I’m Joanna Rees and also write as Josie Lloyd, but you can call me Jo. I live in Brighton with my husband and writing partner, Emlyn Rees. We have three teenage daughters and a beloved dog, Ziggy (pictured), who keeps us sane and makes us walk and run by the sea every day.
My writing journey started when I was six years old. I was always the chatterbox of the family. I grew up in Chelmsford in Essex, but my grandmother lived in London. At the weekends, we’d often drive to see her and my sister would want to read in the car, but I’d want to talk about what I could see. My Mum gave me a notebook and pencil and told me to write it all down. Thanks to my very patient Nanna, who listened to my ramblings at the other end of the journey, I discovered (possibly for the wrong reasons) that I could entertain other people through words.
Growing up in Essex in the 80’s, there wasn’t that much to do for entertainment (apart from Dallas on the TV, obviously) so as a teen I became hooked on books. Lace, by Shirley Conran, Flowers In The Attic, by Virginia Andrews and all of the Jilly Cooper books had me captivated. It was my love of reading that made me want to become a writer.
Fast forward a few years and, after a degree in English and Drama at Goldsmiths’ College in London, I was working in a sales promotion agency, writing copy for posters that destined for staff toilet doors, when I had an epiphany moment and thought: I’m twenty-five. If I don’t write a novel now, I’ll never do it. So I jacked in my job, sold the car, dumped my then boyfriend, moved out of my flat, got a cheap computer and a box room in a friend’s attic and wrote my first novel, It Could Be You.
And, as I always suspected it might, by following my destiny and my great dream to be a writer, I met the man I would later marry.
Emlyn was my agent’s assistant at Curtis Brown, the literary agents in London. He was instrumental in getting Vivienne Schuster, my agent to take me on as a client. Emlyn and I were both writing our second novels and trying to scrape a living together in London and so we had lots in common. We soon we became friends and confidantes. One very drunken night, we came up with the idea of writing a novel together about our single lives. Emlyn would write one chapter from the boy’s point of view and I would write the next from the girl’s. We wrote two chapters of what became Come Together, a rom-com about Jack and Amy and their single life in London and to our shock and delight, got a book deal with Random House. It went on to become a number 1 Sunday Times best seller, was translated into 26 languages and made into a film. And, as a result of writing a ‘wart’s ‘n’ all’ romance about dating, got together ourselves and got married in 1999.
We wrote seven more novels together and then, as new parents, turned our attention to writing parodies of our favourite kids books. After extensive personal research, we came up with ‘We’re Going On A Bar Hunt’, a take on ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ which we must have read to the kids thousands of times. We followed it up with ‘The Very Hungover Caterpillar’ and ‘The Teenage Who Came To Tea’. We were lucky enough to work with the very talented illustrator, Gillian Johnson on these. We’ve also written, ‘Twas The Fight Before Christmas, The Joy Of Socks, and Shabby: The Jolly Good British Guide to Stress-Free Living’.
In recent years, my Joanna Rees novels have been the kind of sweeping, dramatic books I love to read myself. I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to plotting and so always include a bit of romance and jeopardy in my stories. My latest books are part of my Stitch In Time trilogy, which starts in London in 1926 with The Runaway Daughter, goes to Paris in 1928 for The Hidden Wife and to New York in 1929 and Hollywood in 1930 in The Sister Returns. It’s such a wonderful period to research and I’ve found writing Vita and her friend Nancy absolutely captivating.
As Josie Lloyd, I have also written The Cancer Ladies’ Running Club, which is out in paperback May 2021. It’s a contemporary fiction novel which draws on my own experience of breast cancer in 2019.
In my spare time, I enjoy cooking for friends, hanging out with the kids, going to restaurants, watching box sets on the sofa or going to the cinema. I always have at least 3 books on the go, including poetry. I run, do yoga and swim in the sea regularly, but my great passion is Qi gong, which is an ancient form of Chinese yoga. A blast of slow, meditative breathing and movement always sets me up for my writing day.
I love to hear from readers, so please join me on Twitter @joannareesbooks, on Insta @jorees22. Or like my Facebook page Joanna Rees Books for more information.