Thursday, January 26, 2012

Author Interview: Sarah Jio

Recently, Julie read and reviewed Sarah Jio's two fabulous books, The Violets of March and The Bungalow. Today, we are excited to have her  answering some questions. 

GJR: Other than it being utterly gorgeous I’m sure, what inspired you to set your novel The Bungalow on Bora~Bora?

Sarah Jio (SJ): At the time when I began working on The Bungalow, I was pregnant with my third son and had two other very young little boys. Clearly, I wasn’t going to be traveling anytime soon, so I decided to “revisit” the Tahitian islands where my husband and I traveled for our honeymoon 10 years earlier in my imagination! By writing this story, I had a chance to experience the warm, white-sand beaches and the lush island setting again.

GJR: Is Westry based on anyone or purely your imagination? 

SJ: He’s just a product of my imagination, but I like to think he’s pretty dreamy! His name, however, was inspired by a real person. I heard the name of an editor I worked with at a magazine years ago, and I liked it so much I filed it away in my mind to use in a novel someday!

GJR:  The Bungalow is told from Anne’s point of view, reflecting on her life and relaying the story to her granddaughter. How do you think this influenced the reader about Anne? Do you think the story would have been different if told from Westry’s point of view? 

SJ: I wanted the reader to take a journey with Anne and experience her great love, her heartbreak and regrets. If it had been told through Westry’s point of view, we might have seen similar emotion, but the story would have been very different. When I began to plot out this novel, Anne Calloway came to me very vividly and I knew she had to be my main character and that I had to tell her story. 

GJR: Both of your novels, The Violets of March and The Bungalow have a love story and a mystery in them but for me The Bungalow was much more of a love story than a mystery and flip flopped for The Violets of March. Was this intentional or just how the stories flowed?

SJ: It’s funny, I didn’t set out with any real certainty about the type of story I would write; I sort of let the characters guide me. The books are similar in some ways and different in others. As a writer, I’m interested in a blend of mystery and history, with a sprinkling of romance. For me, the test of a story that is going to work is whether it captivates MY attention as I’m writing it, and The Bungalow absolutely haunted me. I still think about Anne and Westry as if they are real people (as crazy as that must sound!).

GJR: You have said that your grandmother influenced your interest and love of the 1940s, but what is it in particular that draws you to that time period?  

SJ: I adore the music, films and fashion of the 1940s. I feel absolutely nostalgic about this decade. When I was young, I watched more black-and-white movies than anything else. I thought that was normal. But, while my friends were falling in love with Tom Cruise, I thought Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant were pretty great!

You have a third novel due out in 2013. Can you tell us the name and a brief summary?

SJ: Blackberry Winter is my third novel—set to be published in September of 2012 by Penguin. It is the story of a little boy who was lost in a late-season snowstorm in May of 1933. When a similar late-season snowstorm hits the city (Seattle) on the same day some 80 years later, Claire, a 35-year-old reporter for the Seattle Herald, stumbles upon the story of the missing child and is determined to find out what became of him and his mother. In the process, she discovers haunting connections to her own life.

GJR: Are you currently working on a 4th novel? If yes, what writing stage are you in?

SJ: Yes, my fourth novel, The Last Camellia, is in progress. It was recently sold to my editor at Penguin, and I’m very excited about this story.

GJR: You have a young family, how do you find time to write and maintain focus there with little ones around? Do you write when they are in bed?

SJ: With three little boys 5 and under, it is very (VERY) crazy in my house. But, I’ve learned to embrace the craziness and just keep plugging along. I adore being a mother, and I love my career, so I just feel blessed to be able to have this life. It’s not always easy, though. I’m really sleep-deprived a lot of the time, but I try to write a little every night. While I do my magazine work during the day, I find that I can focus best on fiction when the kids are sound asleep. So, after putting them down for bed each night, I race down to my office to write for a few hours on my novels. It’s work, but I also really love it.

GJR: Do you feel that being a journalist prepared you for being a novelist? If so, how? If not, why? (Maybe some of both)

SJ: Yes, it’s really helped me, I think. I am the health and fitness blogger for Glamour—a job I’ve had for the last four years. It’s amazing how that daily deadline really does help keep me disciplined and flex those creative muscles.

GJR: How do you feel social media has helped publishing and/or reading in general? What about for yourself?

SJ: I think it’s definitely a good thing—for readers and for authors. I love connecting with readers on Facebook and Twitter—hearing about what they’re reading, learning how much they enjoyed one of my books, etc. Recently, I saw on Twitter that a woman was reading The Violets of March in the bathtub. She tweeted something like “Sitting in the bathtub with a glass of wine and Sarah Jio’s The Violets of March.” I tweeted her back a hello, and she got a kick out of the author saying hi to her in the bathtub.

Thanks to Sarah, who is currently on her book tour for The Bungalow, for taking time out of her hectic schedule to answer our questions! You can follow her on Twitter on join her Facebook page.



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