Q&A with Jill Santopolo

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Q&A With Jill Santopolo

Today I emailed New York Times Bestselling author Jill Santopolo and she agreed to do a Q&A with me. Jill Santopolo has written the novels “The Light We Lost,” “More Than Words,” “Everything After,” and in 2023 she has a new novel coming out called “Stars in an Italian Sky”. I was very happy when Netgalley approved my request for “Stars in an Italian Sky,” I can’t wait to read it. Jill has  written 14 books for children and teens which are ten books in the Sparkle Spa Series, two more books about Alec Flint, a fourth grade detective, and two Follow Your Heart books, which are like “choose your own romance” novels. 


Q: So Jill when in your life did you realize that you were called to be an author?


A: I’ve always loved reading books and coming up with my own stories. When I was three years old, I “wrote” my first book—or, at least, I told the first story that was complete enough for my mom to write down. (It was about a magical cat named Stacey.) I wrote stories all through elementary school, middle school, high school, and college, too. Even if I didn’t get published, I think I’d continue writing stories—it’s just part of who I am. My first published book—a mystery for children called The Nina, The Pinta, and the Vanishing Treasure—was published when I was 27, and my first novel for adults—The Light We Lost—was published nine years later, when I was 36. 


Q: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to pursue writing as a career? What advice do you have for those who struggle with writers block?


A: My best advice to anyone wanting to pursue a career as a writer is to read. A lot. In your genre and in other genres. I think readers internalize so much about writing—what makes a plot feel tense, a character feel fully developed, language feel deep and powerful—from reading. After that, I’d say make time to write, without thinking about the market. Just write what you want to write, what your heart is telling you to write—and treat it as if it’s a job already. Give yourself deadlines to complete pages, chapters, drafts. And then find some trusted writer and reader friends to give you feedback so you can revise. 

There are some great writers to follow on instagram—like Bianca Marias and Courtney Maum—who have a lot of helpful tips in book, podcast, and conference form. (I also LOVED my MFA program—I went to the Vermont College of Fine Arts.)

As far as struggling with writer’s block, I’d tell writers to ask themselves why. Are they trying to write something that’s making them feel too vulnerable? Are they blocked because their piece feels flat or boring? Do they just not know their characters well enough to understand how they act, so are stuck? Whatever the issue is, I think once you work through that, then the block goes away.  


Q: What do you like most about writing a novel? What do you like the least about writing a novel?


A: My favorite part about writing a novel is finally figuring out my characters and their voices to the point that the novel almost feels like it’s writing itself. My least favorite part is the figuring things out up until that point; I end up deleting a lot because my characters don’t feel nuanced or well-developed and everything seems clunky and first draft-y and makes me question whether I’ll ever be able to make it all work. 


Q: If you were to collaborate with another author who would it be and why?


A: Oh my goodness there are so many wonderful writers out there it’s hard to choose just one! I’d love to work with someone who writes books that are completely different from mine—maybe someone who writes crime fiction or thrillers—and we could see what happens when our brains come together. 


Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your novels?


A: Yes! The Light We Lost has been optioned for film, and currently has a completed script and a director attached. I’m crossing my fingers that it all works out and I get to see Lucy on the big screen one day. 


Q: Where do you get your ideas to write your novels?


A: People often ask me if my books are autobiographical, and the answer is no, but there are always things that happen in my own life that inspire my novels and scenes in my novels. For example, my husband and I did the bike ride that Lucy and Darren take in The Light We Lost. And my own father died before I wrote More Than Words, where Nina grieves her father. When I go to schools to talk to kids about writing, I liken my brain to a washing machine or a blender, where all of my own life experiences get mashed together and come out as a story. 


Q: Are you writing a new novel now? If so, can you spoil it a little bit about it?


A: I am! It doesn’t have a title, and it’s in the really, really early stages, but it revolves around two sets of sisters and a house in Italy. There’s romance and sorrow and lots of secrets…