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The Light We Lost

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
Hardcover
May 09, 2017 | 336 Pages
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    May 09, 2017 | 336 Pages

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Praise

“It’s the epic love story of 2017 and the ending is one you’ll be feeling for months to come.” Redbook

“Extraordinary.”—Emily Giffin

“This moving story is a perfect understanding of the sacrifices we make for love and for our dreams.”Real Simple

“Your new tearjerker has arrived: Fans of Me Before You and One Day will love/weep over this elegant novel.”New York Post

“This read is One Day meets Me Before You meets your weekender bag.”The Skimm 

“Have your tissues ready…This book will sink its hooks into your heart on page one, and leave you scarred long after you’re done.”Bustle

The Light We Lost enchanted and compelled me.”—Delia Ephron, New York Times bestselling author of Siracusa

“A wonderful and heartbreaking book. . . . The kind of heartbreak that’s in The Way We Were, that you really love to cry over.” —NBC New York’s “Weekend Today”

“Heart-wrenching yet beautiful.” —US Weekly

“A beautiful and devastating story that will captivate readers.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Comparisons will be made to David Nicholls’ One Day, but there is something more romantic here—yet also more grounded—that will draw readers in.”Booklist
 
“Gorgeously written and absolutely unforgettable, Santopolo’s novel has a beating heart all its own.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

“Santopolo vividly illuminates how our personal lives and loves are changed by the common—and uncommon—events of our troubled world.”—Nancy Thayer, New York Times bestselling author of The Island House

“The perfect beach read: an engrossing, romantic, and surprisingly sexy story about the power of first love.”Domino

“Santopolo nailed the thrill and devastation that love can cause. . .  This book made me feel everything!”—Renée Carlino,  author of Before We Were Strangers

“Evocative, raw and at times breathlessly heartbreaking. . . In this honest portrayal of love and loss, Santopolo leaves us wondering about serendipity and the existence of that one, true love.”—Karma Brown, author of Come Away with Me

A beautiful, moving meditation on the choices we make in pursuit of love and a meaningful life, and the consequences that shape our futures.”—Bethany Chase, author of The One That Got Away

“Filled with light and hope, this is the romance we’re all looking for.”—Brenda Bowen, author of Enchanted August

“Emotional and heartbreaking. I predict a global tissue shortage.”—Sarah Morgan,  author of Miracle on 5th Avenue

“Santopolo has given us a remarkable love story that enthralled me, surprised me, and ultimately, moved me.”—Thomas Christopher Greene, author of If I Forget You

“The arc of this book. . . gracefully and tragically charts the course not only of a genuine and deep love, but also that of our country and of our collective identities. It is memorable and haunting, because it is authentic and so close to home.”—Nick Schifrin, PBS NewsHour Special Correspondent, NPR Correspondent

Author Q&A

1. This story is so moving and so honest. What inspired you to write it?
The initial inspiration for this story was, sadly, a really bad break-up. I’d been in a relationship for three years that I thought was going to be the relationship I was in for the rest of my life, and then things fell apart. As I was trying to put the pieces of my life back together and reimagine a new future for myself, I started writing vignettes about a woman who was also going through a breakup.
Lucy isn’t me, and her relationship with Gabe wasn’t my relationship, but the feelings that I touch upon in The Light We Lost—the feelings of love and loss and betrayal and regret and hope and despair—all of those were feelings I’d experienced that I wanted to explore further, and this novel gave me a way to explore them.
What I found the most interesting about writing this story is that when I shared pieces of it with people, the most common response I got was something to the effect of: I know just how Lucy feels, I felt that way after this experience or that break-up. In writing this novel, I learned that while every person is different and every relationship is unique, there are commonalities in love and heartbreak that we can all relate to. Love and loss are unifying emotions.


2. Before The Light We Lost, you’d written primarily for children and young adults. Why did you decide to write an adult novel?
Writing for adults wasn’t really a conscious decision. When I started writing the vignettes that became The Light We Lost, I started writing it with older characters because, thematically and situationally, these were adult problems I was exploring. There are certain issues that you just can’t write about in a book with a child or a teenager as a protagonist.


3. What was different about writing for an adult audience? Did your process change?
My process didn’t change much. I’ve written books about 10- and 11-year-olds and about 15-year-olds and, now, about 35-year-olds, and once I’m writing in those characters’ voices, everything else just falls into place. Vocabulary and sentence structure change, observations change, touchstones change, but it’s not something I think about consciously. The viewpoint character drives my storytelling, and that’s true no matter what age my character is or what audience I’m writing for.


4. Lucy’s voice is so powerful and sincere on the page. What was it like to write her character? How much of you is in her voice?
From the time I was twelve up through college, I performed in a bunch of plays and musicals, and writing, for me, feels a lot like acting. I get to step into a fictional person’s life and develop it further, taking the information I know and then using that to figure out how a character would act or react in different situations. To do that, I tap into times I’ve felt the same or experienced something similar, but then I filter that emotion or reaction through the lens of the character. So there is some of me in Lucy, and her life and my life do overlap in places, but for the same reason, there’s some of me in pretty much all of the characters I’ve created. Lucy’s done a lot of things that I haven’t—and she’s reacted differently than I have to some of the things we’ve both done. I’d imagine, though, that if she were real and we met at a party, we’d be friends.


5. How did you come up with Gabe and Darren? Did the men change as you developed the story?
They did! When I was building Gabe’s and Darren’s characters, I chose key traits (some borrowed from a few different men I’ve known and some wholly invented) and then built fictional personalities and belief systems around those core characteristics for each of them. I wanted Gabe and Darren to be remarkably different in a lot of ways, but I also wanted it to feel natural that Lucy would be attracted to both of them. And the men’s characters did change—a pretty decent amount, actually—as I worked on the book. Gabe became kinder and more vulnerable. And Darren became more flawed. Hopefully I found the right balance in the end!


6. So which are you: Team Darren or Team Gabe?
I’m going to cheat on the question and say I’m Team Lucy. I want her to realize her own strength and self-worth, regardless of which man she has in her life, or whether or not she has a man in her life at all.


7. You yourself were a student at Columbia University on September 11, 2001. What was it like writing about this experience through fiction? Were your own experiences similar?
It was actually really interesting writing about a real event that so many of my friends and I experienced—and all remembered slightly differently. That was the most amazing part. Just like Lucy and Gabe, I was in a Shakespeare class when the towers were hit—a lecture, not a seminar, though—and when I spoke to different people in the class, we didn’t all remember the same things in the same way. It made me glad that I was writing fiction and didn’t have to find back-up to confirm the real events as they took place in our lecture hall.
As far as my own experiences, I was in that Shakespeare class on the morning of September 11, 2001, and I did go up to the top floor of the Wein dorm, but once I looked out the window, I turned around and went back down the elevator. I was too overwhelmed by what I saw to stand out there on the roof and immerse myself in it. Perhaps I’m not quite as brave as the characters I created.


8. Without giving anything away, did you always know how the novel would end?
I didn’t. I’d had a few possible endings in mind, and contemplated ending the book earlier in the story at one point. At another point I contemplated ending it later. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted the reader to know when the book ended.


9. You also work as an editor of children’s books. What is different about writing your own stories from editing others’? Is there one side you prefer?
Writing and editing feel like such distinct activities to me. When I’m writing, it’s an act of creation, really, turning nothing into something. Editing is more about shaping, discerning someone else’s vision from their story and then helping them realize it in the clearest, most honest way they can. On some days, I prefer writing, and on other days I prefer editing, but they’re both things I enjoy doing very much.


10. What’s next for you?
I’ve just started writing about some new characters and their story, so hopefully there’ll be another novel before too long. . . .

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