Love will drive you to do the bravest and craziest things. It was for love that I learned to rock-climb in my twenties, despite having a fear of heights and possessing only one pair of flat shoes (gold leather ballet pumps). My choice was either to climb or not see my boyfriend of the time at all. In 2005 it was love that prompted me to quit my job, sell my London flat and ship all its contents to Morocco. Love has governed all my best choices, even when they seemed mad to other people.
I first travelled to Morocco to research for a novel a Cornish family member stolen by Barbary pirates in the 17th century. The only person free to accompany me on that trip was my rock-climbing partner: I bribed him with the promise of spectacular climbing in the Anti-Atlas Mountains (600 miles away) if he’d spend a couple of weeks on the north coast so I could research the pirates. If this strange conjunction of events hadn’t occurred I would never have met Abdellatif, my husband of 12 years.
I never believed in love at first sight: it had never in my 40-odd years happened to me and I thought it was poetic exaggeration. But when my eyes met Abdel’s I knew at once I had met someone who was going to change my life. The miracle? He said the same thing. The full story is on my website: www.janejohnsonbooks.com
I’ve been writing ever since I was 7 or 8. It’s always been my way of making sense of the world. My first ‘novel’ was a rewrite of Bambi, which I had just seen in the cinema. In my version his mother was not killed by hunters.
When I started working in publishing in the 1980s I was overawed by other people’s talent and stopped writing. By the 1990s I understood that writing is engineering – that you can afford to make mistakes and keep learning from them.
I have written for both adults and children: stories are stories, after all – it’s just the readers who change.
I’m not a historian, but I set out to write every novel as if the world’s leading expert are going to be looking over my shoulder and pointing out my errors.
I wrote much of COURT OF LIONS in Granada, almost inside the Alhambra. The palaces and their gardens cast a spell over me: I think they’re the most beautiful place in the world made by human hands.
I don’t write full time. In my day job I am the UK publisher for George RR Martin, writer of the series behind GAME OF THRONES, and also of many other fine writers, including Dean Koontz, Robin Hobb, SK Tremayne and Sam Bourne. I work remotely: from wherever I am in the world. The internet makes this possible.
I was involved with Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. As Tolkien publisher I was responsible for bringing the artists he used to make the ‘look’ of the movies to illustrating Middle-earth. I spent months on location, and wrote the tie-in books for the films, and still number members of the cast and crew as some of my closest friends.