Sarah Jio is the #1 international, New York Times, and USA Today bestselling author of eleven novels. She is the host of the ModAboutYou podcast and also a longtime journalist who has contributed to Glamour, The New York Times, Redbook, Real Simple, O: The Oprah Magazine, Bon Appétit, Marie Claire, Self, and many other outlets, including NPR’s Morning Edition. Jio’s books have been published in more than twenty-five countries. She lives in Seattle with her husband, three young boys, three stepchildren, and two puppies.
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You mention in a note at the beginning that your research for this novel was a bit different — you actually rented a houseboat to use as your office while writing! Did delving so deeply into the characters’ experiences in this way change your writing process at all? Did it lend something special to the book in any way?
Yes, I was extremely fortunate to be able to rent a lovely little houseboat on Seattle’s Lake Union while writing this book. At first I worried it would be a frivolous splurge, but the experience ended up being integral to the writing of this story. For instance, I could have never known the intricacies of floating home life without that experience-from the way a houseboat sways gently on a windy day on the lake, to how mallard ducks waddle up to your door on a lazy Sunday morning. It all went into the book!
As a mother yourself, what was it like to write about a woman who loses her only daughter and husband in a terrible accident? Was it painful to imagine her experience in such detail? How does harnessing your own fears in your writing allow you to tell a richer story?
Writing about such loss as a mother is definitely hard (and I did it before in Blackberry Winter), but I find that as difficult as it is to do, what comes out on the page is very real and honest, because as a mother of three young boys myself, I can put myself into the shoes of my character and feel her pain. Recently, for the New York Times, I wrote about this concept of harnessing my own fears as a person to use in my writing. I think that when you can do it, it makes for gripping, authentic pages.
Several characters in Morning Glory have difficulty expressing their feelings to others, even to their loved ones. What made you want to grapple with these issues of honesty, openness, and intimacy?
What a great observation, and so true of my characters. And isn’t it also true of life and families-to varying degrees? I think to some degree, we all keep some secrets from the ones we love most (small or large), and I think while the reasons vary, we do it most often from fear of judgment or losing love or approval. In a perfect world, there would just be openness without that kind of fear. But the world is not perfect. So we, and my characters, do have to keep some things close to our hearts.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on my seventh novel with Penguin, one I’m tremendously excited about. It’s a bit different than any other story I’ve told-stay tuned for more!