I’m delighted to be on the Rachel’s Random Resources tour hosting Jo Johnson in my hot seat who is chatting to us about her debut novel, Surviving Me.
Find out Jo’s inspiration, the scene she enjoyed writing the most and much more.
There’s also a tour-wide giveaway not to miss of two signed copies and five runner up prizes too. Don’t miss it!
Surviving Me by Jo Johnson is published by Unbound and is available to purchase in digital and paperback formats.
Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.
Tom’s lost his job and now he’s been labelled ‘spermless’. He doesn’t exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.
All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family’s future out of the water.
If they can’t be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.
This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.
Hi Jo, welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise Surviving Me in 20 words or less.
Surviving Me – a debut novel by Jo Johnson. It’s a book about two men whose minds become unfit for purpose for very different reasons.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I’m a clinical psychologist so I spend a lot of time thinking about people’s business. I spend even more time in cafes. Over the road from my office there is a traditional tea room called the Vintage Rose. On one occasion, I noticed a middle-aged man, by himself, staring out of the window. I wondered about him and his story. In my head, his name was Tom. This observation inspired the first line of my novel.
‘At this point in time, I can accurately be described as unemployed, impotent, and a liar’.
Did you do any research for your book Jo? What resources did you use?
As a clinical psychologist, I see mostly men and have supported many families impacted by neurological disease so those themes were readily available in my mind. I tend to write from imagination about places I’ve seen and people I know, I guess that is a bit lazy.
If you could choose to be one of your characters in your book who would you be?
I would be Tom’s wife, Selma. Her family are close and she is a radio presenter for a local station. I would love to do that job. She’s also loyal and has a great sense of style. Like me, she’s somewhat chaotic and very messy.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most Jo?
I loved writing about the birth of an important baby. I have four children and love programmes about giving birth. If I could, I’d retrain as a midwife. It was fabulous to arrange all my main characters around this scene in expectation of new life.
… and the hardest to write?
Tom becomes very depressed, he becomes intensely focused on his dark thoughts and feelings. He loses sight of anything good in his life. I wanted to rescue him, send him for help but the story explores how men become so desperate that they seek to end their lives.
Does your book tackle a social barrier Jo?
My novel is about coping with ourselves, because its hard, isn’t it? The top killer of middle aged men in the UK is suicide. I hope my book will ignite important conversations about what drives people to suicide and things we can do to make it less likely.
If your book is part of a series, what is in the future?
I’ve just written a sequel from the perspective of Tom’s niece. She is 17 and knows she has a fifty/fifty chance of inheriting Huntington’s disease so is feeling pretty hopeless. Having been the good girl in the family, she has now gone completely off the rails. I wrote my first novel as a man, now I’m writing as a stroppy, vile adolescent. I don’t seem to be able to write as the middle-aged woman that I am.
What are you reading now? Opinion?
I’ve just finished reading ‘the silent patient’, I thought it was OK. It is written from the perspective of a therapist. I didn’t find it believable so was a bit disappointed. I’m now starting a book also written by a clinical psychologist called ‘little white lies’, so far I’m enjoying this one.
What inspired you to write?
I didn’t plan to start writing. I started with non-fiction, my first book is called ‘My parent has a brain injury” It’s for teenagers and I wrote it because I couldn’t find any suitable resources to give them. I subsequently wrote nine neurology related story books for children and a workbook called ‘Shrinking the smirch’ about how to better manage your mind.
Writing a novel was a surprise to me, I wrote the first sentence and kept going, becoming more and more obsessed with Tom.
Finally, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
Holding my novel in my hand and talking to people about the characters I’ve created as if they are real people. I’ve loved hearing about the pleasure my novel has given people and the conversations its started.
Thank you for being my guest today. Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
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I’m very excited that my debut novel ‘Surviving Me’ is due to be published on the 14 November. The novel is about male minds and what pushes a regular man to the edge. The novel combines all the themes I can write about with authenticity.
I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1992 and initially worked with people with learning disabilities before moving into the field of neurology in 1996. I worked in the NHS until 2008 when i left to write and explore new projects.
I now work as an independent clinical psychologist in West Sussex.
Jo speaks and writes for several national neurology charities including Headway and the MS Trust. Client and family related publications include, “Talking to your kids about MS”, “My mum makes the best cakes” and “Shrinking the Smirch”.
In the last few years Jo has been offering psychological intervention using the acceptance and commitment therapeutic model (ACT) which is the most up to date version of CBT. She is now using THE ACT model in a range of organisations such as the police to help employees protect their minds in order to avoid symptoms of stress and work related burnout.