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Always Reader’s Guide

By Sarah Jio

Always by Sarah Jio


About this Author

The Music Behind Always

Reflections from the Author

Like air and water, music has been an essential element in my life. Coming of age in Seattle in the early 1990s was, for me, magical. While I missed the beginning of the “grunge” scene, I was old enough to ride out the tail end of it—-soaking up afternoons in coffeehouses with my high school friends, spending hours in rec-ord stores on Capitol Hill and evenings at recording studios with musician boyfriends, and staying out past my curfew (begging my parents’ forgiveness) to see my favorite bands, praying I’d make the 11:30 p.m. ferry home to my sleepy hometown just off the island across from Seattle. This was an epic time for me, and I always—-always—-knew I’d return to it in my storytelling.

Of course, when writing this novel, I listened to music con-stantly, and those songs fueled me just as much as my characters’
motivations did. Here is a bit more about the music behind the book, with some commentary from me:

Soundgarden: When I was fifteen, my best friend and I would spend our Saturdays catching the ferry, saltwater mist in our faces, then hightailing it up Seattle’s infamous hills to our favorite downtown Seattle café, Sit and Spin. Sadly, this café/laundromat (cool combo, huh?) went out of business a few years ago, but oh, did we have our fun there. My favorite memory was seeing the guitarist from Soundgarden order a foamy latte, then sit down right beside us. I was too shy to introduce myself, but I always wish I would have, especially as I think his companion that morning was the late Chris Cornell, rest his soul.

Mazzy Star: I never saw this band in concert, but the song “Fade Into You” might as well have been the anthem for my youth. These beautiful lyrics haunted me as an adolescent, and they haunt me now. They always will. Another track that I love on the album So Tonight That I Might See is “Into Dust.”

I was in eighth grade when my friend and locker partner pulled a Nevermind cassette tape out of her backpack and said, “This is so cool; you have to listen to it.” A few years later, a smitten fan, I was returning from a school trip to Mexico and checking in with my parents at a pay phone on a sandy San Diego beach, when my mom told me that Kurt Cobain (Nirvana’s -founder, -singer, and guitarist) was dead. Suicide. I nearly fell to my knees, along with hundreds of thousands of other fans who felt his music in their bones.

The Gin Blossoms: I don’t know when, or how, the Gin Blossoms made their way to the very core of me. Happy, nostalgic, fun, free—-these are the words I’d use to describe the music that became ingrained into so many of my memories. Kailey would probably tell you the same.
Joni Mitchell: It’s a tragedy that I didn’t discover her until my late twenties, as Joni’s music has come to be so special to me. I could listen to “Both Sides Now” for the rest of my life on a desert island, and I listened to it so many times as I wrote this novel.

Smashing Pumpkins: When I was a teenager, this band’s music ran through my veins. My friends and I always had them playing in our cars (mine, a green 1969 Volkswagen Beetle). “Today is the greatest,” are lyrics that will stay with me for a lifetime. Even if life isn’t perfect, there are so many wonderful reasons to be grateful for another sunrise and sunset. I sure am, and I think my characters are, too.

The Turtles: Remember that song “Happy Together”? My parents listened to it in the free–spirited California days of the 1970s, and I always loved hearing it come from the radio or a record player. Funnily enough, I ended up attending a comedy show in Seattle and just happened to be seated at the very same table as Howard Kaylan, the lead singer of the group. He was just as kind and engaging as you could hope him to be, and it was fun to write his music into the novel.

Fleetwood Mac: I love how, on one of their early dates, Cade tells Kailey that her dress is a little “Stevie Nicks.” “Gypsy” is one of my favorite Fleetwood songs (that and “You Make Loving Fun”), and it will always make me think of Cade and Kailey. Truth be told, however, on one of our first few dates, the love of my life told me that my dress looked a little “Stevie Nicks.” Of course, I had to put it in a novel.

There are so many more songs and musicians who influenced Always, but these are at the top of the list. I hope you will play their records or pull them up on Spotify and enjoy a listen while you’re reading the story. You’ll find a part of me and my characters in every note.
Thank you for reading—-and listening.


Sarah xo
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