Today I’m pleased to welcome author Jo Bloom to the blog. Jo’s novel, Ridley Road was published in paperback on 24 September 2015 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Jo kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Ridley Road.
Ridley Road is inspired by real events surrounding the 62 Group, a Jewish anti-fascist organisation which formed in 1962 to confront the revival of fascism in London. I set a love story against this political backdrop while sweeping the reader up into a world of music, coffee bars, fashion and hair in the early sixties.
2. Where did you get the inspiration for Ridley Road from?
In the summer of 2009 I met an elderly man who was still an active anti-fascist, and I was fascinated by his stories of fighting alongside members of the 43 Group and the 62 Group. Since I’d not heard of either organisation, nor had I known there was a fascist resurgence during the sixties, I went home and did some research. A few hours later, after I’d learned how the 62 Group had fought the fascists on the streets of London throughout the sixties and beyond, I went to bed buzzing with ideas for a novel…
3. What do you think are the reasons the story behind the 62 Group still resonates today?
Unfortunately, the surge in recent years in extreme right-wing activity across Europe and the rise in antisemitic activity makes the 62 Group’s story very relevant.
4. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?
Probably a bit of both. I find it really hard to write without any idea or plan, but I also need to leave space for things to happen on the page. Ridley Road took about three years to write but during that time I had a baby, lots of freelance work and renovated a house!
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I exercise, walk the dog, watch TV/films, see friends, cook and read. I’ve also been known to waste a few hours on the internet…
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Tricky! I have lots of favourites. Although I don’t think I could be happy with just one book, Alice Munro is an author I return to all the time.
7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
A. Who is your favourite character in Ridley Road?
About the book:
“A beautifully written love story set in 1960s Soho amid the revival of fascism. Includes reading-group notes.
A dark love story set in the Swinging Sixties
SUMMER, 1962. Twenty-year-old Vivien Epstein, a Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, arrives in London following the death of her father. She has travelled to the city to make a new start, and quickly finds herself swept up in a city buzzing with life. Landing a job at Oscar’s salon, she thrives amid the vibrant café culture of Soho and the warm camaraderie of the other hairdressers.
But beneath the surface, Vivien is desperate to find Jack Fox, a man she had a brief but intense romance with some months before. Her search leads to confront the dark resurgence of fascism, countered by the Jewish community in street battles around Ridley Road in the East End of London. Amid the growing tensions, can her love survive?”