Sarah Jio Answers Eight Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing the which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! Sarah Jio, author of the novel The Violets of March, played along and answered eight questions.  Here is what Sarah had to say about reading, writing and 1940′s love songs.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

Hi Nicole! Thanks so much for hosting me. I am a Seattle-based writer. I started my career in magazines. For the last 11+ years, I’ve been a contributor to magazines such as Glamour, Redbook, Cooking Light, Health, SELF, Real Simple, O, and others. I’m also the health and fitness blogger for I have always been toying with novel ideas (even as a young girl), and I finally sat down to write one a few years ago that I was really proud of. I found an agent and a home for the book (Penguin/Plume) and the rest is history! I’ve loved making the transition from magazines to books (though magazines will always be my first love!) and have found them to be good companions. For instance, I flex my creative muscles daily in my magazine and blogging work, so by the time I sit down at my desk at night to write fiction (I always work on my novels at night) I’m ready to go!

In terms of the books I like to write, they run the gamut, but they tend to have three consistent elements: love and romance (just a sprinkling of it, we’re not talking about the romance genre here—that would make me blush!), a good mystery, and some historical interest. I’ve sold my second novel, The Bungalow, and it will be out from Penguin (Plume) next spring! I’m also hard at work on novel #3, and have fallen head over heels for the story and characters. I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

Oh, such a good question! The things that help me write, and write well are the following:

*Music! When I’ve decided on a story that I want to pursue, I create a playlist of songs from iTunes that will help give me the creative energy and inspiration to work hard. For The Violets of March, which is partially set in 1943, there were a lot of old 1940′s love songs.

*Water and snacks: I have to have a big glass of water and a snack on hand while I write. I keep almonds nearby to power me through intense chapters.

*An open window: I love fresh air and a little breeze in my office, so I try to keep my  window open. Better yet if it’s raining and I can hear the rain drops outside.

*Darkness: I write fiction at night, which is when I feel very creative and also at peace. The kids are in bed, my magazine deadlines are accomplished, and I can sit back and enter the world of my fictional characters.

People live in stories, we are surrounded by them. What was it about this the story that made it the one you had to tell at this time?  What impact did telling this story have on your life?  Did you find that it had changed you?

I have a rule about beginning a new novel: I will not move forward with the seedling of a story unless the characters and the plot absolutely captivate me. My thinking is that if a story doesn’t haunt me at night and have me thinking of it during the day, then it won’t captivate readers either. When I began to write The Violets of March, I knew it was a story I had to tell. Not only did the story make me weepy as I wrote it, but I’ll never look at violets (as in the actual flower!) the same way again. To me, they will always signal redemption and forgiveness.

Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?

Yes, I do read while writing, but not very much. When I am immersed in writing, the writing comes first. BUT, my nightly reading rule still stands. I believe that reading is immensely important to novelists (and I also love buying books and supporting other writers!), so I make it my rule to read every night before bed—even if it’s just a page, or even a few sentences before my eyes get heavy. I recently read Sarah’s Key, and it really moved me, and reminded me how important emotional suspense is in storytelling.

Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be?  How involved were in choosing the name of the book?

The book was initially sold as The Waters of March. I loved this title, but the team at Penguin thought it might be a bit too somber. So, they asked me to come up with something else. While editing the book with my editor, we added a thread about violets, and how they symbolized redemption and forgiveness for the characters, and it hit me immeidately: The book had to be called The Violets of March! To read the story behind this, here’s a link.

As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?

I was pleasently surprised by how many readers reach out to you. Every morning I get excited about waking up and checking my email and Facebook messages to see what people have written. I’ve heard the lovelist things from readers. One woman was so engrossed in my novel that she burned a rhubarb pie in the oven. The pie had to be tossed, but she did love the story! Another reader said that she hugged the book after finishing it. These stories really make me smile.

Are there other books you love or writers you admire that are from your local area?

Yes, I adore Kristin Hannah, who happens to live on Bainbridge Island where my book is set. Kristin’s novels are very rich and her characters powerful. Her novels always hit home to me. Winter Garden is particularly lovely, as is her newest book, Night Road. Kristin is also so supportive of new authors, and she’s been a tremendous encouragement to me.

What’s next?

The Bungalow, my second novel, is out in the spring. I can’t wait for you to read it! And, I hope to finish my third novel this summer, and then I will decide on a fourth. Currently, there are three new story ideas that are competing for my attention. I’ll have to see which characters scream the loudest. I’m excited to get to know them all.

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