Jo Jakeman opens up in an exclusive piece for Female First
Jo Jakeman opens up in an exclusive piece for Female First

To celebrate the release of her new book, What His Wife Knew, we asked author Jo Jakeman to take part in our 'Seven things' series, so she can let readers know all about her! Here's what she had to reveal...

1. I love to be by the sea. I was born in Cyprus, and lived there until I was five, but spent the rest of my childhood in the Midlands. When I moved to Cornwall, with my husband and children, I felt like I’d let out a breath I’d been holding.

I try to get to the sea every day, either by walking beside it or swimming in it. Wild swimming has become quite popular lately and I can see why. It has had such a positive impact on my mental health and I was even swimming on Christmas day. The idea of moving away from the sea brings me out in a cold sweat.

Only one of my three books – Safe House – has been set by the sea so far, but the next two are steeped in saltwater.

2. I love to cook. There’s something endlessly satisfying about cooking for my family and friends – but the joy is in the eating. Aside from the obvious benefits of being able to tuck into gorgeous food, I find that baking is a great stress reliever.

Though Beth Lomas, the main character in What His Wife Knew, is nothing like me, she too is a stress baker. At the beginning of the book, when she is waiting for news of her missing husband, I thought ‘what would she do to pass the time?’ and the answer had to be ‘bake’. To be fair, it’s my answer to most things.

3. When life gives you lemons… It was my poor health led me to become a writer, so I try to be positive about the challenges I’ve had. That’s not to say I always succeed. Sometimes I find the limitations incredibly frustrating.

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome fifteen years ago and I always thought I’d go back to my job in recruitment once I’d ‘had a rest’ but that feeling of being rested never came. There were days when the thought of climbing the stairs would leave me in tears. When the pain from fibromyalgia made it impossible to sleep.

I read a lot in that time and, when I’d had enough of books and daytime television, I started writing a novel. It gave my day a structure that had been missing, and I found I’d needed that creative outlet. I am still incredibly grateful for a job where I can work from home and take naps when needed. So, please buy my books so I can keep working in my pyjamas!

4. My favourite book of all time is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I have four different editions of it and can’t even guess at how many times I’ve read it.

I first discovered Rebecca when I was eleven and had to memorise the first few pages for elocution lessons. Much to the horror of my elocution teacher I spoke ‘correctly’ in the lessons and then went back to using my flat Midlands vowels in the school corridors. The good thing about those lessons was that it kick-started my love for classic books.

5. I’m an introvert but you probably wouldn’t guess. When they meet me, people tend to think that I’m an outgoing, confident person – and to a certain extent, I am. But after every social, or work, event I am a wreck for a few days.

I love people but, crikey, they can be exhausting, so I need some time to recover. This usually takes the shape of watching old episodes of Modern Family or re-reading favourite books like Rebecca or I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

6. I fell into crime writing by accident. My first attempt at writing was a YA novel about witchcraft. My second and third were historical fiction. My fourth became Sticks and Stones – my debut psychological thriller – and got me my agent and my book deal.

I’d applied for a place on a writing course run by Curtis Brown Creative and, with the deadline looming, I didn’t have time to do the kind of research that a historical novel required, so I started writing a funeral scene where three women were glad that the man in the coffin was dead. Even as I started writing I had no idea why those women were so happy or what the dead man had done to them. It’s fair to say that I hadn’t learned the finer points of plotting back then.

7. Ten days before meeting my agent I had life-saving surgery. In 2016 I was shortlisted for Best Opening Chapter and Friday Night Live at the York Festival of Writing. It was obviously an opportunity not to be missed. However, ten days before the festival I was rushed into hospital for emergency surgery. The consultant told me I’d been extremely lucky and that, for the next few weeks, I shouldn’t even lift a kettle never mind travel anywhere. Obviously, I ignored him because THIS WAS MY BIG CHANCE.

My wonderful husband and children accompanied me to the festival, carrying my bags and even putting on my shoes for me. I took to the stage to read the first five hundred words of what would become Sticks and Stones, slightly bombed-out on painkillers and convinced I’d split my stitches. I won the competition and met my agent that evening.

I often wonder what would have happened if I’d done the sensible thing by staying home. But sensible has never really been my thing.

What His Wife Knew by Jo Jakeman is out now
What His Wife Knew by Jo Jakeman is out now

Jo Jakeman's new novel, What His Wife Knew, is available now.

MORE FROM BOOKS: Five things to know before writing a historical novel

Tagged in