As an only child during a peripatetic childhood in the UK and the Middle East, Jo was thrown back on her own imagination for company, resulting in the inevitable shoe box of stories under the bed.
She left Cambridge University with the classic English graduate’s ambition to join the BBC and was pitchforked into The Archers in the middle of the haymaking season. During her farming apprenticeship, she learnt the importance of accurate research, the finer points of studio directing and, critically, what a script editor does, and first began writing for the programme in the mid-1980s. For ten years she alternated producing or writing scripts for the programme with forays into television before going fully freelance to write her first Archers spin-off book, Shula’s Story. In total, Jo has written 10 spin-off BBC titles, eight of them about The Archers. Five of these are novelisations, including a three-volume set retelling the main Archers storylines from 1951-2000, to coincide with the programme’s 50th anniversary.
Her fascination with The Archers' incredible archive led to two compilations which reveal among other things that Dan Archer only ever wore a nightshirt, never pyjamas, and when and where Bert and Freda Fry bought their carpet sweeper (when Argos first opened in Felpersham, if you’re interested). In parallel, as one of the core team, she was writing scripts as wide-ranging as Brian’s affair with Siobhan, Jack Woolley’s Alzheimer’s and the fearful abuse of Helen by Rob.
Her drama Dead Girls Tell No Tales about The Archers' most sensational early storyline, the death of Grace Archer in 1955, and the even more amazing behind-the-scenes story, revealed for the first time by the actress who played her, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in September 2015 and released on CD/download the following year.
Jo is married and has one daughter living in Africa, so travel is back on the agenda again. Which is probably why she likes books with a firm sense of time and place.
Agent: Broo Doherty
Books by Joanna Toye