Category Archives: Jo Rees

The ‘C’ Word

OK, I know it’s November, but we can’t miss it. Christmas is everywhere.  Are you, like me starting to feel overwhelmed by the thought of presents.  Well, here’s one solution…

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Do you remember reading ‘The Night Before Christmas’ when you were a kid?  It’s always been one of my favourite poems and I’ve read it to our own girls over the years.  I like that warm, fuzzy feeling I get at the end of it, when Santa has been to visit and has disappeared off into the night.

Well, here’s our much more realistic modern take on it – hopefully with the Christmas sentiment still intact…just.  ‘Twas The Fight Before Christmas is our latest parody and hits the shops this month.

We had an absolute hoot writing it. (Obviously none of our own family members – or those of our friends make and appearance AT ALL!)  It’s about Christmas Eve day and the mayhem at the Jones household when all the extended family turn up for the festivities. There are so many issues – Aunty Sue and Uncle Bob are post divorce, Uncle Trev on the lagers and Gran and Grandad attempting to micro manage everyone…oh, and let’s not forget that Mum’s internet shopping still hasn’t arrived.  It’s no wonder that a massive scrap breaks out.

Come and see our new Parody Central page for further updates.  Facebook https://www.facebook.com/parodycentralbooks/

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So This Is What Happened

If I wasn’t a writer, I wonder what path my life would have taken.  I often think that my dream career would be in radio.  It’s so much fun chatting to people and hearing about their lives.

Which is why I’m delighted to be continuing my guest appearances as an interviewer on Radio Gorgeous. This week I’m talking to the lovely Laurel Lefkow.  She’s curating a fantastic story-telling event in the Omnibus Arts Centre in Clapham.  I went along to meet her and to hear some of the stories and came away enthralled by the power of story telling.  Here’s my piece for Radio Gorgeous.

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The Beach Hut Writing Academy

 

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I’m very proud to be taking part in this fabulous writing event this Saturday, March 12th.

It’s a full-day conference for new & experienced writers, run by the Beach Hut Writing Academy Conference and taking place in the gorgeous Brighton sea front Angel House.

There’ll be plenty going on, including workshops and lunch with bestselling authors, screenwriters, agents and editors, all sharing their insider secrets. Emlyn and I will be chatting about writing together and how to make a career out of writing.

The conference is currently SOLD OUT, but you can join the waiting list for last minute tickets here.

Hope to see you there.

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Gorgeous Gossip

 

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Things have rather Dark & Stormy around here with Emlyn, Julia and Ray’s new Crime Festival, which was a storming success.  There were sell out events all-round with a brilliant turn from Brighton’s own Peter James as well as a ‘Spies Fact or Fiction’ event in the Dome with Dame Stella Rimmington and Liam Fox amongst the other distinguished guests, not to mention the rocking launch party. I was lucky enough to make my radio presenting debut recording for the brilliant Radio Gorgeous and spoke to Julia Crouch and Candida Lacey about why Brighton and crime go together like Fish and Chips.  Here I am on Gorgeous Gossip.

http://radiogorgeous.com/podcasts/author-joanna-rees-reports-from-dark-stormy-crime-festival-on-gorgeous-gossip/

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‘A Twist Of Fate’ is out now!

It’s August, and ‘A Twist Of Fate’ my latest novel hits the shelves.  Hooray.  I’m very excited that it’s finally out.  That said, it’s always a bit strange around the time of publication, as there’s a big build-up and then nothing actually happens.  It feels like one of my babies is starting school and I can’t help pacing anxiously, waiting to hear news – whether someone’s spotted someone buying a copy in Asda, or if there’s been a nice review, or, most importantly, if anyone’s actually reading it.

 

Fortunately, publication week has started off well with a fabulous 5 star review in Heat.  This is what they had to say:

 

‘It’s 1971, and in a snowy forest two baby girls are handed over to East German gangsters.  One is sent to an orphanage on the Polish border where she can be certain of hard work, hunger and abuse; the other is sold to a moneyed American couple and destined for a life of mega-privelege in the West.  For more than 40 years, their paths cross without either one ever knowing the truth about their start in life.

 

It’s perfect beach-bag fodder, with drama on just about every page.  As the girls grow up, they face and endless stream of betrayals and tragedies, and even the occasional good day. It’s classic Jackie Collins territory, by which we mean it’s freakin’ ace.  Evil stepbrothers!  Double-crossing, drug-dealing hookers!  Secret babies!  Yachts!  Blackmail!  It’s got the lot.

 

Pack it in your hand luggage and expect to spend a day of your summer hols reading…and refusing all food, drink and conversation.’

 

Even better, my fabulous publishers, Macmillan have hooked up with Champneys for an amazing promotion, where you can win a luxury two night spa break, with loads of treatments in a Champneys resort.

 

Plus, there’s loads of samplers available in Champneys spas and resorts.  If anyone is in Brighton on 28th August, I’ll be in Champneys doing a special event at 6pm, so come along.

 

Here’s the details of the CHAMPNEYS COMPETITION, which I urge you to enter:

 

 

Details of my event: http://www.champneys.com/Day-Spas/Event

Click on the cover above to order or click HERE

Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it.

 

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Why work-at-home parents work much longer hours than those in regular jobs

Despite the revolution that the internet has brought about, allowing so many of us to work at home, let’s be honest – culturally, we’re not all quite there yet on how it should work.  How many times to you hear people say, ‘Yes, but I work one day a week at home’ in that apologetic tone, as if they think everyone else suspects them of being a slacker?  If you work at home all the time, then the chances are you feel like you have to prove yourself to everyone else all the time, too.   Nobody ever says to the work-at-home parent, ‘Oh my God!  You must be frazzled.  You must work so hard.’

But that’s the truth. Whilst working at home gives welcome flexibility to many careers and allows many women like me to work after having children, those of us bashing away at our laptops in the kitchen, or trying to make a call in the freezing loft-conversion study, are actually working much longer hours than we would do if we commuted to an office.

The work guilt seems to be much stronger in the work-at-home parent (although this might be termed a work ethic).  We work through lunch because breaks don’t really exist.  And if you do happen to make a sandwich in the kitchen, it also involves clearing up breakfast and unpacking the dishwasher.  There’s no leisurely company expenses lunches in swanky restaurants, or an hour of mooching around the posh shops, or gym-trips like my friends in offices have.  I found myself snarling at a friend who was flying business class to New York, but happened to have conveniently booked a ‘me-time’ day on the company either side of her actual meeting.

OK, so it’s not all easy for her.  She might get the glory of being a career girl in a highly paid job, but she also has to pay a nanny most of her salary to pick up her kids and help with their homework.  But the trade-off for working at home and actually being there for your kids is not that easy either because quite often you neither do your job in the most effective way possible, nor parent terribly well.

You can always tell the work-at-home parents because they turn up consistently late to the school gates with a five-mile stare, and the anxious frown of someone who hasn’t even got half way through today’s to-do list.   As a writer, I’ve often just got into my flow by the time I have to leave for the school run, and having just written a murder or a sex scene suddenly find myself presented with a painted egg-box, or a handful of gluey pictures to inspect from my five-year-old and have to react appropriately. It’s jarring to say the least.

The problem too is that, with your home as your work environment, there’s no switch off and work seeps into home-life no matter how much you don’t want it to.   The amount of times I spend shushing my children as I try to write a pitch, or burn the teatime fish-fingers whilst I’m on a call to my agent, or am furiously mouthing for the kids to creep quietly through my study to the garden, when all they want to do is play, are too many to count.  With no shut off comes no planned down time and work seeps into evenings, weekends and even holidays.

People with office-based careers seem to earn automatic respect and many do, I’m sure, work long hours and find it depressing that they’re not at home.  But they also get the camaraderie of work colleagues and the mental switch off of walking out of the house to a new – and probably cleaner – environment for the day.

As more and more women change their careers to opt for working at home, I would caution them to check over the fence to really make sure that the grass is greener on the other side.  Because they might just find themselves in their kitchen at lunchtime in their tracksuit bottoms, mourning for their powersuits and Pret-A-Manger.

My new novel ‘A Twist Of Fate’ is published by Macmillan 2nd August. Perfect holiday reading. Order now.

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Kids can write brilliantly too

I can’t believe it’s come around so fast, but it was World Book Day yesterday and I was in at the kid’s school volunteering to teach years one two and three.  It was so much fun.  I brainstormed a whole fairy story with each group, so that the children came up with a heroine, a baddie, a hero, a trap, a daring rescue and a happy ever after.  Then they each did an illustration of part of their story, so that by the end of the session they’d created a whole fairy tale book.

 

I was amazed and surprised by their suggestions and how quickly they could subvert the fairy story clichés into something new and whacky and how each fairy story ended up being completely different, even though I was guiding them with a formula.

 

Our need for exploring conflict and resolution seems to be ingrained at a very fundamental level.  Even by the age of five, children have a very clear sense of right and wrong, goodies and baddies and how female heroines have to use their wit and ingenuity to get out of a scrape.

 

What I found amazing – and a clear indication of real progress from when I was growing up – was the resolution of each story.  Left to their own devices these young children all wanted a romantic resolution.  But rather than a bossy knight on a white horse charging up, taking over, scooping up the heroine and taking her to a life of bliss – over which she’s had no say, they all naturally chose to have the heroine finding love with someone realistic who was right underneath her nose the whole time.

 

What was most interesting though, was that in each case and with each group, the love resolution was not the end – and this was very much prompted by the kids and not by me.  Their stories all ended when the heroine either got her own back on her oppressors in a very public and satisfying way – pop-star Polly in New York winning a talent contest and thus a recording contract, thereby totally rubbing her mean, ugly sisters’ noses in it.

 

Or when, having won back her magic shell necklace and escaped an underwater cage, mermaid Lucy returns to coral castle to find that the elderly king is so impressed with her  bravery and courage in defeating Snap the evil seahorse, that he decides to abdicate the thrown and make Lucy queen.  At which point, she throws a rocking party for the whole kingdom …obviously.

 

I came away, as I always do from teaching children, enriched and a little humbled.  It seems to me that many grown up writers could benefit by a refresher course with small children in the fundamentals of story-telling.

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