Saturday, 21 October 2017

Diana talks to... Joanne Vigor-Mungovin, author of Joseph: The Life, Times and Places of The Elephant Man

Hello Jo. How lovely to chat to you like this.

I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!

'Do you believe in time travel?' I don’t think the past has ever gone, I think we walk beside it every day as we do the future.

What is the genre you are best known for? History

If your latest book Joseph: The Life, Times and Places of The Elephant Man was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role? Johnny Depp

What made you choose this genre? I’ve always been fascinated with history so it was a sure thing

How do you get ideas for plots and characters? My characters are real and the plot is too

Favourite picture or work of art? The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche
If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind? True life. I would love to write about the battle of the Facebook pages during the height of the ‘Petition for Richard III's bones’ saga. ((There are so many stories there!! D))

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously. A very close friend helped me drift into it and supported me though out. I was 44 when I started and 45 when it was published.

Marmite? Love it or hate it? Love it on egg and soldiers. Hate it on everything else

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...?? Nope, I just write where feels comfortable at the time

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters? Well as one of my characters is family, I suppose the answer is ‘family’.

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job? Little coffee shop selling books, New, used and old. ((Ahem. Ahem! Will you need an assistant?? D))

Coffee or tea? Tea.  Red or white? White.
How much of your work is planned before you start? I write a quick plan, but that’s it.

Do you have a full draft or let it find its way? It finds its own way as I branch off into different directions
If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose? Lucida Handwriting…..looks so classic

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be? A written document to murder the ‘Princes in the Tower’ signed by the person who ordered it.

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head? If so how did you cope with that!? Real life characters always shock me, that’s the beauty of non-fiction. I just have to go with the flow.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips? Non-fiction takes a lot of research and takes you on many adventures. Be prepared to travel.

Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred? There has been a lot of fiction mixed up with fact on Joseph Merrick. Every piece of information had to be fully researched and sourced.

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters? No
What do you enjoy reading for pleasure? Saga
What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book? Something to warm the cockles of your heart as Joseph Merrick is an inspiring, heart warming story.

Last but not least... favourite author? Lynda Page


About the author:

I’ve been interested in Victorian History especially Leicestershire Victorian History for over twenty years when I first started researching my own family tree. My Grandfathers were Freeman of the City of Leicester and my x4 grt. Grandfathers house is still standing on Friar Lane in the City
Interestingly when researching the book I discovered I was related to Tom Norman, the showman who exhibited Joseph merrick in London. We are fifth cousins.
The story of Joseph Carey Merrick, more popularly known as the Elephant Man, passed into the realm of legend from the moment he was first exhibited at John Ellis's Bee Hive public house in Nottingham's Beck Street. Much of what has been written about his short life has been distorted and exaggerated, to the point where the most well-known depiction - the 1980 film starring John Hurt - left an indelible imprint of cruelty and suffering at the hands of Joseph's manager, and an eventual rescue by Dr. Frederick Treves of the London Hospital. The truth is rather different. Peeling back the layers of myth, I have looked into the early life of Merrick and his family in my hometown of Leicester, and here I present, for the first time, detailed information about Joseph's family and his burning ambition to be self-sufficient rather than survive on the charity of others.
I am available for tours around Leicester, concentrating on the sites associated with Joseph Merrick, including his birthplace and workhouse.

If you would like to book me for events, talks or confrences please email me at

The book has received incredible reviews - and deserves them! Here is what I wrote about it:

The story of Joseph Merrick, often referred to as 'the Elephant Man' has been told and retold and elaborated on so many times that it has been hard to tell fact from fiction, but in this remarkable new study of the man and his place in society, Joanne Vigor-Mungovin looks deeper and further into the history to uncover the real man. 
The wealth of research undertaken by the author is phenomenal and the book is factually accurate in every aspect, from the man himself and his family, to society at the time. 
Never before discovered details of his life are laid bare and the whole is written in a confiding and easy to read manner, but without any condescension or attempts to gain pity for his plight. 
Merrick is uncovered as a charming, erudite and well read, gentleman, who was touchingly grateful for the smile of a woman - the first in his life. 
The book has relevant and useful appendices and a helpful, but not invasive, array of notes to clarify where information had been found. The book is also expertly indexed.
It is truly a remarkable book about a remarkable man, written by a remarkable woman. 
Diana Milne 2017.

© Joanne Mungovin 17 September 2017 ©Diana Milne 2017

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