Author Profile: Sarah Jio

This month’s author profile features one of our favorite authors, Sarah Jio | @SarahJio

In celebration of Sarah’s sixth novel publishing this coming Tuesday, we’re doing a special giveaway. One winner will receive all six of her novels. See the entry form below for details!

Sarah Jio2I can thank three real-life characters for inspiring my sixth novel with Penguin (Plume), GOODNIGHT JUNE. Their names are Carson, Russell and Colby, and they are my wild and wonderful sons, ages 7, 5, and 3.

I was a newcomer to the classic children’s book, GOODNIGHT MOON, by Margaret Wise Brown, when I received it as a baby shower gift before my first son, Carson, was born. I remember picking it up for the first time, and reading it to him, then a colicky infant. It was a right-of-passage of motherhood, in some ways. As he grew, he quickly developed an affinity for the little book with the bunnies, the great green room, the bowl of mush on the bedside table. The balloons, the mittens, the telephone.

And then my second child arrived, and my third. I read them the book every night, just as I did for Carson. I could (and can still) recite the book by memory. And sometimes I would, nodding off in the yellow gingham upholstered rocking chair in the nursery, with a baby boy in my lap. GOODNIGHT MOON was such a central part of my daily routine that it inspired a parody for Parenting magazine that I wrote called “Goodnight Mom.” (Google it, and you’ll find it.)

Eventually, my novelist brain turned to a bigger story: I began to wonder about GOODNIGHT MOON’s author, Margaret Wise Brown. What was she like? What sort of life did she live? I read several biographies of her life, and my fascination grew. She was larger the life (truly, a lover of life—she once spent an entire advance check for one of her Random House children’s novels on a New York City flower cart. She pushed it home and decorated every square inch of her apartment with flowers). My kind of woman. And yet, what was her backstory? What inspired her iconic work, adored by children (and parents) for decades? What was the real story of the ‘great green room’?

I set out to to answers these questions when I began writing GOODNIGHT JUNE, a novel ultimately inspired by motherhood, and my three little rascals. It all began in the nursery.

Sarah Jio Collage

 Sarah’s a busy gal, but we recently caught up with her via email to ask a few questions about life, writing, and what’s next:

She Reads: GOODNIGHT JUNE is your sixth novel (and congratulations–what an accomplishment!) and I’m wondering if the process of sitting down and writing a novel gets any easier with time? Or is it always an act of faith, a belief that if you show up and work every day the story will come together in the end? (Can you tell I just started another novel and I’m in that hesitant, restless place? Please tell me it gets easier.)

Sarah: Thank you! And, well, no, I guess I don’t think it gets tremendously easier. But, for me, my confidence has grown as a writer—in risks I’m willing to take in storytelling, in ignoring my inner critic or the exterior critics whoever they may be. I’ve gotten better at shutting off all of these voices and just delving into a story that excites me. It was my rule of thumb from the get go, and remains so today: If a story doesn’t haunt me by day and keep me up at night, I ditch it. I’ve given up on several novels (some full length) because I just didn’t feel the magic. And yet, every draft is an act of faith. But it’s those moments of “magic” I look for—the intersection of truth, authenticity, and wow, in storytelling.

She Reads: I think you once told me that you don’t plot out your novels in advance, that the process of discovering the story is half the fun for you. That is fascinating to me and I wonder if you ever find yourself not knowing where the story goes? If so, how do you find it again?

Sarah: Yes! I’m a bit of a literary hippie that way, I guess. But, I have several writing rules: I must have a clean desk. I must have a great title. And I must have a fabulous beginning and ending. I often write the last chapter first. There’s something about typing ‘the end’ initially that is so incredibly satisfying. But yes, I love seeing where a story takes me. It’s like getting into the passenger seat of a beautiful convertible on a warm night and just throwing your arms up and letting go and enjoy the ride.

She Reads: GOODNIGHT JUNE centers around Margaret Wise Brown’s famous children’s book, GOODNIGHT MOON. (I’ve read this book to my children so many times I could recite it in my sleep. Also, when I read the book to my youngest son, my older children still come sit by me and help him find the mouse on every page). Are your boys still in the stage where you do the majority of the reading? Or have they discovered books for themselves? Any family favorites?

Sarah: Yes, we look for the mouse still, too. My boys are 7, 5, and 3, and they love the mouse, the balloon, and, funnily enough, the “mush.” I read this book to them so many times in the yellow gingham upholstered rocking chair in the upstairs nursery over the years that eventually my creative mind began to envision a novel inspired by it. I miss those days (no more rocking babies to sleep), but we read together every night. They still love all of their old beloved picture books, but we’ve moved on to The Magic Treehouse series, which my 7 year old enjoys reading.

She Reads: You have carved quite a career for yourself since THE VIOLETS OF MARCH debuted three years ago. What would you like to be writing/doing three years from now? Five years?

Sarah: What an inspiring question! I am so grateful for the career I’ve been able to build, and I honestly jump out of bed every morning excited for what the day will hold. I do have some exciting goals for the years ahead, but if I can just still be writing the stories I love and interacting with readers in the way I do, I will be one happy author. Oh, and to see one of my books make it to the big screen would be pretty awesome too (I may or may not already have a dress in mind for the red carpet!).

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About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

55 Responses to Author Profile: Sarah Jio

  1. Bonnie K. May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I have read her books and look forward to Goodnight June. My favorite? I think The Last Camellia is my most favorite of hers.

  2. Billie Brinkley May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I oh soooo want these….My greedy reader self is waiting by the mail box! Love SHE READS

  3. Normandie Fischer (@WritingOnBoard) May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Six novels in three years? I bow to such ability! Can’t wait to go pick up one of these titles.

  4. Katie @ Doing Dewey May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’ve only read The Last Camellia, but I definitely plan on reading more :)

  5. Daniela May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I think Morning Glory is my favorite. Strong tie with bungalow . Love them all. Especially love the pacific NW setting.

  6. Susan Ashton May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I loved Blackberry Winter! I would love to read all of Sarah’s books.

  7. Marybeth Whalen May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I think my heart will always be tied in a special way to THE VIOLETS OF MARCH because that was a special She Reads pick for us. But I do think the concept behind GOODNIGHT JUNE is very intriguing, and definitely appealing to all of us moms out there. Way to go Sarah!

  8. rhonda May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I loved The Violets of March.I’m a huge fan !!

  9. Gwyn May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I really liked The Violets of March !

  10. Sally Bradley May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Six books already? I keep meaning to read her first! I need to get cracking.

  11. Susan Wilson May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I absolutely adored Blackberry Winter! Sarah Jio is an excellent story teller!

  12. Christine @Buckling Bookshelves May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’m reading a review copy of Goodnight June right now and am loving it so far! It’s making me want to check out her earlier novels as well :)

  13. Janet R May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    What a great opportunity to read ALL of Sarah Jio’s novels! I’ve read the first and would LOVE to read the rest! Thanks for a very generous giveaway!

  14. nancy reynolds May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    So far I’ve read 3 of Ms. Jio’s books and loved them all. My favorite, I think, is the first one I read: Blackberry Winter. Maybe because it was the first one I read. But I loved today’s interview – and would LOVE to win all 6 books. The newest book sounds great – and I still plan to read the ones I haven’t yet read. Thanks for this chance.

  15. Cori May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I love all of them. Blackberry Winter was my favorite!

  16. Leslie May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Fantastic giveaway – I have yet to read one of Sarah Jio’s books but I keep hearing lovely things about them from readers whose opinions I respect.

  17. Katherine Jones May 23, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Am always intrigued by a new Sarah Jio novel. This latest promises something rather out of the ordinary.

  18. JJT May 23, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I hope I win – it will be my introduction to Sarah Jio!

  19. Susan Gruener May 23, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Bring them on! I can’t wait to read these books! I was fortunate to read “The Bungalow”! I was spell bound! Don’t worrry, if I win the six, I will definitely pass on “The Bungalow” to family and friends.
    I especially loved Sarah’s last line…”I may or may not already have a dress in mind…” That’s the first thing I do when I am going somewhere, anywhere – what am I going to wear?! ;)
    A great big thanks to you all at SheReads!

  20. Kate I. May 23, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    As the only Sarah Jio title in my library is THE LAST CAMELLIA, it is my favorite … for now! I’d like to read the rest of her work and this giveaway would afford the opportunity to do just that. Thanks for the chance!

  21. Laura Kay May 23, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Oh, if you haven’t read Sarah’s book please do! I always recommend her books! I would say Violets of March holds a special place in my book loving heart :)

  22. Debbie D May 23, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I can also recite all the words from Goodnight Moon – and my youngest just turned 10 so it is many years since I actually read it to a child! Would love to win these books!

  23. Anita May 23, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I love this interview. I found Sarah Jio on twitter prior to book 1 and I’ve enjoyed each book.

  24. Sally G May 23, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I am a children’s librarian and I love Sarah Jio’s books–can’t wait to read Goodnight June!

  25. Jennifer Huelsebusch May 24, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I haven’t read any of Sarah’s books but they have been on my TBR list for awhile! I have great reviews about them!

  26. K May 25, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’ve been a huge fan of her work since her daily blog posts on Glamour, reading about her growing family on her personal blog, and now all of her books! Such an incredible an inspiring writer and such a great interview here. It would be wonderful to have all six books of hers.

  27. Becky May 25, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Have loved the 3 books of Sarah Jio’s I have read- would love to have all of them to read & share with friends!

  28. Annee C May 26, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Would love to win… Have not read any of her books YET! Amazing she has time to write with 3 young children!

  29. susan coster May 26, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I love Sarah’s books….but I would have to go with The Last Camillia.

  30. Jencey Gortney May 26, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I am a fan of Sarah’s writing but my most favorite novel is The Bungalow.

  31. Judy McMillin May 26, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I have loved all the She Reads recommendations so far! I believe I will love Sarah Jio too!

  32. Paula Dolin May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’ve read a couple of Sarah’s books and loved them. I would love to win!

  33. Brooke May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’m embarrassed to say but Sarah Jio has been on my “books to read” list since Blackberry Winter came out and I still haven’t read any of her books. I can not wait to do so! Thanks for the opportunity and I am looking forward to reading ALL of her books.

  34. Lisamarie May 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I’ve read Sarah’s first 3 books…. It’s hard to choose my favorite…there is something I love about each of them.

  35. Deb Krenzer May 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Would love to win her books. I’ve read one, The Last Camelia and thoroughly enjoyed. She’s coming to Houston today, but it’s raining so bad I don’t think I will be able to make the 30 mile track. Ugh!! Thanks for the opportunity!!!

  36. Marie Stone May 28, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I read Violets of March several years ago. I can’t wait to read Goodnight June!

  37. erica May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I have read and enjoyed them all!! My fav was Blackberry Winter.

  38. Carol Fragale Brill May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    What a generous giveaway. Thanks for the chance to enter

  39. Elizabeth May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I’ve only read The Last Camelia but I loved it. I’d love to try the others. Thank you for the wonderful review.

  40. Jennifer May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    So many of these are on my “wish list” can’t wait to read them

  41. (Bloomin'Chick) Jo May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    A to-read wish list dream come true! Exciting giveaway, thanks for the opportunity to win!

  42. Barbara May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I have never read any of her books, but they all sound wonderful, and if I win, then I could read all of them!!!!

  43. Pattie May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I just finished Morning Glory. I really liked Blackberry Winter and The Violets of March. I also was able to get Goodnight June from Netgalley and started it last night. :)

  44. Rebekah May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I love the bungalow

  45. Julia Reffner May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Haven’t read any yet, but have read short fiction by her.

  46. Shaela May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I haven’t read any of her books yet but I’ve had my eye on them – definitely going to pick one up soon!

  47. Tessa May 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I have been wanting to read her books for so long. Would love to have all 6 of them!!

  48. Lisa Driscoll May 29, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    What a great giveaway! Would love to read her books.

  49. Heather Day Gilbert May 29, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Sarah is one of my all-time fave authors. I give shout-outs for her mad author skills every chance I get! I’ve only read two of her books, but I loved them both: Blackberry Winter and The Last Camellia. I’d love to own every one. Thanks for this interview and opportunity!

  50. Beth May 29, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I haven’t read any of her books yet! Although several have been on my to-read list for a long time. Thank you for the chance to win!

    Beth

  51. Kathy Miller May 29, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    “The Violets of March” — it’s the only one I’ve read! I want to read more of the author’s works, however.

  52. Alana May 29, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Loved The Violets of March and so glad there are more to read!

  53. Laurie I May 29, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    My friend just recommended Goodnight June yesterday. She gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. So I looked into Sarah Jio’s books and would love to read them. This would be a great way to start!!

  54. Jamie May 29, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    They all sound so good! Would love a six pack of books :]

  55. catslady May 29, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    This would be a new author for me!

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