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This blog was featured on 02/11/2019
Jill Santopolo on Process and Her Love for Reading
Written by
She Writes
February 2019
Written by
She Writes
February 2019

Jill Santopolo is the author of the nationally and internationally bestselling novel The Light We Lost, which hit both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, and was among Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks. Her second novel, More Than Words, was just released this month and explores grief, loss, love, and self-discovery through the eyes of Nina Gregory whose life has arrived at a crossroads after her father's death.

To learn more about Santopolo, we rounded up some of her most recent interviews, which are stuffed full of advice for aspiring authors.

On Character

The Light We Lost marked a switch for Jill from children and young adult books to her adult debut. When she sat down with Entertainment Weekly, she discussed how her writing process was impacted by this genre change.

When I write books, I think a lot about the characters I’m creating and make sure that the references I make and images I describe fit with that character’s age and life experience. So the fun part about writing this novel is that I got to use references and images that fit with an adult perspective. Because of that, I was able to explore so many things I couldn’t in books for young kids.

On Work-Life Balance 

According to The Reading List, Jill Santopolo is the Editorial Director of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, where she edits many critically-acclaimed, award-winning, and best-selling books. She is also a thesis advisor for The New School's MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and has been on the faculty of the Columbia Publishing Course. To say that she is living, breathing and juggling the written word is an understatement. But she has found a few tricks along the way to help keep her on pace.

“For me the juggling isn’t easy, but the way I’ve made it work is by having defined writing time, defined email-answering time… basically time I schedule to do everything,” she confides. “Once the time is scheduled into my calendar, I can be more disciplined about getting things done – writing, sure, but laundry or grocery shopping or calling my grandmother, too.”

The excerpt above was originally published on EstherRabbit.com. Read the full interview here.

On Process

Taking a unique approach to writing her novels, Santopolo has found success with her own “fill-in-the-blanks” method.

“I usually start with a character and a situation,” she says. “Then, in broad strokes, I figure out the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Then I try to write through the whole story, coming up with the connecting bits to make it all fit together. And then I go over and over and over the story, fleshing out the plot and the characters, going deeper, pushing further, and stretching it all into the right shape. And then I get feedback from friends and family and my agent and revise again before I send it to my editor. What she sees as the first draft is usually at least draft three or four as far as I’m concerned."

On Advice

Santopolo has made a career from improving the writing of others, she’s also forthcoming with her invaluable advice for beginners.

“I would tell a writer just starting to write the story that’s in their heart,” she says. “Forget about what you think you should write, or what is currently selling, or any of that, and write the story you need to write.”

“The heart and passion and authenticity will come through, and that’s what will sell your book and will allow readers to feel connected to your writing."

The excerpt above was originally published on EstherRabbit.com. Read the full interview here.

“Put your heart on the page, and try not to lose faith in yourself if things don’t come easily right away,” she said in an interview with The Reading List.

She also has book recommendations for any writers aspiring to make a career out of it.

“I would tell someone who wants to be a writer to read Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare because I think those stories and plays are all wonderful examples of plot and character. And then for the third book, I’d tell them to read On Writing by Stephen King. When I taught a writing class a while back, that was one of the texts I used because I thought the craft information was really useful.”

On Reading

“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love reading – or being read to, she says.” When I was two, my parents knew I needed glasses, because I kept holding books very close to my face. And when my father came home from work each night, he read to me, until I was old enough to read to him. And then later we would both read our own books as we sat together silently in the same room."

This excerpt was originally published on The Reading List. Read the full interview here.

Photo Credit: Charles Grantham

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