Interview with Jo Cotteril

Jo's latest book, Deep Water, is out now.

First up, how many books have you published so far and which is your favourite out of them?
I have published about ten books and three plays under my name Joanna Kenrick, and five Sweet Hearts books as Jo Cotterill. It's really hard to choose a favourite, but I do love Model Behaviour, Book 5 in the Sweet Hearts series. I really enjoyed creating the characters and I think it's really funny in places!

So Jo, where did you first start? What was your inspiration?
I first started writing stories when I was very young. I wished I could live in fairytales (real life seemed so boring!) so I wrote lots of stories about magic. At the age of 13, I fell in love with acting, so I didn't think about writing again until I was in my twenties. Around that time I was working as a teaching assistant and I got inspired to write stories specially for the kids I was working with. My biggest inspiration has always been READING! I love reading, can't go anywhere without a book! 

What was the first book you've published?
The first book was called 'Moondance' and it was a picture book for young children about a tiger who makes up a dance. Sadly it's out of print now but it looked beautiful and I was (and still am) very proud of it. 

How long did it take you to publish?
I'm not entirely sure. I think it took about three years. I had LOTS of rejections (and I still get them even now!) but I just kept writing more and more stories and sending them out. I firmly believe that if you want something, you have to work at it. The more you practise, the better you'll get! 

How long have you wanted to be an author for?
Probably since my early twenties. As a child, before I wanted to be an actress, I loved drawing, so I always said I'd like to be a book illustrator - but I don't think I was anything like good enough!
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It depends very much on the length of the book. Some of my shorter books have only taken a week to write - but my novels take longer. The longest I've spent working on one book is a year. The Sweet Hearts books take about three to four months each. 

How long on average does it take you to get a good idea?
Half a second ;-) But having the idea isn't enough - you've got to be able to turn it into a proper plot with characters and everything. THAT'S the hard bit, not having the idea in the first place! 

What is your favourite book written by somebody else?
Ooh, this is always such a tough question. I love so many books by other people, but you've just reminded me of 'Lucas' by Kevin Brooks, which I read years ago and thought was brilliant. I must read it again. 'Noughts and Crosses' by Malorie Blackman is another classic - and 'Stargirl' by Jerry Spinelli. Oh dear, you just asked for one, didn't you?! 

Have you had any other jobs, or wanted to have another job?
I've had loads of other jobs! While I was at university I worked at the benefits agency (very depressing) and did all sorts of temporary office work. I've also worked for a gas company (customer service, also depressing) and as a sales assistant. But my main jobs have been actress (brilliant fun but very badly paid), teaching assistant and English teacher. I've enjoyed being a teacher enormously and would definitely go back to it if people stopped publishing my books! 

Have you ever wanted to be somebody else?
Nope ;-) 

How did you cope as a teenager, I mean, how did you do with spots and stuff?
Ack, I did have spots. Not as badly as some but they always seemed to arrive at JUST the most inconvenient moment, like the day you had to stand up in Assembly or do a show or talk to the boy you fancied. How did I cope? Hmm. We weren't allowed to wear makeup at my school until sixth form, so I suppose I just tried to forget about the spots as much as possible. What bothered me more was that I didn't physically 'develop' *ahem* until quite late on, so while my friends were all getting bras and all that kind of thing, I was still straight up and down. That did make me feel down quite a bit. I wouldn't go back to being a teenager, I really wouldn't. It's such a difficult time.

What is your most treasured possession? Why?
Ooh, that's a good question! Gosh, I don't really know. I have a beautiful ceramic unicorn that my parents bought me for my 18th birthday. I'd be VERY sad to lose that. And photo albums - I love looking through those.  
Who is your favourite author?
That's like asking me to pick a best friend! It's also hard because sometimes I love one particular book by an author but not their next one so much. But I'll read anything by Kevin Brooks, Meg Rosoff, Mary Hoffman, Louis Sachar, Lee Weatherly...oh, and the author I turn to when I'm feeling a bit tired or depressed? Agatha Christie! 

Why did you want to become an author?
Two reasons: to see my name on the front of a book (nothing beats that feeling!) and also to know that other people could share in the stuff that I made up. I adore hearing from readers :-)

Have you ever got any fan-presents?
Three girls made me a badge once when I visited their school! It said I was an honorary member of their book club! But I've had a few fan letters and they always make me feel so lucky to be doing what I do. 

How many pets have you got? Have they influenced your writing in any way?
No pets! I did grow up with a dog though (and a succession of hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits) and am very fond of dogs. 

What do you do when your stuck on what to write?
Do something else. I surf the net, go for a walk, make a cup of tea, write a blog post - and then go back to the story. Usually the stuck bit works itself out in the end. 

Do people chase after you in the streets and beg you for autographs?
Hahaha! No. 

Do you have a special writing place?
Yes, I have a study in my house. It's a bit of a tip because we moved into the house a few months ago and my study has become a dumping ground for things we don't know where to put!

Have you got any tips for young writers?
READ. It's amazing how many people say they want to write a book but they don't love reading! And write, of course - don't worry about showing it to people or getting it published, just WRITE and keep writing! If you want to play the piano, you practise, don't you? It's the same with writing - keep practising and one day you might see YOUR name on the front of a book too!



  1. I knew it wouldn't be the end of the world!!!
    :D LOL!

  2. do you interview these authors personally?
    or do you get the questions+answers off the internet?

    love your blog btw.<3.

  3. Hey, Great Post. I was wondering if you could write a post asking people to follow my blog. My goal is to get 50 followers by the end of 2012 and so far I have 43. I would really appreciate it if you could spread the word. If you would like me to do something in return i'd be happy to. I would really appreciate it but i'd understand if you can't.
    - Sunny