Jojo Moyes’ best-selling book Me Before You packs an emotional punch. The story revolves around small-town free spirit Louisa Clark, who becomes a caretaker for wealthy quadriplegic Will Traynor, and a highly anticipated film adaptation – starring Game of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke and Hunger Games‘ Sam Claflin – is now in theaters
Many readers and filmgoers might be surprised to learn that the emotional, sensitive subject material in Moyes’ work was inspired by real-life events.
“When I was writing the book, I had two relatives who required 24-hour care,” Moyes told reporters of her inspiration. “I think if you live with that situation on a daily basis, you cannot fail but to ask yourself questions about quality of life and what we are doing for people alive, because of the advances in medical science but without necessarily the quality of life to offer them. So I guess all those issues were high in my mind when I wrote it.”
The author added that she was further moved by a news story she heard about a young man who became quadriplegic after an accident.
“While this was all going on in my family, I heard a news story about a young man in England who had suffered a terrible accident and it left him quadriplegic,” she explained of the former rugby player. “Several years after the accident he had persuaded his parents to take him to end his life. He was all about his body from the age of three, that’s all he wanted to do was to play sports. I was so shocked by his story because as a parent, I couldn’t understand how you would ever agree to take your own child to end their life. I was probably quite judgmental as well.”
Moyes continued: “The more I read about it, the fact that he had shut himself down, that his parents had been put in this impossible position, I didn’t know about quadriplegia, I didn’t know about the health aspects,” she said. “It’s not just a matter of being in a chair, it’s a constant series of interventions and indignities and health problems, I started to think ‘What would it be like if someone you loved made that decision?’ ‘What would it be like if you were that person?’ We all like to think we’d be like Christopher Reeve. I’m not sure I would. I think I would be bitter and angry and envious of people who still got to use their bodies, so that story wouldn’t leave my head and that’s where it came from, it was an exploration of an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation.”
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And for the readers and filmgoers who shed a tear (or several) over the emotional weight of the story, know that Moyes cried just as much while writing it.
“I have to feel it. If I don’t cry while I’m writing those scenes, you won’t cry,” she said. “The tears should come when you write something sad. My family’s kind of got used to it. They’ll occasionally open my office door and” – seeing her sobbing while typing – “I’ll say, ‘I’m having a really good writing day!’ ”
Me Before You is now in theaters.