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Josephine Cox releases Blackpool based novel, A Family Secret

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 January 2017 | UPDATED: 18:52 07 September 2017

Josephine Cox

Josephine Cox

not Archant

Best selling author Josephine Cox talks to Roger Borrell about her 53rd novel and recalls tough times in Blackburn

Josephine Cox with Graham Norton Josephine Cox with Graham Norton

Josephine Cox makes no secret of the fact she loves a bit of gossip. In fact, she has made a hugely successful career from it.

In spite of this, Blackburn-born Jo doesn’t work for the tabloids but, like some who do, she specialises in fiction of the romantic kind.

During her career she has produced more than 50 novels and sold an eye-watering 20 million books, making Josephine Cox a familiar name on the best-seller lists.

‘It all goes back to my days growing up as a six-year-old sitting on the step at Henry Street in Blackburn where I’d watch the world go by and listen in to everything that was going on,’ she says.

A Family Secret A Family Secret

‘You would hear all sorts – from couples making love in doorways, arguments between neighbours on staircases and people shouting from windows. Listening in on other people’s conversations helped me make up stories back then. I know it’s terrible, but I’m still doing it today! I loved watching people then and I love watching them now. Everyone is so different.’

Gossip and scandal are the threads Jo weaves through her latest book, A Family Secret, which is in the shops this month. It is set in Blackpool and centres on a blue bench on the seafront, a meeting place for visitors and locals, a refuge for lost children, a trysting place for sweethearts and a place for weary travellers to rest.

‘There were times during my childhood that you’d hear of a mum talking to a neighbour about a young unmarried daughter’s child being taken by her mother as her own to avoid scandal. Things like that fascinate me – I would gather up stories like that and keep them in my mind and in my heart. That’s the basis for my latest book.’

Jo’s early life sounds like one of the plots of her novels and this time of year is particularly poignant for her

Christmas and New Year are always times for a big party in Jo’s house. However, the festivities were pretty much non-events for people trying to eke out an existence in Henry Street. ‘We didn’t have a tree – Christmas was pretty much an ordinary day for us. At best an apple and an orange in one of dad’s socks.

‘Perhaps, the reason we always have a big family party at Christmas and New Year is because we had so little when I was younger.’

There were happy times growing up but also some scars. ‘I recall being at school when the nit nurse made you go behind a screen and take your clothes off. I couldn’t stop crying with embarrassment because I didn’t have any underwear.

‘She calmed me down told me not to get upset and the next day she pushed a little bundle in my direction and it turned out to be a brand new starched white set. I’ll never forget that act of kindness.’

Her dad was a street cleaner and her mum worked in the cotton mills. ‘Dad was a really hard worker – he kept the streets of Blackburn clean. The problem was that he and the rest of the men got their wages handed out on a Friday night in the local pub. That’s where the money went.’

Jo’s life changed forever when her parents parted company. As one of ten children, Jo was taken south by her mother to live with an aunt while many of her siblings remained in Lancashire.

‘That was a very difficult time but I’m still a Lancashire lass and I go north whenever I can to see family in Blackburn. My brother still keeps me in touch with what’s going on in Blackburn. I hear a lot of good things about the place but I still shed a tear when I think of Henry Street being demolished. Despite the hard times, I still love that place.’

A Family Secret by Josephine Cox is due to be published by Harper Books on January 12.

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