Three Letters: Another chapter in Josephine Cox’s career

Josephine Cox
Josephine Cox

SHE speaks every bit as colourfully as she writes, painting vivid verbal pictures of characters and lives and emotions.

You can even hear the trickle of water when she talks about the little brook at the rear of the house in her new page-turner, Three Letters, writes Sammy Jones.

book jacket

book jacket

Small surprise that books by Josephine Cox have sold in their millions around the world.

Seventeen million of them so far. And counting.

“When I was a little girl I would sit on the step of our house and watch the whole world unfold down the street – arguments you could hear, kids fighting, suitcases flying out of top windows.

“It was life in every way, and I have used that in my book.”

Three Letters, which was new to bookshelves in paperback last week, is another Cox classic.

The family at the centre are hardworking husband Tom, his promiscuous wife Ruth and child Casey.

Josephine again reaches for that verbal easel, and colours in the picture: “Tom is slightly aware of it,” she says of his wife’s infidelity.

“He has heard the gossip, but doesn’t want to believe it, so he puts it aside and gets on with his work.”

As in so many untidy, sad stories, a child or children feature.

In Three Letters, the little boy is Casey.

“Ruth starts being very cruel to Casey and he is terrified of her...he is all mixed up and his emotions are in turmoil because of what she is doing.

“When Ruth gets violent with the boy, Tom has a great decision to make – does he stay, does he leave, and does he take the boy with him?” Tom eventually writes three letters. “The reason he has to write them will break your heart It’s very deep ”

Three Letters took seven months to complete, a surprisingly long time for the speedy writer..

“I got so involved with that little boy,” Josephine admits.

“...and it’s all set in that real area – Casey’s stamping ground used to be my stamping ground.”

Josephine’s dream of being a writer took time to become a reality: “I got married at 16, had two little boys and life was busy. I was working full-time, going to college in the evenings, there wasn’t time.”

But when Josephine was taken ill and hospitalised for six weeks, the time was there.

“One of my friends came along with a big A4 writing pad and about 12 pens and said ‘There you are, get on and write that book you are always talking about.”

That book, A Father’s Sin, was a gargantuan success, and she has been a best-selling author ever since.

There is never a drought in ideas: “When I am halfway through one, I’ve got another cooking away in the back of my mind,” she admits.

“They are neverending because of those characters I knew when I was growing up...”

Josephine can’t be sure, but thinks her grandfather may have given her the bug for storytelling.

“He used to sit me on his knee and tell me stories that transported me to another world. Maybe the love for writing stories comes from the way he used to tell them to me.”

They say everyone has a book in them, and our esteemed author has words of wisdom for those wanting to unleash their own chapters.

“Write from the heart,” she says, simply.

“When you are writing about your characters and what they are doing, if it is funny, you should be able to laugh out loud. If it is sad, you should feel heartbroken.

“You should feel everything your characters feel and if you don’t, throw it in the bin,” she demands.

Blackburn raised, Josephine has been a local for a couple of decades, and calls Brickhill home.

Quiet chaos reigns in her office.

“The worktop is eight inches high from one end to the other with stuff I have to do.

“When I am writing everything goes out the window and piles up, so I never really catch up with all the mail, standing orders, insurance.

“Readers letters pile up too, which I don’t like, but I do always reply to my readers.

“I must have about 300 here now.”

Happy letters, sure, but sad ones too.

Indeed it was one particularly poignant letter and subsequent responses that inspired the title of this current book.

You could try, but you’d never dampen Josephine’s love for her work.

This is far more than a job: “Even if I wasn’t getting paid any money, I’d still do it. It’s just something I have to do, like living and breathing. “I absolutely love it, Sammy, it’s a very big part of my life...”

A milestone will be hit in 2013 too: “Next year will be the 50th book, and there are going to be some celebrations apparently.

“I’m getting the vibes...people are whispering!”

Three Letters is published by HarperFiction.