Alumni of the Month July 2007

Jo Beverley (Dunn) (1970 American Studies & History)

Jo Beverley How did you get to where you are now?

Fascinating question, because it certainly wasn’t planned. As I started out after Keele in careers guidance, that’s a bit ironic. I worked for the Youth Employment Service until 1976 when Ken and I moved to Canada (not actually thinking at the time that this was a major life change – ah, youth!) My qualifications didn’t translate so he suggested I try writing that novel I’d always been talking about. So I did.... No, it wasn’t that easy; it didn’t sell. We had children and I put both novel and idea aside. Then in 1984 when we were living in Montreal there was a talk at the local library on “how to write a romance.” That was the real beginning and I sold my first book in 1988. From there it’s been an amazing ride, and I never would have dared plan it. Does anyone think, “I’ll set out to be a bestselling author.”  Certainly no one knows how to do that. I simply wrote the novels I wanted to and had a lot of lucky breaks. My 2007 novel, Lady Beware, is my thirty-first historical romance.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Survival, family, living in a gorgeous part of the world (Victoria, British Columbia.) But if we’re talking professionally, probably my five RITA awards, the top award in romance fiction in North America.

And your biggest mistake?

Not having the confidence to apply myself fully to writing sooner. I was drawn to tell stories from first being able to write sentences. I wrote a historical romance in a school exercise book at sixteen. But I was in my thirties when I got serious about it.

What are your ambitions now?

To keep writing what I love and have many people enjoy the books. Writing is exciting and satisfying, but a novel is incomplete without readers. The thank-you letters and e-mails I get from readers are very rewarding.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?

Don’t give up your day job! Only a small percentage of would-be novelists are published, especially in popular fiction. Only a small percentage of those make a living at it. But if it’s something you really want to do, find other writers enthusiastic about the same kind of fiction and go for it. However, celebrate the joy of the process. Don’t get hung up on publication and external success.

What made you choose Keele University?

I loved Keele being a campus. I never fancied a city university, with flats, commuting and all that. I never chafed at living on campus as some did. I didn’t realize then how useful it would be later as a writer of Regency romances to have lived on a country estate. That was definitely a bonus, however, and I remember telling a friend at the time that Keele was like the Regency season; an enclosed, fairly small group of people with its purposes and frivolities, its scandals and dramas. And, of course, its love stories.

How has Keele influenced your life?

I met Ken there, of course, and had a wonderful four years. The breadth of education was very useful and I, too, regret the passing of the Foundation Year. FY also meant that the friends we made at the beginning were from all disciplines. That added richness to all four years.

What is your favourite memory of Keele?

It would be hard to say. Friends, the setting, and it was, of course, the sixties. It was the sixties everywhere, and yet it wasn’t. School friends who went in other directions experienced 1966 to 1970 very differently.

And your worst?

I don’t remember anything significant.

Anything else you would like to add?

The social, educational and even geographical nature of Keele widened my horizons in many ways. I was very lucky to end up there. But like everything else, it wasn’t planned!

We regret to report that Jo Beverley passed away in May 2016. Ken travelled from Vancouver Island, Canada, to plant a tree in memory of Jo in the Memorial Garden at Keele in September 2016.