Jo Wilde is on the Steam Seat this week and I loved this conversation. We’re talking about writing a romance between married couples, keeping the romance alive in a long-term relationship, and how sexual tension is a big part of writing intimate moments. And Jo lets me in on a little hint about how she knows her steamy scenes are doing the trick. (Hint, it has to do with a tingle.) Plus I read excerpts from her lockdown love story Just the Two of Us.
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This episode is brought to you by The Groomsday Prophecy, the first book in my NEW Pt. Jude series. Available for pre-order from Amazon!
Hi, Jo Wilde is a British based author who lives in the rolling hills of Derby Shire with her husband Stewart, her dog and her rapidly diminishing number of children. Having started with four, three have no flown the nest weaving just one poor lad behind with his old parents. However, the new addition to the household is a motorhome or RV, affectionately known as Norman, in whom Joe and Stuart intend to travel Europe, Stewart shopping and cooking and Joe riding. Perfect. And that does sound perfect. I'm going to join you. I'm gonna come you join you and you and Stuart in Norman. God, that sounds a little
you would be more than welcome.
Well, welcome to steam. So steam scenes. Joe, I'm super happy to have you here.
Thank you. It's lovely to be here.
Well, okay. I mean, I don't even know where to get started. I kind of love that. Like, there was this sort of like weird aside where you were like, Oh, and by the way, I also write these historical romances under this other name. And I was like, Wait, What? What? And and so I looked them up. And you write these like, Wonderful World War Two romances with like, 1000s upon 1000s of Amazon reviews. Yeah, it was like, Who knew? World War Two romance? What? I'm talking about that a little bit. Um, can you? Are you cool with because I know it's under a pen name. I'm assuming you're not hiding them?
At no, no, no, absolutely. No, is completely open.
Okay, cool. So So can you talk, tell me a little bit about those.
So to be MC eyes, I also write medieval historical fiction, courtly, which is sort of where I started. Actually, that's not true. Initially, I wrote a contemporary romance years and years ago, and that's who I secured my agent with. But we didn't actually sell that. And at the time, historical fiction was doing better than contemporary fiction. And I said, all I've always wanted to do sort of medieval stuff. So I did a lot of that. And then my editor there, moved to a different publisher, and she's sort of come back to me on and off for years, and we'd have a drink. She saved me about writing World War Two. And I'd say, Oh, I don't think so. Lots of people write World War Two, and then she'd come back. So he thought about writing World War Two. Yeah. And in then, in the end, I sort of started investigating World War Two a bit more, and found some sort of, I tend to write the stuff that's slightly off the side, you know, not not the usual stuff. So my first one was the Berlin zookeeper about, obviously, the zoo in the middle of Berlin. And I like to do things that are a little bit off center. And yes, I always have women at the center. And there's always a bit of romance. Because I think that's what holds books together for me anyway. So I've just started really enjoying it, and it's gone, it's gone. Well, we just seem to like them. So that's brilliant.
I mean, I'm kind of intrigued that you're moving from you know, you started with contemporary that's how you got your, your agent and then and then you just kind of shelve that. And then you moved into his into medieval and then two worlds, to like, this is what what is going on here. Do you have sort of like a background in his in history, or
I did an English Literature degree at Cambridge, actually. And I specialized more in sort of medieval and Arthurian and all those sorts of things. So I think I always was quite interested in older literature and in history when I did a history a level and I really enjoyed that it was all tutors and students then but lots of people write about them. So I've moved away from that. So yeah, I've always loved history. I've always been fascinated by the past and people. I think it's just people, isn't it, people, whatever era they live in, and whatever they do. So I'm happy to write in any year.
I just think that you know, I absolutely love historical I love medieval. The research seems so daunting to me because I write contemporary because it's like, and I love research, like don't get me wrong, but I feel like I would fall down that rabbit hole and never come out that
there is a danger. I have to say there comes a point where you have to sort of take yourself to one side and say stop weeding and start writing.
Yeah, exactly, exactly. I'm the book that I'm working on right now actually started at like, oh my God forever ago and then kind of abandoned it. And while I was in the start, like while I was sort of first working on it, I have this other fellow writer that I talked to, every couple of weeks we go on walks together and talk on the face. And and I kept talking about all the research who and she actually got angry with me. And she was like stop researching. This is a contemporary. And she's like, just write the damn thing. Stop it. You're researching too much was like bitter, like the research was really.
It was really fun. I agree. And to be honest, that's sort of where I get a lot of my ideas from, I think is that, you know, when I go down rabbit holes, like you said, and I find people in particular people and quirky little bits and pieces, and I'm like, Oh, that's really cool. And the little just, you know, you read the mainstream stuff. And then there's little side characters and little weird things that happen. And that's what always catches my imagination. And, to be honest, that's sort of Yeah, where a lot of my, my ideas come from. And the same with contemporary, you know, if you're sort of researching, like you say, it doesn't have to be history does it things that are going on in different parts of the world, or things in your own parts of the world that you haven't even sort of tapped into before. And they, for me, sort of Spark things off. And then then there's a book.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. And I just like digging into other people's lives. And that's why we write right, like, I just find people's lives so fascinating. My husband always, like gets mad at me, because at night, like, if I'll go for a walk at night, or whatever, I'll like look in people's windows. Absolutely. It was the best. And when I lived in New York, I would in New York City, I would walk, I would walk at night, I loved walking at night, and I would usually go up Park Avenue. And I would like look up and like in the or like Gramercy Park was another great one where you could like, look up and see, I love seeing how like other people lived in Gramercy Park was wonderful, because that's like, the age of innocence and Edith Horton and like it, you know, that it was just such an imagined anyway, my husband was like, This is why I wanted blinds installed when we move down and move up one instead, every single window in our house, and he was like, and I was like, Oh, come on, we don't really need blinds. And he was like, oh, yeah, because people like you are.
Here, but then you could be in a book, and that would be cool.
I know. I know. I just I absolutely love it. But the book we're gonna be talking about today is just the two of us. And it's a contemporary it is. Congratulations. So there's this number two contemporary or is this
is number three contemporary I wrote. Before I started writing World War Two fictions, Anna Stewart, I actually wrote two contemporary novels, one of which was called Bonnie and Stan that was also about a sort of older couple, even older than these, sort of in their 70s. And then I wrote one called four minutes to save a life, about a bad supermarket delivery driver and connections between people in neighborhoods. So I wrote those two, and then I sort of was seduced over to World War Two. So they're still out there. But this one, it wasn't that much of a departure to do this. And obviously, when the pandemic came along, and it was like we were living history, that was, I suppose, a spark.
So I want to hear about a little bit about the couple, the older the seven year old couple, was this a romance?
Very much. So yeah, it's called Barney and Stan, and it's about a couple who it's a bit sad. He finds out that he's been diagnosed with cancer, and that he's dying, and he doesn't want to leave his wife alone. So he comes up with this slightly crackpot idea to try and date men so that he can find a husband for, for when he's gone. It's actually inspired by there was a beautiful letter by a writer in I think it was the New York Times actually, a female writer who wrote it was quite when it was about three or four years ago, it was really moving about to get a sort of ad for another wife or a husband for when she'd gone. And it was really sad. And it was sort of inspired by that. And to be honest, it was partly done with the publisher was quite keen on the story idea, and she wanted it with an older couple. And so it's sort of all about that. So it's multi generational, this family, he's got a granddaughter who helps them and, you know, their scheme comes undone, but they learn and it's interspersed that they met in Liverpool in the 1960s. So there's a bit of Beatles and a bit of that send the narrative splits between the sort of 60s in Liverpool and the present day. So a little bit of history snuck in.
Oh, my God, this sounds fabulous. Is it? Okay, so is this under your name under Joe wild,
which name is Anna Stewart?
Because I'm looking this up because this sounds like this is my jam. I want to read this.
It will make you cry. I'm afraid.
So, okay. I'm also fascinated that you're, you say your publisher wanted? Yeah. Holder a couple and and we're just the two of us, is also an older I was putting them in there maybe late 50s. Yeah. And so I'm sort of intrigued by this because romance is usually I know there's now category seasoned romance, which makes us all that salted, that's Yeah, that's right. We're salted. Well salted, yo, well salted. And it's very cringy. And but that what I was I frickin burst out laughing with somebody like I read a descriptor online somewhere of like, what season was 35 and older? Oh my god. I'm like I've been Cecily pickles. Season for quite a long time
going on 50s new 30 Where
everybody tells me I thought, Oh, I there's a part of the reason why I was so excited to talk to you is because you were writing about this older couple Julian Michael. And now I find out you wrote about Bonnie and Stan who are 70. And I absolutely love this because I was talking to my editor about reading an older couple and she just smiled and like gritted her teeth. Really think that it was like a good idea. Yeah. And I love that you were encouraged. So I'd love to like talk about this. Why do you why do you enjoy writing these older characters?
Well, I mean, I guess I'm, God forbid, I turned 50 in two months time, which I intend to do with an outrageous party in a very short dress, because why go old graciously, when you don't have to? I don't feel any older, you know, and I would still feel about 22 I reckon, if not at everyone you talk to male and female, to be honest, says much the same, I think you'll, I don't know your essence of you gets formed in your 20s Really, and I know it doesn't really go away, and you learn a lot more, I guess. And you go through a lot of oil, shit, but you're still basically the same person. And it seems and also, so many readers are sort of particularly women in the sort of 30 plus bracket. And it always seems such a shame that we're all sat around reading about younger people as if our own lives that we live now aren't valid. So I wanted to address that a little bit. So did the publishers. So I thought it would be interesting, I suppose to look at like, say what, what constitutes I've been married for nearly 22 years. I still fancy my husband, it's not the same. It's not that sort of breathless, oh my god, I'm gonna have to get you home and rip your clothes off thing. But there are other nice aspects of it. And so I guess, for Julie and Michael, it was an interest in the fact that they'd lost any spark. And I suppose partly because just writing about someone who's plodding along perfectly contentedly isn't particularly satisfying for a reader is it? So looking at people that have got to that point in their marriage, where things have gone wrong, was interesting. And and it's always interesting, isn't it wide? I mean, everyone that gets married these days, at least, does it? Because they believe they're in love, and they're with the person they want to be with forevermore. And many relationships do break down. And so I suppose it tweaked me what goes wrong? And what happens if you how do you get it back? How do we catch the spark? Everyone talks about Spark, don't they? Yeah. How do you do that? How do you get the spark back? So I guess that's sort of where, where we came in to just the two of us.
Yeah, when I heard when, when I got the description, and I was just like, holy, oh, this is the story that I've always kind of wanted to right. You know, the married couple who lost the fizz, you know, you know, like the food's the bubbles, you know? And, and because, you know, okay, like the blush of first love, like, that's fun, right? And that's almost easy, because it's so like, there's so much going on there. And that falling in love and it's heightened drama. But it's the work is the staying together part. Right. Right. are actually the falling in love that is pretty easy.
Yeah. Because it's just well, you're falling, aren't you? And and that's easy. Whereas I guess the rest of it, you're kind of climbing.
And there is a lot of like fighting, you know, even if even if the relationship doesn't, you know, break up there is a lot of like, you know, there there are those times where you're fighting to keep the marriage together, keep the relationship together, because shit gets really hard.
Absolutely. Especially when you've got kids and stuff and you don't My husband always made me even when the kids were small. We always he insisted that we went away one weekend a year. And I can remember those bits when like you're building up when the kids were little and I was like a few days before I'd be like, Oh, I'm not sure what to do this. It's too much effort. It's too much stress. I was living with my parents, you know, it was fine. And then that you get away you know, you've been away an hour and you open the first bottle of wine and you're like, Yeah, I remember this. This is really You have a relationship.
Remember, we used to do this thing, because it's so easy to fall into in a long term relationship, like you kind of fall into, you know, I mean, it's like, you have patterns and you are comfortable and you kind of do this thing, and it's no longer exciting, and that's okay. But how do you keep that? How do you how do you? How do you continue to keep that sort of romance alive? And I think that that's a valid question. And I think it's a lot of, you know, relationships, how struggle with finding that answer.
Yeah, absolutely. And especially in the bedroom, especially keeping things sexy, and how you and I think, sometimes think that's quite hard for women in particular, because I think we like the emotion that we we like the thrill, we like the romance we like like the, you know, the buzz of the sort of someone new touching you blokes, maybe I don't want to underestimate blokes that wonderful, but perhaps slightly more physically driven, and get more satisfaction just from that purity of the act. But I like a bit of build up a bit of thrill obviously, when you've been with someone day in day out of you've washed their pants, and you know, all of that it's not quite the same as it is, I guess you have to find, find different ways of still keeping things alive. And that's certainly what Julie and Michael have failed to do in the novel. So easy just to get distracted by all the other stuff, isn't it and the kids and the friends and the work and hobbies and all of that.
And this and this sort of little things that sort of great that turned out small, and then they turn into the thing that broke the marriage apart? You know? Yeah, yeah, I read this article on I think it was like medium or something. And it was really great. And it was sort of like, how, you know, how my marriage imploded. And and it was a you know, it was It wasn't cheating. It wasn't, it wasn't, you know, deception, it wasn't anything major, it was that he never put a glass his glatt his drinking glass in the dishwasher. And it was like and it was it was actually a surprisingly good piece that that was you know, it was that like one act of, of disrespect of his spouse's time, you know, that he didn't understand that it was that one dish that he never put, you know, never put in the dishwasher that you know, potentially could have saved the marriage because he was just so yeah, it was really wonderful. And I just kind of kept thinking about that and I was like, you know, it really is it's really the the the sock that doesn't quite make it to the hamper or you know, those sort of things it's death by 1000 paper cuts really,
I confess I've got a friend who again and locked down cuz obviously we were all stuck in the home and she told her husband they the cleaner obviously couldn't come and she told her husband, his one job was to clean the bathrooms and she said she she I don't know came upstairs one afternoon and there he was cleaning the toilet and she said I just looked in the floor I really fancy you and you're doing that for me. And he was like if I'd realized that cleaned the toilet sooner it is a bit like that isn't it? It's a bit like
this is a second podcast in a row I'm gonna reference this I did a tick tock tick tock live barely, but I did this video of like Jason MoMA all like lifting his like him and his like muscular body coming out of the water and then flashed it to my dear husband video of him vacuuming what people think is sexy what actually is sexy and we you know any men who are listening frickin housework you'll get more sacks. It's
absolutely true. Suddenly, they realized
I know if only they realized how often we'd be like yeah, baby get in the bed. Like you know, like that's that's sexy. Like helped me with the housework. I love you forever. You know,
it's the same as that thinking of a teenage lads when they think that girls are fancy and if they do wheelies past on their bike, whereas if they just got off their bike and came and talked to them, they'd be much more attracted.
Exactly, exactly. So I feel like we kind of like jumped over all this sort of like getting to know you questions and we like went straight to date. But you you studied writing in in university, so I'm guessing you always wanted to write?
I did? Yeah. Yeah. Right from when I was really little. Well, I love to read first of all, I guess my mum says when I was little girl, she could leave me in my cot for ages if I had books with me, you know, picture books, obviously. But I've just booked something about books. I've just always always loved books that I always had my head in a book as a as a kid. And in fact, I wrote a sort of an Enid Blyton style boarding school book when I was about 10 I think oh, yeah, I mean It got put in the attic. And I tried to find it recently, but it's so it's gone sadly because I would have loved to read that had just been a parody of Enid Blyton, basically. And, and then yeah, I just sort of stuck with it all along. But I didn't actually really start writing properly until I'd had my kids and I was at home and mistakenly thought I'd have loads of time. That was funny. Found out I didn't, so I wrote short stories for a while. And then as they got older, and I had a bit more, a bit more time and pledging mother to look after them one day a week, then, then I started sort of getting stuck into a bit of novel writing, and just bit by bit by bit, I've sort of built it up. Okay. And were
you always sort of like, leaning towards the romance genre? Because you do have I mean, so so much of your work has like, I don't know, is it? Do you consider what you do romance because it's sort of has romantic elements or?
Yeah, no, I'm a member of the romantic novelist Association. Okay. Yeah. I firmly believe that, yeah, relationships and love and all of that sort of thing are at the heart of what we do. And one of the joys when you're writing historical fiction, particularly when I write the medieval fiction is that sort of get two people in bed naked together, it doesn't really matter that it's 1066, or it's 2022, you know, that they're going to have to find their way to each each other and people do and I think we get very hung up. And obviously, social norms were very different. And when people would be permitted to or not, although I think there's been plenty of evidence throughout history of people finding their way to each other, whatever society thinks. But once you know, once people are married, and they're together for years, and especially God, you didn't have Telly, etc. You had a lot of time and embeds, and I figure most couples would have worked a few things out, whatever society told them, they were or weren't meant to do, particularly if they get on even if they're not in love in the sense that we would now have it in sort of modern day but together and with each other and spending a lot of time together, they'll they'll figure out ways to to enjoy each other, shall we say? And I like that. So I think that's an it's an important, I was gonna say touching point. That's a bit of a con, isn't it? But
fun, Pong. Yeah.
It's, um, you know, men and women. Like to like to fall in love, like to be in love, like relationships, whoever they're with. And that's, therefore a very human thing and so under, but yeah, it underpins pretty much everything I write.
Okay, okay, that's, that's awesome. Were you a romance reader?
Okay. Do you remember your first
so I was thinking about that. I I do remember when I was a teenager I was absolutely glued to the Sweet Valley High series. Oh my God.
Are the same vintage so yeah.
I'd always say I'm obviously I was in England and but they all they were they were big over here and they were obviously set in America. So that was kind of an added fascination for me the sizes always confused me because they were the size six girls and I was like in Britain that would be 10. So I thought they were these tiny skin. Skin skinny people. I mean, they are quite skinny but not as skinny as it is over here. But but that so that was all a fascination but just loved it. And we had this wonderful holiday I've got to I've got a sister and a brother, this wonderful holiday away where my brother who must have been about 12 or 13. He was bored. And he read one of my Sweet Valley High's I've got this wonderful picture of him. He was quite opposed by brother a wonderful picture of sunbathing, but reading this Sweet Valley High novel, and it was it was lovely, lovely.
And he enjoyed it. Didn't read them at home because that wouldn't be cool. But on holiday, you can do
it on holiday when nobody's looking. You can totally do it. Did you get through the whole series? Oh, yeah. Oh, man. See, I wasn't allowed to have them. Oh, so. Yeah, so I used to have to, like sneak off to the bookstore and sort of like sit in the aisles because you know, this was like before Barnes and Noble made it like made it like you could like put the couches in the comfy chairs where you could just sit there and read books without buying them you know? So I would have to like sit on the floor in the aisle like tucked into like a little corner in our tiny little bookstore near my house and sort of read the sweep I have so I don't even know that I I have read any of them cover to cover because I wasn't allowed. Oh, yeah. No, but I love them. But yeah, I was I was told that's not real literature and that's not going to be in our hands. I was, you know, it turns out my mom is like borrowing her mother's like weird romance novels and all this.
Why do people do why is this so much snobbery about what you should or shouldn't read? It's like, if, you know, if kids are reading, that's brilliant, just let them read whatever the hell they are reading.
Exactly. Who cares? As long as they're reading and they're enjoying it, you know, and I think that's where sort of like, you know, Harry Potter and then Twilight and, and, and 50 shades like, I feel like those were sort of, and it's so funny, because they're all very different kinds of age groups, you know, where you've got for like, the the young kids, and middle grade, and then you've got that sort of like teen young adult, and then you move into, you know, obviously 21, you know, or 18 Plus, you know, those books did love them or hate them, like, doesn't matter what you think of them in terms of, you know, what is good, you know, because that's all subjective anyway, they do a lot for promoting literacy.
Absolutely. There were hundreds of people who were written and everyone just got so snobby about how they were written that, okay, they're not the best written books, but people devoured them. So I mean, who's laughing? I wish I'd written them. I know, I'm always like, I wish I
wrote Twilight. Like, you know, I don't care that the vampire is like a, you know, stalker, or weirdo. Like, no. But it always like, because, you know, I can't say, you can I get sort of like a little like, you can never say a book that has so many readers is a bad book, because it's clearly resonating with people. And when it's resonating with readers like that. It there's no way it's a bad book. It's just impossible, mentally restyle. But there's no way it's about book. No, I totally agree.
So what you had you when, when we were emailing back and forth about you joining, I know that you were a little like, skeptical, you were like, Oh, I don't, I don't really write sexy scenes. And I'm like, I don't care. This is really about writing intimacy. And sometimes, like I had said to you the best, the most insightful conversations that I've had on this podcast are actually with authors who don't open the door. And and maybe they have one Chase kiss at the end of their, at their book, because I actually think it's very difficult. It's probably more difficult to write intimacy, when you have those sort of constraints, rather than, you know, because, I mean, how do you show, it doesn't get much more intimate than taking off your clothes and being in bed with somebody, right? Like, that is sort of the epitome of intimacy. So how do you write that? When that's not where the characters are gonna go on the, you know, on the page?
Yeah, it's hard, isn't it? It
scary, but I always figure the real intimacy, for me anyway, comes from the buildup, it's, it's the tension, it's the sexual tension between them. And it's the it's the sort of all the simmering and the things that go wrong, and the nearly kisses and that so that by the time you actually get to putting them into bed, or into wherever, then, you know, you're already invested in it, and you're already sort of wanting it to happen. And that's what as a reader at least that's what makes it sexy, because you're sort of gagging for yourself. If you don't I mean it's probably a British expression.
So it did for you. Will you ever write open door or like more erotic or that are you that's just not what you want to do? I have.
So the only real section just the two of us does get you know, they it gets a tiny bit, but I haven't gone for the full on sex scene, but I've done more intimate stuff in actually one of my medieval books. They have quite a passionate relationship, and I've taken them into bed but not in so much anatomical detail. And I've not yet done that, though. I think my husband would probably like me to.
Really? Oh, he'd
be very keen if I wrote erotic fiction, I'm sure.
Really good. Okay, kidding. Okay, this might be you can tell me to shut up. It's totally fine. You might this might be TMI, they weren't. I'm curious. What What Why would he like, Oh, I think that would just turn him on. Like, I love my husband could give a shit. Yeah, it's just like, go write your books and make some money. Go go.
sometimes read all my books to be fair, and yeah, I think he'd enjoy it if they were sexier than they are, though. Bless him. He likes them a reader, but he does read my books for me. And he's one of the first people to read them, actually. So, which is interesting if we're, you know, reading in bed and I'm twitching, looking over going, Hey, we laughs If I'm lucky, he laughs I'm like, oh, which bet your I wish
I was gonna say does he give your feet?
A bit? Yeah, so he's not especially literary or anything. But he gives me that, you know, that really valuable feedback and sort of, oh, I got a bit bored at this bit, or I lost, I wasn't sure what was going on here. Just real nuts and bolts sort of pace in particular, I think it's easy for people to pick pace, you know, you can always tell yourself, can't you if you start flicking or reading faster that probably you've lost interest slightly. So he'll tell me those sorts of bits, so I know to tighten them up. So he's, he's not my, my editors are great. But he does give me some indication as to whether I'm on the right lines or not before I before I send it out. And yeah, I think if I was writing full on hardcore pornography, he'd be delighted.
That's hilarious. I know, my husband does not read my books anymore. And when I was reading urban fantasy, he would read them, but he might he just will not read romance, which is so funny to me. And I'm like, you know, it's fine. It's totally fine.
Does he watch romantic stuff with you on telly?
No, not really. Not really well, why? Like will watch more. You know, like, he's really into anime. And, you know, he does that on his own because I'm just that's just not my thing. And, and so you know, he'll, he'll leave it to me like, haven't you have Yellowstone over there? Yellowstone with Kevin Costner? That one has been sort of, like, you know, kind of, it's kind of a romance, but it's kind of more like succession, but on a like, but he won't even watch that with me. But he will watch succession. You know, so it just, it kind of depends. But no, he's, you know, I can't say that he like will watch like, you know, or rom com with me and sort of be okay with it. He usually like leaves me on the couch. Fair enough. I'm like, okay, that's fine. You know, which kind of sucks sometimes. But you know, whatever. That's just not his thing.
Yeah, you got to do things differently. So, yeah. You remain interesting.
Exactly. I mean, you know, so that's kind of like Julian Michael. Right, like.
But yeah, but not to separate, because that's what happens to them, isn't it? They start doing everything separately. And then I guess, that's sort of a problem too, particularly if you're never going to bed at the same time. That's definitely a problem.
Yeah. Which is actually us. He gets up like way earlier than I let me be like, yeah, why don't we wait earlier, he has to get up really early. So it's like, you know, usually he's in bed. And I'm like, I gotta watch TV. So for you, like, what do you think makes that sort of like, you're like, those intimate moments? Like, what is it that you're looking for when you're drafting it or trying to achieve?
I think, like I say, for me, I never sit down and think, right, I'm gonna write the sexy now. I always sort of, they kind of I'm writing. I mean, obviously, I know, it's on the horizon, hopefully. But I write the chapter in which occasion it takes me by surprise. Occasionally, they sort of jump each other sooner than I'm expecting them to, or the reverse, either, by sort of, I know, I mean, so I will. I let it happen when I'm writing when it feels natural for the characters to sort of start making a move on each other. Or one of them to make a move on the other one, or whatever. So I try for me, it's it's very much part of the overall storyline, as opposed to right now we're gonna do sex. And so I guess, I'd like to say for me, a lot of it's in the build up when I'm reading it, or when I'm writing it. So yeah, I think you know, you've written a good intimate scene if you feel a little bit, a little bit turned on yourself.
Yeah, I mean, I think that's a really good boy.
And if you're not, so you've probably done something wrong. I'm not saying you know, as to send you to a raging fury, but I think a little tingle definitely makes you feel that you must have must have done something right. So for me, yeah, I think that's because I've been sort of writing with the characters and I don't write my 6am I don't what sort of books where that comes they probably come relatively far into the narrative. You know, you've had a bit of chewing and throwing beforehand. So I'm already fully into, like the characters and before we fully get there, and and yeah, I'm there with them, I suppose. But yeah, I don't write them in huge detail, but I definitely enjoy having some sexual elements in my novels.
Yeah. And you know, I sort of, you know, it's funny when you sent me this and you were like, oh, no, wait, there's a bit at the end. Do you have sex? I do have a little bit. And I was like, okay, but actually, when I was reading through the chapter that you sent, I was like, you know, what, there? There's so much here that that was so compelling to me. You know, way before we got to that bit, you know, so actually, you know, now would probably be a fun time to sort of like, get into it. But I'm kind of curious. Could you like, could you set this up for us so that we know where we're
so basically, in the novel, Julian, Michael, there, I'll tell you a bit of roughly where we get to obviously, it's the end of the novel. So it's good to give things away slightly, but I don't think that much of a secret. Basically, their marriage is sort of hitting the rocks when the pandemic hits, and they get stuck in the house together. And bit by bit, they have to start spending a bit more time together. And at first that great and then they sort of start to vaguely remember what's been nice about each other, and a bit more humor and a bit more. And mainly, they start to understand bits, where their relationships gone wrong in the past, where they've kind of misunderstood each other. And I think that's a classic. So they've misunderstood each other. And they get together. And basically, Michael does something nice for Julie, because they've, they've had this when they were young, they had this motorbike that they went away on together. And when he was when she was first attracted to me had a motorbike. And she thought he was quite cool on that. And I guess they've moved away from him being cool. And she stopped going on the motorbike, and they had children. And so it's been something he's done by himself. And they always said they'd go to Greece. And so they never made it because of complications of life. So he sets it up. And he basically has a slightly ridiculous scene in which he has his motorbike in the garage, and he sets up a screen and he sort of invites her to come in and sit on the motorbike with him. And he plays grease on the screen as if as if they're actually riding through Greece, obviously, this being the pandemic, they're not even allowed out on the road. So that's sort of slightly why he does it in the garage, there is a sort of context there. But I guess the idea was that he is trying to recapture that feel of what it was like when they used to sit on the bike together with it throbbing between them and recapture some of that magic.
You know, I really love this because I was like, you know, if I was in that situation, that whole setup, I thought was genius. Because I was like, how could I not fall in love with that, right? Because it's sort of like bringing back those sort of like moments where you know, what we were talking about earlier, like that blush of first love the initial spark and how exciting it is when you're falling in love. And so to sort of bring back that memory, I imagine would be like quite an extraordinary thing for, you know, a couple that sort of haven't had that in 30 years, right?
Yeah, hopefully. That's how it works anyway, because it's a novel.
Okay, I'm going to read this little bit first step. I'm trying to sort of see where I, where I am, from in this chapter. And it's just sort of this wonderful, like, he went to he's he he did all this planning, which I thought was great. You know, he went to the grocery store, and I guess they he, like, made some dinner or like, or some sort of status. And it was like, you know, he went during the old people Hour, which I I was dying for so great. I love you know, I never thought I'd be like, Oh my god, this is I'm enjoying a pandemic story. But here I am enjoying a pandemic story. And they let him in and they're not like mad about it. And he's like, I wanted to scream I'm not even 60 out. But, but he just shuffled in with his sore back and join the other the other elderly shoppers like, Oh, the poor guy, you know, it was like just the whole setup. So you know, and then he's good. And he's he's like, I'm going to be in the garage. I'll be there for about you know, come Come join me in 10 minutes and bring your your jacket she's like my leather jacket, like the one I used to wear on the bike and he's like that one. So that's sort of where we are. Julie watch Michael hastening up the garden, marveling at the changes in him the last these last weeks, or perhaps the changes between the two of them. She'd so feared being locked down with him when the pm had made his initial announcement but stuck in here together, they'd started chatting more naturally than they had in years, sharing memories laughing even. She remembered the strange rush of intimacy when she'd had to help them off off the floor, and the joy of standing shoulder to shoulder the window watching the lens leap. She remembered him taking her in his arms to dance the crazy Zumba waltz, and placing his hand over her as as they'd anticipated Sophie's announcement, the happiness they've been able to share shot through her a new and she swallowed. She didn't want to break up her family. That was perhaps what had been stopping her doing anything for so long, that there was more to it. Now, it wasn't about the kids now. It was about Michael, if you'd looked at her so intently up in the loft between the sparkles of their silver wedding decoration, or I'm sorry, he'd looked at her so intently up in the loft between the between the sparkles of their silver wedding and decorations. She thought for a moment he was going to kiss her. When she had kissed him back. Her body was certainly responding to him in long forgotten ways. If someone had asked her when she stood in that shiny divorce lawyer's office, what color her soon to be ex husband's eyes were, she'd have said black, but light was back in him somehow. And they were shining as blue as they had the first the very first time she had seen him. It was enticing. It was enticing. I loved that that moment, like this bit was so you know, it was what it was two paragraphs. And that was so much about like, I just wrote like, this is a marriage. And this is a long marriage and, and so much history there. And that sort of and memory and feelings. And it was just all encompassed in like these two paragraphs. And then to sort of touch on like the divorce lawyer. And like if she had been asked what colors if she would have said black? Like, that is a lot of anger. Right. Right, that she had to release and that they had to sort of work through to get to this point.
Yes. Yeah. And, and I guess, also, the idea, I think that was the bit in there. The bit for me was the idea that she thought she was staying with him, for everyone else. And now she's realized that actually, it's as much about him as it is about all of them. And I guess that's sort of that's the point, isn't it? You've got to want to be with each other, as well as all the all the other stuff that can make it both easier and harder.
Yeah. Yeah, it's funny, because when you see sort of, like, you know, I'm at the age where, you know, the kids leaving, and, you know, and it's like, it's going to be just us. And, uh, you know, as I'm looking forward to that, and I feel like this couple, you know, I feel like they didn't, you know, for whatever reason, and that, and that sort of that, like, hurts my heart. Right, like, yeah, you know, and it's not. And I think ultimately, like they did because love one, right, but I can't imagine as much as I'm going to miss my daughter. I can't imagine not looking forward to having the time to ourselves again.
Yeah, we're not going to do much more than sit on the couch and watch bad TV and drink wine.
pick someone up. Yeah.
Well, yeah, exactly. Or without having to worry. Like, when is she getting home? Yeah, absolutely. Oh, my God, I gotta get all the dirty dishes out of the bedroom. Like, you know, like, all of those things. That sort of, you know, that sort of happened with life and the idea of like, having necessarily as carefree as we were in our 20s, because we still have very grown up responsibilities that I think we didn't quite have in our 20s that we have now. But, but just a little sense of like, this is now just for us again, I'm looking forward to that. Yeah, no,
I think you're right. But I mean, it's not it's not uncommon. And it's a sad state that the old empty nest syndrome and everything that a lot of people slightly fear their children leaving and whether they're still going to have things to say to each other. And, and that's, that's a shame really, isn't it? Because if you've done all that hard bit is great to get to the the good bit were like you say you're there for each other again, and all this some of the other responsibilities drop away a little and you can be I guess, a bit more self indulgent a bit more. Like you were in your 20s the fun of it. Exactly. Bring it on.
You know, so yeah, I'm like, and so yeah, when I was like reading that, that's not there. That's that wasn't like sort of where they were going, but now that's where they're heading. I don't know. I really loved it. I was just like, oh, Like, Oh, this is so speaking to me and again that black eyes thing just like hit me right in the gut. Okay, moving down just another paragraph or two. Alright, so now she's, she's heading to the she's got her biker jacket, bless her heart she can still fit. She She's, and she's going off to to the garage. She put her hand to the handle push the door open and stepped inside. The site that met her was was astonishing. The main lights were off but to desk lamp shone down onto Gertie, which is the bike, making her glow gloriously red in the middle of the darkened room. Michael was astride her helmet on and in front of him covering the big garage door was a white sheet onto which he had projected the image of a sundrenched road. It stretched out in front of the bike, widen open between the craggy scrub land, and leading to a tantalizing glimmer of see on the horizon. She put her hands to her mouth, unable to believe it. I can't take you back through the years. I'm afraid, Michael said. But maybe I can take you somewhere nice right now. Will you come? It's quite safe. We're not actually going anywhere. And I've got all the windows open for ventilation. He looks so sweetly nervous. She swallowed I'd love to. Oh God. He lifted her helmet up off the side and held it out to her it glinted with a new shine and with older memories, where did you get that? have kept it in the cupboard just in case one day not to pressurize you. Just that well. I never liked riding with anyone as much as usually. What about Rob? Rob's a smelly old biker who goes too fast and picks terrible places for lunch? Julie laughed. She stepped forward and took the helmet instinctively tucking her hair behind her ears before she slid on it. slid it on. She looked at Michael through the visor seeing him framed in front of her as as as he'd been framed so many times since that first amazing meeting in Budapest. Okay, yes, his eyes shining with care. Okay, then please. He patted the seat behind him and heart pounding louder than ever. Julie stepped up and hooked her leg over the back. She sank into the seat and the leather gave a tiny happy side as if Gertie had been waiting just for this. The perfect fit pushed her towards Michael. And she felt the achingly familiar precipice back against her body, and dared to sneak her arms around his waist. His hands closed over her eyes for a moment squeezed and then in a single fluid moment movement, he grabbed the throttle and kick the bike into life. The engine board and the sound echoed around the garage and filled Julie with the perfect reverberations of easy happiness. She looked at the screen in front of her and to her astonishment, it started to play. Michael must have a remote control in his hand, she thought, but then she didn't care how he was doing it because the road was rolling under them as if they were traveling along it. And as they headed towards the horizon, the secret closer, Michael gently revved the engine and tip the bike just a little as the road rose up and over the ridge of the hill. And suddenly before them was the curve of a beach. And along get dotted the hillside a cluster of beautiful white buildings. Greece, she gasped. Oh, Michael, it's Greece that last, the video paused with glorious Vista laid out before them. And Michael quietly killed the engine. For a short time, they just sat there, Julie drinking in the sight. And far more wonderful than that the effort that Michael her husband had made to bring it to her locked down in a garage and suburbia of what had felt like the back end of their once schooled in marriage, he had somehow transported her to the place of her dreams.
Beautifully read, oh,
beautifully written. I thought that like this was that sort of like, I mean, I you know, she had clearly been falling for him through the, through the course of the book. And I know that we're at the end, but, but this feels like the moment, that sort of seal that this marriage was meant to be. They were meant to be together. And I thought that that was so gorgeous. And there was like, I don't know. I don't know, it was just it was just so beautifully done. And, and sort of and I loved it was a bit of a call back to it wasn't it was it it was not a bit it was a call back to the thing that they shared when they were younger when they were having those heady falling moments. And, and the fact that it was recaptured, but obviously in a myriad of different ways. Because they're not actually in Greece and they're not actually rolling on a motorbike and they're not. You know what I mean? It's like all of these things that they can't quite do to make it the same but it's never going to be the same right? Like because it is different and it needs to be different. That moment needs to be different. Yes,
yes. You can't, can't go back but you can, can go forward and if you've got to look back first then I guess That's sort of what it takes, isn't it? And I guess we all need triggers that way to remind ourselves of when things were good if, if we're feeling a bit like it's a rough patch. And I guess Yeah, I get one of my ideas behind that was that he really, he hasn't just tried to he hasn't just bought her flowers or, you know, tried to cook her dinner, he's thought about something that really means something to the two of them. And I guess that's real romance, isn't it is knowing the person and tapping into what? What will make them happy?
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I thought I just was swept away by this. I have a question about like that. And you can not answer it because I just want to be spoilery. On the you know, with the book, we want everybody to read it because it's beautiful. But we're with with Michael. Woo. Was he the firt? Like, was he taken by surprise? Or no? Well, she hasn't served him the papers correctly. She has the papers, but now they're on lockdown. And she's like her? I'm not gonna give them the papers, or Has she given them the paper? No, she doesn't give him the paper doesn't give him the paper? Does he know how off course they are?
No, I don't think so. No, I think it's a bit of a classic. Male head in the sand thing. I think she's been. Yeah, getting worked up as, as time goes on. And he's done that sort of plodding along thinking everything's okay. Because they've got the kids because they've got jobs, they've got more money now than they used to that they're just, you know, getting on with life. He hasn't really thought about it. But I think once she kind of, you know, enlightened saying that she's not feeling great. He registers that he isn't either and obviously, pandemic, you know, not much to do. He's got more time to think as well. So I think he, he does fully register that things are not right. But he's been slower to it. Shall we say that? Then? She has? Yeah.
Well, I mean, life gets in the way, right? Like you kind of because it's like, you are kind of plodding along with everything, right. Like, that's kind of what we do. And, and then all of a sudden, you know, 20 years have gone by and you're like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, what just happened? You know, in a minute, and you change and you evolve, you know, people change all the time. And you kind of sometimes wondered, did this other person evolve with me?
Yeah, that's the scary bit, isn't it? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And you get so obsessed with being sure that especially once you've got dependents with being sure that everyone's provided for, and that you've got money and you know, food on the table and holidays that are halfway decent, and, you know, these sorts of things become a bigger focus than, than they probably ought to be. But if you don't, if you're not doing them, then their life is impossible, isn't it? So it's sometimes hard to see past them.
Yeah, you know, it's interesting, we never were able to, like really afford to go on like big holidays until like, a few times with with, with my daughter and and so it was, you know, but I kind of feel like it's that she's it was almost more important that she saw saw our marriage intact, because it was like, what is the number one reason for divorce is like financing financial issues, right? I guess. Yeah. And knowing that the trips could have strained our finances to the point where it would have been like a little uncomfortable. I was just like, I you know, it just wasn't worth the risk, honey, because I think that that could have that is the thing that could have sent us is spiraling you know, I definitely thought it was Yeah, kids don't need
plush holidays. Anyway, we went a lot with us.
That's what we can do you go camping. Yeah, exactly. I loved it. Exactly. Exactly. Because yeah, cuz you know, because that was always in the back of my mind. It was like, Oh, my God, the money and you know, she just, I think would rather see a solid relationship between her mom and dad.
And well in time. Like, if you go camping, you spend a lot of time with them, don't you? So that's actually what kids
yeah, yeah, they want the time. Exactly. Although Disney was fun. But yeah. You know, I wonder I almost felt like I didn't, I was like, Oh, do I need to eat it? Like when I when I was reading it. I was like, I don't even know if I need to read this, like this steamy, steamy bits because this stuff is so beautifully intimate. Without it. Like these sections, you know, like there's so much there that just, you know, with their history on the fact that you know, he really wants to make this work and he's trying so so hard. But I do want to read the steamy bit because you you were like I have this TV that CBS through this this is so sweet to so through this the the the the heating guy comes and fixes for them and so he kind of interrupts they're like they have this like impromptu little date night which was so cute with a glass of wine and you know grape leaves. And when she thought about and that's what sent him to the market and they and they sort of have that kind of come to Jesus conversation and then get interrupted which was great. And now they've just sort of kicked poor John out when he interrupted and so, so anyway, back in action, a she murmured and then his lips were on hers and he was pulling her against him, his hands running over her body as if he could never get enough jewels. He said against her lips, my jewels. Her own name reverberated through her and she tugged at his sweater, wanting more of him wanting all of him, he pulled back to let her yank it up over his head, and then his hands were on the buttons of her shirt undoing them one at a time, she moaned, and impatiently he ripped at the last couple and threw the government aside. I want you truly, she ran her hands downwards and felt him hard beneath her touch I want you to She gasped. She ended his belt and pushed his trousers down. As he released her as in turn, stumbling a little, they kick them off, and she pressed herself against him, loving the feel of his skin on her as his hands running down her back and over her bum, pulling her even closer, but not yet close enough bed, she bagged too far, he groaned, pulling her instead into the living room. And as he pushed her down onto the sunflower covered sofa and lowered his mouth to hers, the tangles of the past few years faded away, and nothing seemed to matter anymore. But the glorious here and now. You know, honestly, that was such a beautiful moment to, you know, that they finally get that get to that happily ever after, then that they had that realization and that they were able to sort of, and again, like it did almost feel like that frantic rush, right? That sort of frantic rush of like, you know, first time
I have you. Yeah. And the, I guess they've been so obsessed with whether they've got a future and done a lot of in the novel, there's a lot of sort of delving into the past and what went wrong that I guess one of the joys of being things being right, is that you don't have to worry about it like you're in, you're in the here and now that you've just right. It's all good. Now, let's go with it.
Yeah, yeah, it was, it was it was sweet, but it was also really beautiful and really true. And that I think was really what sort of gripped me with everything in this chapter is that it was like, it was just really, really true. And I think that, you know, I think that it's almost aspirational, I think, especially for some of us who have are in these longer relationships and maybe are feeling a bit neglected. Right. And, and that idea of sort of, you know, being able to sort of think about it and say, Okay, how can, you know, for me, there was I think there was a god awful TV show, or maybe it was like a new? No, I think it was a magazine. Oh, no, it wasn't Good Housekeeping magazine, it was a section called can this marriage be saved?
Your readers would write in and another therapist would sort of like weigh in on whether or not the marriage can be saved. But you know, that if you are sort of wondering that, right, I just, I don't know, I just love these stories about more mature couples. And I just absolutely think that it's fantastic. And so unique and wonderful that you actually, you know, tackled a long term relationship that was falling apart and how and how you put it back together? Yes.
I enjoyed writing it. It was. Yeah, it was fun. In fact, it was written I wrote it in from conception to final edit. Six weeks. No, yeah. Because it was a pandemic novel. I was with my publisher. And when she worked the editor, it was partially her idea. And we worked together on it. And we wanted obviously, to get it out in this country. The theory was that we would get it out, you know, whilst everyone was in the midst of it, we didn't quite quite do that. But as it turns out, it went on for years. So, so we didn't do that. But yeah, no, the whole thing was done in, in six weeks.
So I think partly that I just, it just had to be done, like in a very intense way. So the sort of claustrophobia almost of, of the novel is was mimicked by the sort of was right to get locked down with an assortment of children and a husband and everything so I was just shut away in my room. Writing, which was nice
when you're locked down in Britain was, I think more extreme than ours here in the US even though we whinge about, you know, probably like a bunch of, you know, sort of like children, three year olds throwing tantrums about, about our lockdown, but I think yours was more severe. I mean, I friend of mine who her parents were in Scotland, and she was like, they can't even like they lived on the outskirts. And so they were actually their supermarket was in the next town, because that was closer. And they lived like right on the border. And she was like, they can't go to their supermarket because they can't cross town lines. And I was like, wait, what?
Yeah, weren't meant to go more than five miles away from the house. And we were only meant to go out of the house for half an hour a day in theory. I mean, we live in the countryside. So you know, I think we, the dog got a lot of walking, because I'd wait to get out. We didn't always or I'd got three, sort of early 20s and teen children here. And so she Yeah, she got a lot of exercise. We're all trying to get out. But yes, basically the the period in which I wrote it, we were literally confined to the house and the garden in theory, half an hour beyond. If you're lucky, a day.
Yeah. And so so your your lockdown was so extreme, you know, compared to what we experienced. And like I said, even though I'm lucky that we have, you know, and I was like, Oh my God, give me a break, at least we could drive, you know, we could drive an hour away. And it was like, you know, good luck finding a place to go pee is a whole other thing. But you know, shops were open, and we could you know, the food shops were open and convenience stores were open the gas stored, like we could go places. You know, we could have gone camping, I
suppose. I don't know, we definitely weren't allowed to do that. You know,
it was just a lot of outside stuff. And yours lasted a very long time, too.
Yeah. And it's funny. I mean, I've been rereading, rereading this and sort of reminding myself to some extent of it. We had a long first period. And then we had a summer where we were sort of allowed out, and then we went back into lockdown for quite a lot of the next winter. Yeah, in fact, it's only really this time last year that we were, we were coming back out again, and cafes and pubs and things were being allowed to open but even then only in sort of groups of six and OD in the garden and only till 10 o'clock at night. And in Scotland. I think you could go to the public, right? allowed to have any alcohol, which is like,
what's the point? Yes, totally.
Or only if you were having a meal, or oh, there was a whole load of ridiculous nonsense. And then in the meantime, as we since find out the government, we're having parties left right center, which has created some anger.
Yeah, justifiably so. But yeah, so I thank you so much for for sharing this amazing book. And, yeah. Now, where do you hang out online? Where can people find you
as Joe Wiles? I'm on Twitter and Facebook as basically Joe Wylde author, and I'm on both platforms as Joanna Courtney and as Anna Stewart as well. So I have far too many identities. But that's just sort of the way it's panned out with the different publishers and things. Yeah, I'm
curious. Why do you know? I mean, obviously, there's different genres. Is that why you did so many different pen names?
Yeah. Certainly the diner Courtney and the Anna Stewart was was because of that. And then this one sort of came in because of copyright and all all the way that it was all panning out. Yeah, Anna Stewart had gone historical again. So it seemed like a good idea to have a different name. But no, there's no, no secret about the fact that they're all me. It's just so that we just sort of know what they're getting when they when they novel.
Right. That's kind of that's that's tricky, though. Because now you have all this social media accounts. I know, worry about populate. And I know, I know, I'm telling you.
I know, and I'm not the best at it anyway. So I enjoy it when I do it. But there's a lot of a lot of novels to write. So which is what I love doing
best. Yeah, that's what we do. And I will have links to these in the show notes. And yeah, so Joe, thank you so much for being here. It was so lovely. It's been super fun. And it was steamy to see
steamiest Some but maybe in the future if my husband gets his way.
Oh, you're definitely coming back with that.
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