I’m a real romantic at heart and like to believe that love can conquer all. When true love is squandered, be it for reasons of fear or pride or religion or for already being married (even if it is to the wrong person) I find it quite upsetting. Whilst I wouldn’t want anyone ever thinking that Weak at the Knees was autobiographical, I myself did once fall in a big way for a man who was already taken, an experience which I found utterly devastating. Not only did it shatter my heart, it also shattered my belief that ‘love can conquer all’. And so creating a scenario in my book where the girl falls for a married man was extremely cathartic to write – and yes, I suppose that ‘that’ man in my life (a long time ago) was my inspiration. It was fun exploring fictitiously whether love could conquer all – especially in a scenario where on the surface the love appears to be impossible and wrong, whilst feeling so ‘right’ to those involved.
The alpine setting for Weak at the Knees was inspired by my working and living for a couple of years in a small mountain village in the French Alps. It was such a magical time. I found the mountain scenery so captivatingly dramatic and emotive, that I thought it would make a perfect backdrop for a story whose essence is a tumultuous love affair plagued with dilemmas and moral barriers. Plus, I’ve always found France such a romantic, sexy country – where better to set Weak at the Knees?
This is actually my second novel. My first (Lover in Law) was signed up by a top literary agent in the UK. They were confident that they would secure me a good book deal, but sadly that never materialized. One by one the major publishing houses turned me down. A tad demoralized, I shoved the manuscript onto my bookshelf to gather cobwebs. But at a party a little over a year ago, around the time when the Fifty Shades phenomenon was at its peak, a friend mentioned that EL James had self-published. Well, this was all the inspiration I needed. The dust was brushed off my manuscript when it seemed there was little to lose by giving self-publishing a go. The hard work (i.e. writing the novel) had already been done. And so that’s what I did. I found someone to help me format my book for kindle as well as paperback with Create Space and the rest, as they say, is history. I like the control self-publishing brings. I find it empowering and it seemed obvious to go down the same route second time around.
I have nothing but good things to say about self-publishing. I think the stigma that was once attached to it has gone and it’s great for both writers and readers. Authors get to put their work out there, with the chance of being successful. Readers get to discover unknown gems – and believe me, there are many out there – many of them better than conventionally published books and most of them at least a third of the price.
Jo Kessel is a journalist in the UK, working for the BBC and reporting and presenting for ITV on holiday, consumer and current affairs programs. She writes for several national newspapers including the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Express and was the anonymous author of the Independent’s hit column: Diary of a Primary School Mum.
When Jo was ten years old she wrote a short story about losing a loved one. Her mother and big sister were so moved by the tale that it made them cry. Having reduced them to tears she vowed that the next time she wrote a story it would make them smile instead. Happily she succeeded and with this success grew an addiction for wanting to reach out and touch people with words.
P.S Jo’s pretty certain one of her daughters has inherited this gene.
Other books by Jo Kessel include Lover in Law.
Her latest book is the new adult contemporary romance novel, Weak at the Knees.
Visit her website at www.jokessel.com.