Q&A With Sarah Jio
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Q&A With Sarah Jio
Today I have the pleasure of doing a Q&A with Number 1 International and New York Times Bestselling Author Sarah Jio. Sarah is the author of eleven books some of which are “With Love From London,” “All The Flowers in Paris,” and “Goodnight June”. According to her Amazon bio Sarah is also A magazine writer and the former founding health and fitness blogger for Glamour magazine, Sarah has contributed to The New York Times, Redbook, O, The Oprah Magazine, Cooking Light, Glamour, SELF, Real Simple, Fitness, Marie Claire, Hallmark magazine, Seventeen, BRIDES, Health, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, The Seattle Times, Parents, Woman’s Day, Parenting, and many others. She has also appeared as a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition. I find that an impressive list.
Q: So Sarah when did you realize that writing was your calling?
A: I was fortunate—and so blessed—to know at an early age that writing was my calling. It’s funny, I just always new. But what really gave me that added acceleration was the support of my parents, and most particularly, my late grandfather, James Robert Mitchell, who saw a spark of God-given talent in me (along with tons of passion for the written word) that he helped me hone and follow. While he did live to see me become a successful freelance magazine writer, I will always mourn the fact that he never got to see my career as a novelist flourish in the way that it has. He would have been so proud, and that would have made me so happy. He was one of my favorite humans ever, and I like to think (and pray) that he is smiling down happily, knowing how much he inspired me to follow my path.
Q: What was it like writing for all of those famous magazine publications? I always find it impressive when an author was or still is a journalist as well as an author.
A: It was such fun, truly—and also a ton of hard work, which I always like to emphasize as a lot of people think a writing career is glamorous and very “Carrie Bradshaw,” when it’s often quite grueling! I started writing for magazines straight out of college. I got my journalism degree and set out to conquer the world (I’m laughing as I say this). I had a lot of bad ideas and rejection letters before I found any sort of success or income stream from my writing, but once it took off, it REALLY took off. At one point, I was juggling 4-5 features a month, with lots of smaller side pieces and my regular columns/blog work for Health and Glamour. When I had my first baby (who had colic) things really got wild, especially when, one day, my childcare fell through, and I had to conduct a phone interview with Gwyneth Paltrow for Glamour while trying my best to nurse a fussy baby. GP was lovely and understanding, and somehow, I got the interview done and my story turned in.
I will say that I loved, and still love, journalism. Magazines and newspapers—print media—was my first love and will always hold a special place in my heart. And being a journalist brought a lot to my career as a novelist—adhering to deadlines, being edited or critiqued without taking things personally, being curious about the world. There was no better training for novel-writing than my years that preceded.
Q: What is your advice to anyone wanting to be an author? What’s your advice to anyone who struggles with writers block?
A: Write what you love, and only what you love. Now, I will admit that sometimes I loathe my draft and struggle with one chapter or another, but I’ve found this rule of thumb to be true: If you’re consistently finding yourself loathing your novel-in-progress, struggling to get into a chapter or just plain disenchanted with your characters, my best advice is to set it aside and start a new story that really gets your heart racing. If your work-in-progress doesn’t excite you, how can you expect it to excite an agents, publishers, readers? I have given up on a half-dozen partially finished novels (and several nearly completed ones) for this very reason, and it’s okay! I see far too many aspiring novelists toiling away on a draft of a novel they don’t love for too long when they could be writing something they do! Also, while the writing is important (and vital, obviously!), don’t discount the idea process. Spend an hour or two with a blank notebook and daydream about plots, titles, characters—you might be surprised at what hits you.
Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to submit a piece to any of the publications you worked for?
A: While I still write occasionally for mainstream publications, particularly on personal topics or others I’m passionate about, I will say that the media world has changed a great deal since I made my living as a journalist. What remains steadfast, however, is great ideas and relationships. If you bring an editor a terrific idea (a great trend piece, a carefully crafted first-person essay, etc.) and you also write well, turn your work in on time and are kind (emphasis on being kind!), there’s so much room for success in this industry. I hustled hard as a freelancer. I constantly pitched ideas, often worked late into the night to meet deadlines, and maintained great relationships with the people I worked with (even if I was in Seattle and most of my editors were in New York City). While there are definitely challenges to breaking into the magazine industry today, there’s still lots of upside for those who are willing to work hard, chase down the best ideas and deliver great content.
Q: What was it like being the founding fitness blogger for Glamour Magazine?
A: Oh my, it was so much fun—and such a thrill! I remember when an editor who I’d worked with frequently at Glamour contacted me about the idea of having me take spearhead the magazine’s first health blog and I was so wildly honored and excited. The gig was a perfect fit for everything I loved and still love—daily reporting on health, fitness, nutrition, happiness, and all the latest intel on optimal living. It was a pinch-myself moment, and I loved the job so much.
Q: Out of all your books if you had to choose one, which one was your favorite one to write and why?
A: It kills me to answer questions like this (though I don’t mind at all that you ask, as it’s a perfectly natural thing to wonder!). The truth is, I will have seasons of feeling more connected or having a stronger fondness to one past novel or another based on whatever season of my life I’m in or what memories are circulating. To be perfectly honest, when I finish a novel, I try very hard not to think about it, dwell on it, or—heaven forbid—read a word of it ever again. The fact is, it’s too hard for me. Once I put a novel to bed, I allow myself to send it out into the world and let it be, in all of its perfect imperfections. That said, two of my novels haunt me the most, which probably mean they are closest to my heart: 1.) My first novel, The Violets of March, which will always be my baby, and was the literal road map for me figuring out how to write a work of fiction, and 2.) My third novel, Blackberry Winter, which made me a New York Times bestseller and came straight from this mama’s heart.
Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to any of your novels?
A: Not anything to share yet, but I’ve recently had a few exciting developments, so fingers crossed!
Q: Are you writing a new novel now? If so can you spoil a little bit about it?
A: Oh yes! I’m always writing. In fact, I’ll be the old lady by a pool someday with enormous sunglasses and some zany, heartfelt story I’m typing on my laptop. My latest novel (book 12!) is in progress, and while I can’t share anything about it just yet, I promise to as soon as I can—and I can’t wait! This one is consuming my heart and soul.