting that she even brought her family on vacation to La Jolla this past summer. “San Diego readers have supported me from the very beginning, and it is now one of my favorite places to visit.”

Because Warwick’s of La Jolla holds a special place in her heart, she not only spoke and signed copies of her new book, “After You,” at the store recently, but she was also the featured guest at an author luncheon hosted by the Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild in partnership with Warwick’s to benefit the Rancho Santa Fe Library.

“When we announced that Jojo Moyes was coming, the response from every woman over 25 was the equivalent of telling a teenage girl they were going to see Taylor Swift,” said Susan Appleby, director of membership and development for the Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild, in her introduction to the author. “Jojo is a rock star.”

The sold-out crowd apparently agreed, cheering when Moyes announced, with her charming British accent, “This is the last day of my tour. So I’m going to go crazy.”

Before reading a short excerpt from “After You,” she asked whether anyone in the audience didn’t know the ending to “Me Before You,” its beloved predecessor. When a few people reluctantly raised their hands, she warned, “It may give something away to say that we’re about to go into a grief counseling group.”

“Me Before You,” which has sold almost 6 million copies since it came out in 2012, is the story of Louisa Clark, an ordinary working-class girl who takes a job as the personal assistant to Will Traynor, an intelligent, wealthy and very angry young man who seemed to have it all until an accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.

The book is based on an actual story Moyes heard on the radio one day in which a rugby player, after years of living as a quadriplegic, had persuaded his parents to take him to Dignitas, a center for assisted suicide.

“It was one of those stories that just wouldn’t leave my head,” said Moyes, the mother of three. “I couldn’t understand how any parent could agree to help their child end his life. But because I’m an ex-journalist, I did a lot of reading about the subject and, the more I read, the more I realized this young man and his family members had all been put in an intolerable position.”

At the same time, Moyes had two family members of her own who required 24-hour care just to stay alive.

“The issue of quality of life was very high in my mind,” she said.

If book sales are any indication, it was high in the minds of readers, as well. According to Moyes, she started — and is still — receiving letters and emails from caregivers, people who had suffered from chronic illness or depression, people who’d had similar experiences in their family and people who were just feeling stuck and not leading the life they had planned when they were 15 and dreaming of big adventures.

“They told me things like, ‘After I read “Me Before You,” I ditched my boyfriend, I ditched my job and now I’m going around the world,’” said Moyes in amazement. “And they got tattoos! There’s a whole gallery of ‘Me Before You’ tattoos, and I’m just a total mum, going, ‘Is that permanent?’”

But the question that the majority of readers wanted to know was, “What did Louisa do next?”

That question intrigued Moyes herself.

“Louisa’s voice has never left me,” she confessed. “She’s a good person, and when I think of my daughter reading this book, I want her to take away an image not of a woman who just buys stuff or worries about how she looks, but of a woman who has a good heart and does things with her life.”

“After You” continues Louisa’s tale and, said Moyes, it’s not the end of the story.

“I see it as a trilogy and I do have a third one in mind, but I have to let it marinate a bit,” she said. “I feel a huge responsibility toward Louisa because she’s the most beloved character I’ve created in 14 books. I want to make sure I get it right.”

By the time that novel is written, readers are likely to picture the characters as Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin, thanks to the movie version of “Me Before You,” which MGM will be releasing next spring.

That may be the perfect time for Moyes to schedule her next appearance in San Diego.

Copyright © 2018, Rancho Santa Fe Review
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