Joanna Cannon was born in a small Derbyshire town, at the very edge of the Peak District National Park. As an only child of an only child, a great number of her friends lived within the pages of a book, and she soon discovered what would become a life-long fascination with words, stories and character.
Jo left school at fifteen with one O-level and worked her way through many different jobs: barmaid, kennel maid, pizza delivery expert, and although these experiences may not have felt useful at the time, they gave her a breadth of understanding about people which would later become invaluable.
Jo’s love of narrative had always drawn her towards psychiatry, but it wasn’t until her thirties that she decided to go back to college and finally complete the A-levels she’d abandoned some fifteen years earlier. She went on to study medicine at the University of Leicester and appeared on the other side with a cap and a gown, and a brand new title. It took her so long to get used to the brand new title, she still has to remember to turn around when someone says ‘doctor’.
Before specialising in psychiatry, Joanna rotated through a series of hospital jobs, from the chaos of A&E to the handkerchief quiet of palliative care. It was around this time she began writing a blog, which she found helped to empty her head of all the suffering she saw during the day (you can read the posts she wrote here). From the blog developed an idea for a novel, and Jo spent the next few months attending workshops and classes, including Faber’s Writing A Novel course, in order to learn more. In the spring of 2014, Jo took part in the Womentoring Programme, where aspiring female authors are mentored by women within the publishing industry, and it was through this scheme that she met Katie Espiner of The Borough Press. The following September, Jo attended the York Festival of Writing, where she won the Friday Night Live competition (a kind of literary X-factor) with her story about two little girls in the summer of ’76. Within forty-eight hours of leaving York, she had received offers of representation from a number of literary agents, and she went on to sign with Sue Armstrong of Conville and Walsh.
The Borough Press (HarperCollins) acquired Jo’s novel shortly afterwards, and THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP was published in January 2016. Within a fortnight of publication, it reached #3 in The Sunday Times bestsellers’ list.
Jo remains in the Peak District, with her family and her dog, where she continues to explore a fascination with words, stories and people. She is currently working on her second novel.