Contributed by Paula Johanson
With the passing of our friend and SF Canada member Jo Beverley, we have lost a Canadian writer active in both romance and science fiction genres. Unlike most authors of historical romances set in England, Jo Beverley was actually English by birth though of Irish descent. She kept her Lancashire accent even after thirty years in Canada, and her marvelously good manners were warmed with good humour.
As a child Jo began writing as soon as she could string sentences together. Her juvenilia includes a romance novel set in medieval times, which she wrote in an exercise book when she was sixteen. It’s my hope that in this day of e-books and annotated manuscripts, a smart publisher will make that early novel available with commentary!
She earned a degree in English history from Keele University in Staffordshire, where she met Ken Beverley. They were married shortly after graduation, while she worked in youth employment and he became a scientist.
In the mid-seventies, she and Ken moved to Canada where they gained dual citizenship. It took attending a talk at a library to get her seriously writing the manuscript that became her first historical romance. Until the 1980s she hadn’t thought of writing as something ordinary people did, but then things came together in her life to let her apply herself seriously to her writing.
After raising their family in Ottawa, Jo and her husband moved to Victoria, BC, during the time that SF Canada members knew her best. She made us welcome in their home, and was a generous colleague among fellow writers. Visiting her home was a pleasure for SF Canada people in Victoria. In later years when her posts would come on our listserver or on Word Wenches blog, recommending markets or useful programs, it was easy to remember her saying similarly helpful things in the yard of her Oak Bay home or the haunted house in Fairfield. She took a spin on my three-wheeled bike one day, her first ever on a cycle.
Among authors of historical romance, she became a legend, a bestselling author with multiple awards. Publishers Weekly called her “today’s most skillful writer of intelligent historical romance.”
In addition to her four stories of science fiction and fantasy, her romance works included over forty-seven novels and eighteen novellas, a few of which included charming light touches of a fantasy element such as a sheela-na-gigh carving which granted wishes but at a price. “The SF side of romance (as opposed to paranormal such as vampires etc) has been neglected,” as Jo observed. She was pleased to see that Canadian publishers might be waking up to the importance of popular fiction.
In 2009 she and Ken returned to England. By 2012 she had survived cancer and moved on to new writing projects. Until the last months of her life, Jo was an active participant in her circles of romance writers and science fiction writers. Among other projects, she was making electronic content to supplement her print books. Their sons and grandchild still live in the Ottawa area, and Jo and Ken were planning to return to Canada; but her cancer returned. She passed away Monday, May 23, 2016.
A detailed note on Jo’s passing has been written by her friends on the Word Wenches blog. Ken appreciates all the cards he has received, and has told the SF Canada people: “But I’d rather you just ‘posted a card’ to the Wenches memorial page:
There will be a family and other friends memorial page set up soon — a link to it will be posted on the Wenches page when it is up and running.”