Monday, May 23, 2011

Author Sarah Jio - and a giveaway!

I'm so excited to bring you an amazing new author today. She is someone with whom most of us can relate: she's also a mother to three small kids. I mean, one of them is newborn small!

Her name is Sarah Jio and she her second book, The Bungalow, is going to be published next spring. That's right. Her SECOND one. Her first, The Violets of March, was published recently by Peguin (Plume) and was chosen as a Costco Book Buyer pick for the month of May. It is the story of a best-selling author who, during a painful time in her life, discovers an old diary from the 1940s that has surprising connections to her own life.

Sarah also blogs about health and fitness for - so with three boys under four and a job she still finds time to write novels.

How does she do it? I definitely wanted to find out, and Sarah was more than happy to answer a few questions for us.

TRDC: A lot of us are parents and we struggle to find time to write. How do you find the time?

SJ: I truly do not have an extra hour in the day or superwoman powers (I wish!). But, I do use my time wisely and have become very disciplined over the years. This means keeping to a pretty strict schedule. I have three little boys (ages 4, 2, and newborn) and after I get them all to bed around 7:30, I sit down at my desk and write, write, write. I use evenings for fiction, but do a lot of magazine work during the day when my kids are napping or when I am fortunate to have a babysitter around. I’m grateful that I love what I do (both being a mom, and being a writer), so it makes up for the fact that I really don’t have much of a life right now. Oh, two other things that help: I hardly ever watch TV and I have a very supportive husband!

TRDC: What is your research process for a novel?

SJ: I gravitated towards the 1940’s for a partial setting for my novel because I have always loved this decade. I grew up watching old movies with my mom and grandma and listened to more big band music than modern-day music. And I reading about the 1940's in my research (everything from the type of dresses worn by the women to the songs playing on the radio). It was fun “work”!

TRDC:Your novel The Violets of March involves a dual storyline. How difficult was that, and do you outline?

SJ: When you’re writing two stories in one, it can sometimes become confusing, and I tried hard to keep both story lines organized along the way, making sure the two communicated with one another. My favorite part of writing was thinking of ways the 1940’s storyline, with the character named Esther, would cross with the modern-day storyline with Emily. I tend not to outline (a point which drives my very logical husband bonkers) in favor of free-writing—just going where the story takes me with a loose idea of the character arcs, etc. I find that this leaves room for spectacular little discoveries that I wouldn’t stumble on otherwise—and I can always go back and revise (which I do a lot of!). I also have a quirky habit of writing the ending to my stories first and then filling in the middle.

TRDC: What inspires you?

SJ: I’m inspired by the small things that may seem insignificant in the moment, but turn out to be quite meaningful, like the story of the violets in my novel. In fact, violets wasn’t even a part of the story, as it was originally sold to Penguin. It wasn’t until I was out in my yard, and a guy I had hired to do some weeding found these gorgeous little purple flowers popping up out of a patch of weeds. I immediately thought of these violets signaling hope and redemption in my novel. I look for inspiration like that all around me. In fact, my third novel, currently in progress, was inspired by a song I heard on the radio! I heard it on the Siriously Sinatra station in the car, then went home and googled the song, downloaded it, and thought, 'Wow, I need to write a novel about this song!’

TRDC: Most of us are at the beginning stages, in the midst of writing, and don't know how this all works. Can you give us a brief explanation of how your book went from idea to work-in-progress to published?

SJ: I had the good fortunate of beginning my career in magazines, so it did give me some advantage in landing a good agent. My story in a nutshell: I was introduced to my current agent by the terrific author Allison Winn Scotch. At the point I signed with her, I think it was partially complete. I worked with my agent for about a year to polish the manuscript, and when she felt it was ready, she sent it out to editors and it sold, at auction, in a week! It was very exciting. Then the book sold at auction in Germany, and also to Spain. (I’ll never forget reading the news about my German book deal on my Blakcberry while on the cereal aisle at Trader Joe’s. Both kids were in the shopping cart, and I literally almost fainted right in front of the instant oatmeal!) My best advice to new writers is to only start a novel if it truly grabs you. The idea must keep you up at night and the characters must haunt you all day. Nowadays, I get tons of story ideas, but I only start the ones that really touch me. I think it makes for books that agents, editors, and most importantly, readers, will love most. My second book, The Bungalow, is going to be out from Penguin in the spring of 2012! I’m so excited about this book!

TRDC: And lastly, do you have time to actually read and if so, what's your current fave?

SJ: I love to read! I am first and foremost a reader. But, I’ve had to limit my reading time in favor of writing time of late. Still, I have made it my habit for the past many years to read a little every night before bed. Sometimes I get a full half hour, other times just five lines before my eyes get heavy, but I always have something on my nightstand. A recent book I loved was Camille Noe Pagan’s debut novel, The Art of Forgetting, a beautiful book about two friends, and how their friendship changes after one suffers a brain injury. A gorgeous read! The novel Sarah’s Key also hit me very hard. It was so emotionally powerful that I actually had to set it down for a few days before picking it up again. Mothers of little boys, beware—it will make you cry! 

Thank you so much, Sarah!

Here's the book trailer video. And you can also follow Sarah on Twitter and visit her author page on Facebook.

And? Sarah is ready to give one of you (U.S. residents only - sorry!) a signed copy of The Violets of March!

Please leave a comment telling us where you find your writing inspiration.

Extra entry if you tweet - just come back and leave a comment to tell us.

"I want to win a copy of the new novel The Violets of March by @SarahJio from @thereddressclub #giveaway #trdc"

The contest will close at 6 p.m. PST on Thursday.

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