Welcome back for Part 2 of my interview with Honno author Jo Verity. (You can read Part 1 here.) Today, we’re talking about her latest novel, Left and Leaving.
Photographer Gil is on an extended grey gap-year, working in the London hospital to which Vivian brings Irene for emergency treatment; together they try to establish calm amid the chaos. Irene is thrilled with her ‘guardian angels’, they less so with her ongoing interest in their lives.
Gil has a girlfriend, living in the same building as him, and a troublesome family back home. Thirty-something Vivian has a high- flying boyfriend, an irascible father and a demanding job. But they keep finding reasons to spend time together in the run up to Christmas. And still there is Irene, intent on filling the holes in her life…
Marooned in Tooting by a sudden snowstorm, Vivian and Gil are forced to spend the holiday confronting secrets and responsibilities they’ve been complacent about for too long.
Left and Leaving is your fifth novel published by Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press, where did that have its origins?
I have a daughter and grandchildren living in London and I spend a fair amount of time there. (What a place to people watch!) No one cares who you are or what you do – both a blessing and a curse. I thought it would be interesting to bring together one character who craves its anonymity with one who has become isolated. These two people would, in normal circumstances, never meet. The interesting part for me was working out how to get them together. Playing God is one of a writer’s greatest pleasures.
I love the cover image of two garden chairs covered with snow, standing in the snow. It suits the book so well. Is it the cover you had in mind and did you have much say in it?
Honno has always listened to my suggestions for cover images. We’ve had some ‘lively’ discussions, but we’ve always come up with something that’s acceptable to both of us.
Having worked in graphics, the ‘look’ of a book – mine or anyone else’s – is particularly important to me. I know what I like! (Not wobbly hand-lettering and pastel colours, for a start.) Over the course of 5 novels I’ve come to accept that an image which pleases me may not be right for the book. The publisher knows what helps to sell a book which is, after all, pretty important! Ideally a cover ought to hint at what happens in the story or at least the kind of story it is.
I’m delighted with the cover of Left and Leaving. I think it succeeds in being both a striking image and it conveys the mood of the story. Two abandoned chairs, close together but isolated. A hard winter. Read more