Going it alone has an upside for Bristol author Jo Platt

June 04 2013

Many of us see escaping into a good book as a real treat – but one Bristol author enjoyed writing her debut novel so much she describes the process as like “sneaking off to eat chocolate”.

From aspiring author to published writer in the click of a mouse, Jo Platt tells Joni Mann about her debut novel, ‘chick wit’ and writing what you know

Many of us see escaping into a good book as a real treat – but one Bristol author enjoyed writing her debut novel so much she describes the process as like “sneaking off to eat chocolate”. Jo Platt
Jo Platt has squeezed in writing around her two children and part-time job as a medical secretary yet said it felt so “self-indulgent” she kept it a secret from many of those around her.
She said: “I didn’t want to confess to friends as it felt frivolous taking an hour or two here and there to go and type away. You hear people talking about being a writer, and they describe the torture, stress and torment of it all, but I found this a thoroughly enjoyable process. It was a lovely thing to do.”    
Reading Upside Down is the result and follows heroine Rosalind Shaw who, after being stood up on her wedding day, leaves her life in London for St Albans, where new friends and managing a bookshop help her start a fresh chapter.
While Ros is occupied in the business of selling antiquarian books, it was a very modern process that saw Reading Upside Down published in February, taking Jo from aspiring author to published novelist in the click of a mouse. Jo decided to self-publish on Amazon, making the novel available as an ebook, a route that has worked well for many with 15 self-published titles among last year’s 100 best-selling Kindle books.
Jo explains: “The decision to self-publish was based on being realistic and also being very impatient – I know somebody locally who has been trying to get a book published for three years. When I looked into self-publishing I couldn’t see much of a downside – you put it into Amazon, press a button and it’s there for people to buy. I haven’t got a big marketing machine behind me so I’m using Facebook and Twitter and finding ways to shout about the book.
“It feels very exposing to have done this,” she adds, saying she has only written for friends and family before. “Sometimes I find it difficult to believe that I did it, that I plucked up the courage – when I pressed the button I made my husband sit next to me so I actually did it.”
The novel has been given a warm reception with most reviews on Amazon awarding it five stars – readers’ praise includes “laugh-out-loud funny” , “true to life”, “beautifully observed” and “intelligently written”. Reading Upside Down
It is perhaps the last that will please Jo the most, who says she prefers the genre “chick wit” to “chick lit”. She says: “Chick lit is a genre that can be associated with poor writing – but it doesn’t have to be. My book is supposed to be entertaining, amusing and uplifting and I hope the quality of the writing and the characters make it worth reading. The storyline and situations might seem quite light, but lots of the book is based in reality and the characters are an amalgamation of people I know.”
Jo has previously lived in London and St Albans – the setting for the book – and along the way friends and family appear either by name or by personality traits or, in the case of her own parents who formed the basis for Ros’s parents, barely altered at all.  Jo’s book group – 16 women living across Bristol – also appear by name and she has dedicated her debut novel to them while she works on a second book inspired by the group and set in Bristol.  Jo said: “Reading Upside Down was written with those kind of people in mind – bright women with a fantastic sense of humour.”