I had the pleasure to interview author Sarah Jio last Saturday, in Amsterdam. It was a gorgeous spring day and even though we sat inside for the interview, it was still so nice.
Sarah was in Amsterdam to promote her book ‘The last camellia’, which was just released in Holland. This is a bit weird, because it’s the third book she’s written and she’s currently writing her tenth (!) novel. But her books are translated in about 31 countries, she’s a bestselling author on the New York Times bestseller list and she’s very popular in Turkey.
Before she started writing books, she was a journalist, she wrote for magazines like Glamour, Oprah Magazine and the Dr Oz magazine. She still writes some articles now, but they are more personal essays. She’s recently wrote an article about cooking for yourself, which she experienced herself after her divorce 4 years ago.
I asked Sarah if she enjoyed Amsterdam so far. ‘Amsterdam reminds me of Seattle, the flowers and trees are so much alike! I’ve been to the tulip museum and I can certainly see myself using the history of tulips in one of my books. They’re surrounded by so much history and I would find out more about that’.
Sarah loves cooking, so I asked her what her favorite dish is. ‘I love cooking big vegetarian pasta dishes, with lots of vegetables. Even my boys love it, they are obsessed with broccoli at the moment’, Sarah tells me. But she didn’t feel like cooking right after her divorce. She wasn’t feeding herself, she enjoyed cooking for others and that joy was missing for a while. She didn’t care how she felt so she stopped cooking. Her love for cooking shows in her books too, as she has used her own recipes in her stories.
But when talking about ‘The last camellia’, I asked Sarah about the setting (it’s set in an English manor). It turns out this was totally a product of Sarah’s imagination. She is obsessed with her grandma’s lovestory and with gardens. The book is dedicated to her mum, because she is responsible for Sarah’s interest in gardens and flowers. There were two camellia’s right in front of Sarah’s childhood home, which were the inspiration for this story. ‘I always loved writing, I’ve been writing since the age of 7 when I wrote this little newspapers and delivered them around the neighbourhood. My first book was very commercial and when I set down to write from my heart, to tell a story I loved, it changed the way I wrote’.
When Sarah starts a book, she already knows the title and the end of the story. Sarah finds it very nice to see where the story will end and, as Sarah says: ‘It’s also very rewarding to write ‘The end’ when you’ve done almost nothing with the story yet!’.
At the moment Sarah is writing her tenth novel, which she can’t share much about. Even though it’s her favorite story so far, she has had a hard time writing after her divorce. ‘The tortured artist thing is real! Before my divorce, marriage was hard and writing was sort of an escape. Now I’m really happy with my life and writing gets harder!’, Sarah shares. But she understands people better after the hard time she went through.
When I was browsing her website, I read that she has chosen a word for 2017: Grace. I ask her how that’s working for her. ‘I want to give myself more grace this year. I treat others well but I’ve been very hard on myself. I want to shed the obsession with perfection I’ve had and be real with my friends and family. It’s important to take a breath when times are busy or overwhelming. It’ll all be alright in the end. And that’s what I’m trying to teach my oldest son as well, to look at things in a positive way. I want my kids to be grateful but also be their own personalities’.
And with that, the interview came to an end. I absolutely loved getting to know Sarah a little bit better (and I absolutely loved The last camellia). At the end we of course took a selfie.
Thank you Sarah for taking the time for me and of course the Dutch publisher, Boekerij for organising this interview!