Author Jojo Moyes tells Saffron Walden about small town life in rural Kentucky

PUBLISHED: 14:10 09 October 2019 | UPDATED: 07:53 10 October 2019

Katherine Heslop and Jojo Moyes. Picture: ARCHANT

Katherine Heslop and Jojo Moyes. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

There were no locks on the doors. In the middle of a dark forest, I imagined who was waiting out there.

Hart's Books was a full venue on Tuesday evening. Photo: ARCHANTHart's Books was a full venue on Tuesday evening. Photo: ARCHANT

The 1830s log cabin, five miles down a dirt track, where JoJo Moyes stayed in Kentucky was so remote that her landlady forbade her to drive in the dark.

The internationally best-selling author of books including Me Before You, which became a film, was in the Apalachian Mountains researching for her latest book, The Giver of Stars.

The book, which has already been optioned for a movie by Universal Studios, is set in the 1930s and its heroines are the women of the Pack Horse Library. They rode hundreds of miles on their horses to deliver books and magazines to families in remote areas.

The story is seen through the eyes of Alice, an English woman who marries an American and moves to depression-era Kentucky.

Journalist Katherine Heslop. Photo: ARCHANTJournalist Katherine Heslop. Photo: ARCHANT

Interviewed at Harts Books in Saffron Walden by journalist, Katherine Heslop, Moyes described the log cabin to a delighted audience.

"I looked up five-star hotels, and found none, then three-star hotels. I thought I would ended up staying in Bates Motel but I found a log cabin in Snug Hollow, which turned out to be charming.

"There were no locks on the doors. In the middle of a dark forest, I imagined who was waiting out there and decided the only thing to do was to work all night and sleep in the day.

"At nine o'clock, I looked out of the window into the dark and the forest was full of white fire flies. It was like something out of Disney. The stars were visible and I realised there were no serial killers and I stopped being afraid.

Hart's Books was a full venue on Tuesday evening. Photo: ARCHANTHart's Books was a full venue on Tuesday evening. Photo: ARCHANT

"At dawn, there was a cacophony of birdsong, but in the middle of the day, it was silent. All you could hear was the sound of your horse's feet on the flint.

"The Pack Horse librarians rode 140 miles a week. They delivered books magazines and when the magazines fell apart, they made other magazines out of them so people could still read the information."

Nearly 100 years on in that region, she described "extreme poverty".

"You can tell there is no NHS. People are toothless because they can't afford to go to a dentist, they have suffered injuries which have not been treated, but there is tremendous kindness and they are great story-tellers."

It is an insular, Celtic descended community she said: "There is a rhythm to the language, the voices are melifluous and there is a strong, oral tradition."

"I was at dinner with a farmer who went to meet the school bus and saw a dead deer in the road. I thought he was going to tell me that he took the deer home to eat. But no, he went home, put on a Santa suit and lay down in the road in time for the next school bus. The children on the bus started screaming. They saw Santa and his reindeer dead in the road."

Some authors rely on Google, others are meticulous about going to the scenes of their stories. Moyes said she was surprised at how much she enjoyed being in rural Kentucky.

"It was authentic. I travel a lot and I stay in chain hotels, designed to all be the same. I have been back there three times just for pleasure. It's become my happy place."

The Giver of Stars is published by Pamela Dorman Books.

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