Aww, thank you Zoe. Truly, though, it has nothing to do with any superhuman abilities (though, I wish!). I am simply fortunate to do what I love. When you enjoy what you do, it all sort of falls into place. Oh, and I have an amazing husband who is particularly great with the kids, so that helps a bunch!
Setting is so important in your novels, for example Bainbridge Island in Violets of March and Bora Bora in The Bungalow. Is Seattle just as important in Blackberry Winter? Do you intentionally try to set your stories in different locations? What comes first– the setting or the plot?
Blackberry Winter is set in Seattle. I live here, and absolutely am a Seattle-ite through and through. So far, all of my novels (except my fourth!) have been set partially or fully in the Northwest. I tend to gravitate to this area because I know it so well and love it. But, I think the plot comes first in most cases—then the setting. Though in Violets, Bainbridge Island was sort of a character in its own right, so it came to me along with the idea for the novel.
Your novels are so great at transporting the reader to a new place they've never been– if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Also, I think you should definitely make the trip (research expense!)
I've been to Paris before, but I want to go back! The last time I was there, I traveled alone to a cooking class. This time, I want to rent an apartment in Paris for 2 weeks and bring the whole family. I have dreams of surviving on bread and pastries and showing the boys all the sights!
Now that your third novel is about to be published, has anything about writing and publishing gotten any easier? Is anything harder?
I wouldn't say that it's gotten any easier, but it's nice knowing what to expect in the process. There is so much that the author cannot control, so much that is just out of your hands, that I've learned to simply enjoy writing good books and then let the experts take it from there. My goal is to try to just focus on the writing and interacting with readers: both of my favorite things!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Yes, write daily. And, do not begin writing a story unless the characters absolutely haunt you by day and keep you up at night. You must love, love, love your story for readers to also love it. (And for editors and agents, too!)
What are the five books you are most excited about at the moment? They can be ones you've read recently, or ones you're anxious to pick up, whatever you want!
So many! I want to read "Gone Girl" because of all the press about it, and Anne Lamott's new one. Also, Maeve Binchy was working on a new book, A Week in Winter, which she turned in to her editor shortly before she passed away last month. I want to read this one the second it is published.
Where do you do most of your writing? What are your reading and writing habits like?
I write in a little office next to the playroom in my house (I have three boys under the age of 6, so this is key). It's small, and there are usually kid toys at my feet. But it works. And I feel fortunate to have a dedicated room for my writing pursuits. My desk is covered with books and notebooks and other random things (I'm staring at a Lego creation that my 5 year old made me and a withered dandelion flower that my 3 year old gave me yesterday). I like to write fiction at night, after the kids are in bed and the house is quiet. Better yet if it's raining outside and the window is propped open.
Not only do flowers appear on the covers of your novels, but they also play a unique and important role in the stories. What is it that draws you to their symbolism? Do you expect that future novels will also feature them?
Yes! I adore flowers, plants and nature, so I suspect that these types of themes and symbolic elements will be a permanent feature in my novels in the future. I love how certain flowers and trees are meaningful to people. For instance, crocuses always remind me of my parents because they planted them every spring in the garden of my childhood home. Come to think of it, I think I should use the crocus as a symbolic element in a story. It would sure make a beautiful cover!
How would you sum up Blackberry Winter in ten words or less?
Seattle, a life-changing snowstorm, love and loss—and hope.
Usually, I'd ask what's next but you're so ahead of the game you already have a release date for book four, The Last Camellia, May 28th 2013! So is there anything else you can reveal about The Last Camellia? Or even book five, six, or seven– which I've read are already in progress?
I can't share a bunch about The Last Camellia yet, but I can't wait to—soon! For now, I'll share that it is set in the English countryside (in two time periods: present and 1940s), and delves into mystery, history, romance—and a bit of suspense! I also think fans of Downton Abbey should really like it!
Thanks so much to Sarah for stopping by In The Next Room! To learn more about her awesome third novel, Blackberry Winter, or her first two books The Violets of March (click here to read my review) and The Bungalow (click here to read my review), stop by her website http://www.sarahjio.com/