I first "met" Jo through her writing. It was 2008. I was in New York for a conference, and meeting with my editor. I was in her office, about to leave, when I said, "Is there anyone you think I should be reading? She pulled The Spymaster's Lady from her shelf and handed it to me. It hadn't yet been published — Jo and I shared the same editor. I read The Spymaster's Lady on the plane on the way home and wow! It blew me away.
I met her in person in 2009, the night she won her first RITA for the Spymaster's Lady. It was a thrilling night all around. Wench Jo Beverley presented her with it — seems Joanna was almost fated to become a Word Wench.
I interviewed her here, and the following month Joanna joined us as a word wench. This was her first post. And since then she's become a valued member of the word wench family. You can catch up with her previous posts here — there's a wealth of Jo-reading. And now, over to the other wenches . . .
From Pat: Jo, I totally wish you well in your retirement but secretly hope the imps of creativity crawl out of their holes and start chewing on your fingers. Your brilliant, funny, creative mind needs a good outlet, and I need my Job fix of humor on a regular basis. I’ll miss you so much!
For those of you who have only read Jo’s books, dig around on the Wench blog and look for her epistles. Humor lurks under every word and insight. Behind the scenes, when the wenches are talking, she’s even funnier and pithier. And if you haven’t read Jo’s books, do so now! As you can see by her pictures, she looks like a mischievous imp, not an evil mind who grips you by the throat and won’t let go!
From Mary Jo: As you may have noticed, it's impossible to write about Joanna Bourne without mentioning her amazing humor. Sly, witty, and deeply subversive, it is not what one expects from someone who looks like a a cat loving cookie grandmother. <G> She has the ability to write about any topic on earth and make it hilarious and fascinating. (I'd love to see what she could do with turnips . . .) Her books are uniquely in her voice and speak for themselves. Nor shall I forget that at the Wench retreat in Connecticut, she conjured a Bent Thomas which was most valuable in the book I was struggling with! Please don't disappear entirely, Jo—we need you!
Andrea: On reading my first Jo Bourne novel, The Spymaster’s Lady, I was blown away by the powerful use of language—a terse style where every word felt so carefully chosen (I tend to blather on, so that really impressed me!) There's also a gritty emotional depth to her characters, and the plots can draw a readers through some dark moments. This, I remember thinking to myself, is a very serious writer. And then I joined the Word Wenches and met Jo . . .
The first thing you notice when you meet Jo is the delightful twinkle in her eyes and her impish smile. And then you quickly discover how scathingly funny she is—in a wonderfully dry, understated, laconic way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve nearly fallen off my chair in laughter on reading one of her emails on our private Wench loop describing some little everyday incident that has gone awry. She sees things in a marvelously unique way. I’m sure everyone who reads her blogs knows what I mean.
The Wenches have become a sisterhood over the years, sharing ups and downs, and we will miss her kindness and warmth as well as her humor on our daily e-mails, and on the blog . . . So hugs, Jo—and enjoy taking time to slow down and smell the roses. But we’re making you promise to stop by often and say hi. (And you know, never say never . . .)
From Nicola: I’ve always been excited when I see that Joanna is writing a blog post. Firstly, you don’t know what sort of topic she’ll go for: Chickens! Dog collars! Regency Lightning! It’s unpredictable and you wonder what on earth she’s going to say. Then you start reading and it’s always fascinating stuff. I learn so much. “The Regency imagined electricity as if it were something you could keep in a jar and pour out.” Who knew? Not only were Joanna’s blog posts always funny, perceptive and informative, they would be written in her signature quirky style, just like her marvellous books. People talk about authors having a distinctive “voice” and Joanna’s writing has this in spades. I’ve never read anything quite like Joanna Bourne’s writing and it’s been a wonderful addition to the Wenches over the years, just as it has been a pleasure to have been “wenching” alongside her!
Wishing you joy on the next phase of writing and life, Jo, and we will miss you very much!
Christina said: As the new kid on the block, I haven’t known Jo all that long, but I already know that I absolutely love her writing and always looked forward to her blog posts. She never disappoints with her quirky choice of topics and erudite way of handling them, and she has a very unique way of looking at things which I really appreciate. I very much hope she’ll be popping in from time to time so we can enjoy more of those lovely posts. In the meantime, I wish her lots of rest and relaxation with her dog and cat, joy in everything she does, and every happiness! I’m sure the muse will soon find his/her way back to Jo soon because muses are sneaky that way and they never quite leave authors alone. Take care Jo, I will miss you!
Susan adds: All good things reach an end, and so we bid a fond adieu to one of our own. Wench Jo has been with us for years, bringing spice and humor to the mix, contributing a lovely whimsy and balance in the Word Wench group. She's funny, she's incredibly smart and quick — and her books are just as spicy, clever, and wonderful too. Jo leaves us for greener pastures (spring and summer are on their way, after all!), some well-deserved relaxation, and a break from having to think up a blog at the last minute (oh wait, is that just me who does that?) … We hope she's only taking a short break from writing her books — Jo will always have stories bubbling and simmering that need to be written. We also hope Jo knows she is welcome on the blog anytime, if she gets a little bored with all the peace and quiet and freedom. We will miss her terribly, behind the scenes as well as on the blog, we wish her every happiness, and we hope she will be back soon!
Anne again: The last time Jo played with the wenches in person was in July 2019 when she, Mary Jo, Pat and I joined Andrea at her home in Connecticut for a writing retreat. We talked, ate, told stories, brainstormed and laughed a great deal. An enduring memory for me will be Jo's version of "cutlery as characters" — manipulating cutlery and salt and pepper shakers around the table as she explained her plot. Naturally the fork became the character she called "Bent Thomas." I'm sorry we'll never get to see her version of him in one of her stories, but, as others have said, "never say never." And, I've forgotten what we were toasting on this occasion, but here we are again, wishing the wonderful Jo Bourne all the very best in her new life.
As we all know, Jo has a most distinctive and unique writing "voice". Which is your favorite Joanna Bourne book — it's hard to choose, I know. I waver between Spymaster's Lady and The Black Hawk — or your favorite Joanna blog post?