In this special episode (a live event at City Winery!), Zibby interviews New York Times bestselling author Jill Santopolo about Stars in an Italian Sky, a shimmering, heartfelt story of two star-crossed lovers in post-World War II Italy and, generations later, a New York City love story that will uncover a long-buried family secret. Jill reveals the inspiration behind this story, her strategy for writing a dual timeline, and the topics she loved exploring: fashion and love through the ages (and across socioeconomic classes). She also talks about her incredibly successful 2017 debut novel The Light We Lost (which was a Reese’s Book Club Pick!), and the book she is working on now.


Zibby Owens: Hi, Jill. How are you? Congratulations.

Jill Santopolo: Good. Hey, Zibby.

Zibby: I have to say, I was just sitting there looking at the book and the beautiful wine. I was like, oh, my gosh, of course, it’s at City Winery because of the book. I was just like, oh, it must be some nice place in New York. All part of the master plan.

Jill: Yes, making love, making wine, that’s what the book’s about.

Zibby: Has anyone not read the book yet? A couple people. Do you mind describing the book? Where did this idea come from for you?

Jill: Where’d it come from? It came from a trip to Italy. There’s Andrew, my husband. He and I went on our honeymoon in the summer of 2019. We went to visit a lot of his family in Italy. We also went to visit my Italian publisher in Milan. We visited Christina first, my Italian publisher. She was talking to us and talking to me. She was like, “I think you should write a book set in Italy. You love Italy. Your family has roots in Italy. Andrew’s family is in Italy. You should write a book set in Italy. It should be about a family.” I was like, “Okay, Christina. Sure.” I didn’t think I was going to actually do it. Then we went to visit a bunch of Andrew’s cousins. One of them is a man who would have been the Count of Saluzzo and the Marquis of . We were talking. His cousin’s younger sister said to us, “Yeah, but the institutional referendum of 1946, they abolished the monarchy and the nobility.” I was like, that’s actually really interesting. Imagine what it must have been like to be this guy and to think, this is the future I was going to have, and then all of a sudden by popular vote, your future is changed. It’s totally different. In addition to that, it was the first vote in Italy where women had the right to vote, which I thought was really interesting. It was after World War II, which was also interesting. Andrew and I have always joked, because my family in Italy were shoemakers, that if he and I had met in Italy, it would’ve been a total scandal. Here’s this person who’s in the noble class and then the daughter of a shoemaker. All of that was coming together with what Christina said. I was like, I actually think I am going to write a book set in Italy about a family. Then all the details filtered in after that.

Zibby: It’s so exciting. So this did not happen, nothing with the families, anything? No? Nothing?

Jill: No. That would’ve been exciting, but no.

Zibby: I think it was really interesting how you included as some of your main characters, elderly people because I feel like there are not a lot of books that really star older people, especially older people — I don’t want to give things away, but with all of their feelings still intact and love and emotion and longing and all of that. Fiction usually stops at a certain age. Tell me what it was like writing older characters and research and all that.

Jill: I love the idea that love is always there no matter how old you are and that being in love doesn’t stop because you hit a certain age. I also really love the idea of a grandparent-grandchild relationship because I have a grandmother who I’m really close to. She just turned ninety-one. She helped me a lot with some of the details. I was like, “How did you tie back your hair in 1946?” She’s like, “I think we used a rubber band, but I’m going to go ask my friends when we play cards.” I was like, okay. I love the idea of writing about how a grandparent’s life then affects their grandchildren’s generation and how in a family, the history of the family becomes the present of the family and how that changes and shifts. I just thought it would be really interesting to explore multigenerational dual love stories and how love in your thirties is and isn’t the same as love in your nineties. That was that bit.

Zibby: Interesting. My husband and I recently went to Rome. He was learning about his Italian family. Like you, our families were very different and different backgrounds and everything. It’s almost like with every relationship with whoever we’re with, when we get in the car together to go, we’re bringing all these people. It’s so unlikely that any of us would ever meet. Yet people fall in love every day. This is how it goes. I know this sounds ridiculous.

Jill: No, it’s incredible. It’s true. Everyone is sort of the sum of all of their experiences. All of their family’s history becomes the experiences that they’ve had because it’s what their family have lived. We are all kind of the sum of every relationship we’ve ever been in.

Zibby: Yes. It is amazing to think what would happen with Prince William and Kate if all of a sudden tomorrow, they were like, it’s over.

Jill: Done.

Zibby: I see where Prince Harry went. Anyway, moving on. When you were thinking about the backgrounds for the different characters and you chose the tailor’s shop and the sewing of the buttons and making beautiful dresses and fashion and all of that and how that carried through, the whole thing, through Giovanna’s whole life and how she was still so well-dressed at the end, tell me about that piece. Did you have a lot of fun researching that?

Jill: I definitely had a lot of fun researching that. I feel like the most fun part about writing historical fiction is going down the wormholes of research and going through all of these photographs. What were people wearing in this part of the world at this time period? What was considered really fashionable? What was considered kind of outdated but people still wore it? What would you wear to this kind of event or that kind of event that would be appropriate? I got to look at old Italian fashion magazines, which was very cool. I think it was called Grazia. That was really fun to research. I always have felt like fashion is a real statement. It’s the first thing that a lot of people see when they meet you, what you’re wearing and what that says about who you are, the way you choose to dress, which is why I always think uniform schools are really interesting. It kind of takes that first impression away, the way you can use clothes to sort of telegraph different things that you want people to know or to fit in in a different place in a different way. I love the idea, too, that you could look at a style — maybe it’s a really fashionable, expensive dress. If you’re talented enough, you could recreate that dress that looks similar, but it’s not the same thing. How do you feel when you’re wearing something that you’ve tried to create to make it seem like you’re different than who you actually are? I thought that there was a lot psychologically that you could do with fashion. Also, it’s just beautiful and fun. There’s a lot of jobs in it, so the generations later could still be affected by the fashion in a different way than actually working in a shop and creating it.

Zibby: I feel like you really showed this when Vincenzo first — maybe I’m not pronouncing it right. Vincenzo?

Jill: Yes, you’re good. Vincenzo.

Zibby: First painted Giovanna. She wore his mom’s clothing, which she snuck because she had absconded due to the war. She puts on the dress. You said something like, he saw her in a whole new way. All of a sudden, she could’ve been the society girl that he had been intended to marry as opposed to the daughter of a tailor, and what just that one outfit change could do to the rest of their lives.

Jill: It made him realize she could walk into a room and look the way a person I’m with is supposed to look. I think he says to her, if I remember what I wrote, something like, you were born to be a countess, or whatever. Then there’s the question of, what does that mean? What is he actually looking for?

Zibby: Then it’s all about family expectation and obligation versus feeling. That’s another really interesting tension that you have there, what you should do and what you’re supposed to do to honor your family, but what do you really want to do? How do you marry those two things?

Jill: How do you find a way to not alienate your family and also not alienate yourself, make yourself happy?

Zibby: I guess the question is, what are the side effects of unfulfilled love over the course of a life? Where does that longing go?

Jill: In my book, it doesn’t go away. Even if you live a happy life, a fulfilling life, there is still that unanswered question of, what if? There’s still a piece of this person in your heart.

Zibby: Emotional. Tell me about your writing process for this book. I’m also curious because with The Light We Lost, which is how I first met you — I read The Light We Lost, and I was crying my eyes out. I had just started a podcast that I do now called “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” I had just been reaching out to people for the first time being like, “I have this podcast. What do you think?” I had not DM’d anybody on Instagram. I didn’t know yet. I was sitting there in my bed sobbing. Sobbing. I don’t usually cry that much with books, but it hit me so hard. I was like, I’m just going to reach out to this author who I love. I’m just going to DM her. I wrote her this note. “I’m sitting here crying.” She wrote me back. I was like, oh, my god! She’s like, “Thank you so much.” It changed my life. I was like, I can’t believe it. It became a Reese’s Book Club pick. It was all the rage. You’ve had another wonderful book come out after that and now Stars in an Italian Sky. Do you feel pressure living up to such a big hit? She only picks twelve a year.

Jill: I sort of have come to terms with the fact that I probably won’t write another book that is as embraced as The Light We Lost was right off the bat. That in itself was kind of freeing, to say, I did that thing. That was awesome. So many doors got opened for me. I’m so grateful for all of the love and all of the support and all of the people who DM’d me saying how much they enjoyed the book or with pictures of them with the tears coming down their eyes. I also know that that book was that book. That was that book’s journey. Now I can’t expect my other books to be that book. I can just write them the very best I can and say the things that I want to say and hope that they touch the people who need them and that people who find them find them at a time in their lives when they feel comforted or seen or just have a nice day on the beach reading a book and hope that they do good out there in the world for someone.

Zibby: That’s sort of the approach I take with my kids. They can’t all be the same. This one’s going in this direction. The other one’s going over there. We’ll see what happens.

Jill: I have a real human kid, but these are my kids too. I truly do feel that way. They’re each written, and they’re each going to have their own path. All I can do is my very best. Then it’s up to the universe and readers to see what happens with it.

Zibby: I guess that’s with any sort of art. All you can do is put it out there. You can’t control the outcome anyway. It’s wonderful. It’s great. It will definitely hit a chord. The ending here brings tears as well. I feel like I’ve just cried my eyes out on your . You have a dual timeline in this book. You have the whole New York scene and a couple getting engaged. Their families intersect and all of that. You have that in the present. Then you keep going back and forth. When you do that, how do you write the two timelines? Then how do you weave them together?

Jill: For this book, I wrote back and forth because I knew that I wanted things from the past to echo in the present and from the present, to plant things that then you find in the past. I knew that to do that, I needed to sort of write in the order that I wanted people to read. Then when I revised it, I pulled the two stories completely apart. I revised each story on its own to make sure that everything felt really fully realized and that I wasn’t skipping over parts because I was skipping timelines and that there was really an arc and the characters had their own trajectory and journey and the story itself did and there was a plot and all of that. Once I had revised both sections, I then wove them back together and then had to move some things around to make it all fit again.

Zibby: Wow. Was this on the floor? Are we literally —

Jill: — You know, it probably would’ve been easier if I had done it on the floor, to be honest. It was in different Word documents that then were coming apart and coming back together, which probably would’ve been easier if I printed it out.

Zibby: Next time.

Jill: Next time. You live, you learn.

Zibby: This speaks to how great an editor you are because in addition to being an author, you’re also an editor. You have a big full-time job as well as writing. How do you marry those two things? How do you balance those? When do you write versus work? How do you even figure out when to do what and be a mom and a wife and a daughter and a sister and all of that? Let’s have all of the advice. Give me some advice.

Jill: I was going to say I feel like I should be asking you this question.

Zibby: Maybe this is too specific a question.

Jill: I started writing this book when I was pregnant with my daughter. It was the middle of COVID, or the beginning of COVID, I guess. We were all working from home and trying to figure out what life was going to look like. In the past, I have given myself page targets to say, all right, I need to write this many pages this week and this many pages this week. Whatever time I can find, if it’s twenty minutes here, twenty minutes there to write them, that’s what I have to do because I have to get to this page number. During the pandemic, that was a lot harder because sometimes I needed to really focus on this book to just block out the world. It was much more fun to be in post-World War II Italy than it was to be here in the present. Then there were some times where so much was going on that I couldn’t sit down and get into the world in the way that I needed to. I just wrote when I felt like I needed to write. Then once my daughter was born, I was like, all right, now I’m going to actually have to figure out how I block out time to do this.

I worked with my boss at the time to cut my hours so that I could have Fridays to write. We had an amazing babysitter who came on Fridays. I would just spend that day as an author, more or less. That was how I finished the book, in those chunks of Fridays. Now I think I might be rejiggering that process and starting something new because I’m always writing something. I might have to try and reframe that process again now that my daughter is a little bit older and now that my job has changed and all of that. We’re in a different time in the world. I was saying to someone, actually, earlier tonight, writing is what makes me able to do the rest of my life. Writing is what makes me grounded and sane. I need to find the time to do it as my own mental health thing. I’d write even if nobody was publishing what I was writing because that’s just how I process life. I need to always figure out exactly what that means, whether it means Fridays, whether it means twenty minutes whenever I can, whether it means giving myself a page count, but just really asking myself continuously, how are you going to fit this into your life? You know you need to do it.

Zibby: If only I felt like that about exercise.

Jill: Same. Same, Zibby.

Zibby: Was this from when you were a little girl? When did you discover that writing was the thing you had to do?

Jill: I started writing stories, I would say first grade was a very prolific year for me. I found kids in my class who were better artists than I am, and I would give them the pages. I would say, “Can you please draw the pictures for this?” I don’t know if that meant I was a writer or an editor, one or the other. I wrote short stories through high school. I wrote a bit less in college, but I was still writing. Then after college was when I got a job as an editorial assistant. I was like, I think I have a story to tell too. I just started. I started writing then.

Zibby: When you write for your mental health, is it fiction?

Jill: It’s this.

Zibby: It’s always in the form of a novel?

Jill: Yes.

Zibby: That’s amazing.

Jill: I think it’s easier for me to sort of look at feelings and look at things as if they’re not mine. The Light We Lost, I started writing after a horrible breakup when I basically wanted a friend to go through it with. I made Lucy. She was my imaginary friend so that we could be buddies and go through this trauma together. We’ll psychoanalyze me another day.

Zibby: I think that’s great. There are far worse outlets. Let’s just say that. I think that’s wonderful. We all need to escape, whether we’re creating it or we’re watching TV or reading books or whatever it is, sports. I feel like everybody needs that time off. This is your thing. Is reading also? I know you read for work all the time. Do you ever just want to not read for anything on purpose and read something fun? Do you make time for that?

Jill: I do. I get a lot of manuscripts to blurb, so I feel a little bit guilty when I’m reading things that are not manuscripts that people have asked me to read, but lot of the manuscripts people ask me to read are pretty awesome. I do try and make time for that and totally get absorbed in other people’s worlds. Once in a while, I will hear about a book that everybody’s been talking about that I’m just like, I have to read this. It sounds so good. All these people whose opinion I trust in books have been raving about it. I have to put everything aside and read this book, which I just did with Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, which is amazing.

Zibby: I knew you were talking about that. I have not finished that book.

Jill: Oh, my gosh, it’s so good.

Zibby: Apparently, there’s a chapter that I have to get to that’s life-changing.

Jill: There is. I won’t spoil it for you.

Zibby: You said you’re always writing something, so what is coming up for you after this?

Jill: It’s new. Right now, it’s about three sisters. Their mother has passed away five years before. As far as they knew, she had no family left. Her parents had died. They knew she had a sister. They thought her sister had died. Then they get a phone call from a lawyer in Italy — we’re going back to Italy; I couldn’t leave — who says, “You’ve inherited a house from your aunt.” They were like, “No, we don’t have an aunt.” They’re like, “No, no, you actually do have an aunt. She left you this house.” Then they decide they’re going to go to this house that’s now their house and try and figure out the secrets that their mother has buried with her.

Zibby: That’s a good phone call to get.

Jill: That’s where we are right now.

Zibby: What is your favorite dish in Italy from all your travels and everything? Favorite food? Favorite wine?

Jill: I think gnocchi with pesto. I could eat that a lot. As far as wine, Barolo, which is the wine that they’re making, is pretty good. When we went to visit Andrew’s family, we went to Barolo. We saw all of the vineyards that are on these hills. It was so stunning. Then we had this massively, massively long lunch at Osteria Da Gemma, which is also delicious, if you ever go to that area. Then after that, Andrew’s cousin was like, “Now let’s go for wine.” We’re like, “Are we supposed to actually put anything more in our bodies right now?” We went. We drank it. It was really good.

Zibby: That’s amazing. I love that they have a tradition in their family down through the generations that whenever anybody gets engaged, they make a bottle of wine together. That was so awesome. Is that true? Did that happen?

Jill: No, I made that up.

Zibby: I like it. Nice touch. When you sit down to start a project, like when you’re starting this book, do you do a whole outline first? Do you just dive right in? Do you know all your characters?

Jill: I write a “blah, blah, blah” synopsis where I say, this happens. Then this happens. Then this happens. Then in the end, this happens. It’s maybe two pages long of just me telling the story to myself. It doesn’t have all of the connective tissue. It doesn’t have all the details. Then when I actually start writing, I know where I’m starting from. I know some of the points I want to hit. I know where I’m headed, but I don’t fully know how I’m going to get there. Then when I start writing, I build out the characters a lot. For me, the characters kind of guide the plot. Then once I know who they are and their motivations, I can figure out how they would act in a situation. Then that shapes how the book unrolls.

Zibby: If Lucy was your buddy when you went through a breakup and you created her to sort of meet that emotional need, why do you think you created Giovanna?

Jill: That’s a good question, actually. Writing this in the middle of the pandemic where I was thinking about how these shifts happen on a global scale — World War II is one of them. This global pandemic was another where people’s perspectives change. Society kind of changes. I wanted to be in the moment with someone else from the past who was going through this sort of change in the world and a shift in perspective and be reassured that things come out okay. Disaster can happen. The world can feel like it’s exploding. In the end, things can kind of be okay.

Zibby: I love that. That’s nice. Do you believe that when we pass away, we meet up again soon?

Jill: I don’t know what I believe. I hope so. I hope there is something.

Zibby: That’d be nice.

Jill: It would be nice. Someone once said to me that if you think about a baby in utero, that’s all they knew, is this world inside their mother. Then they’re born into this world. If you told them a week beforehand that there was this amazing thing after they got born, they wouldn’t necessarily believe you. Also, they’re babies, so whatever. The person who was talking about this said, what if that’s what happens after we die? What if we’re here and we can’t even imagine that there’s another place, but then we die, and there is? It’s the equivalent of that shift. I always thought that was really interesting.

Zibby: That is really interesting. I’m hoping there’s not as much traffic congestion. Maybe it could be a different part of the world than Midtown or something. That’s lovely. Should we take some questions?

Jill: Yes, but first, before we do that, I want to hear about all of the exciting things that you’re doing. I really do, Zibby.

Zibby: I recently opened a bookstore. I’m very excited about it. It’s in Santa Monia, California. It’s called Zibby’s Bookshop. We organize it by category, by emotion. Some of the shelves are books that make you cry, laugh, tremble, lust. Then there’s books for each type of person, books for your sister, books for the foodie, books for the traveler. Then there are books by topic, coming-of-age, coming-of-middle-age, all these funny, different ways so you can find pieces of yourself or things you are interested in. It’s sort of in response to people being disappointed when they go to independent bookstores that they don’t have the book you’re looking for. You’re like, ugh, I’m just going to order it. That’s not the point of an independent bookstore, I don’t think. You can’t possibly have every book. I was actually thinking about having people wear T-shirts that said, “We probably don’t have it.” We only have 1,300 titles. The point, at least in our store, I really believe in discovering people’s work. It is so hard for authors to get discovered. After all the time and effort and years that go into each book, to have it come out and then disappear feels just so heartbreaking to me. Then you scale that by all the authors. At least in this store, instead of just facing thousands of books alphabetized and not knowing where to start, you bring it down to thirty books. Foodie, feel like laughing, aging, those are the thirty books I’ll choose from. Then maybe I’ll discover something I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Jill: I think that’s so awesome. It reminds a lot of the Penguin Hotline that happens every holiday season where you get write in to the people at Penguin Random House. You’re like, I need to get a gift for a foodie who’s forty years old. What should I buy? Then you get a list back. You’ve created the whole store on that. I love it.

Zibby: We’ll see how it goes. It’s been a week. I’m not even kidding. Thank you.

Jill: Yes, let’s take some questions. Oh, my god, I can’t see anything. Does anyone have any questions? Yes.

Female Voice: I’d like to know which writers influenced and continue to influence you, maybe, the most.

Jill: I’m trying to think. Growing up, I was really into A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which I loved because it was the entire life of Francie. You saw this character as she grows from a kid to an adult and how her life shifts and changes. I feel like that, for me, is a real touchstone book that shaped how I think about story and how I think about characters. As far as now, there are just so many amazing people who are writing today. I love Gabrielle Zevin. She wrote Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, which is what I was just talking about. I love Taylor Jenkins Reid, her Daisy Jones and The Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and a whole bunch of other wonderful books. I love Annabel Monaghan, who wrote Nora Goes Off Script. There are so many people who are writing such incredible things. I wish I had time to read more.

Female Voice: Thank you.

Jill: Yes.

Female Voice: Where did you pull from for all of your research for this?

Jill: I did a lot of reading. I did a lot of searching online for stuff and looking at fashion magazines. There was one line where I wanted someone to wear lipstick. Then I was like, wait, did they have lipstick in Italy in 1946? What was the global supply chain like post-war? If they had lipstick, what color did they wear? Then I would start going down this rabbit hole of research and discover that, actually, the supply chain hadn’t really started up yet in 1946 completely. This was how they used to make makeup that you could wear during the war and after the war, and then ended up researching for two hours online to get one sentence in the book. I did a lot of online research. I read a whole bunch of books, fiction and nonfiction, about Italy at that time, about winemaking. I wanted to learn more about the institutional referendum of 1946. I went to YouTube. There was a law professor in Milan who had put English videos about the referendum up on YouTube. I sent her a message. I was like, “Hi. You don’t know me. I’m a writer. I’m really interested. Could you answer some questions for me?” She very kindly answered a bunch of questions for me.

Then a friend in DC was like, “There’s an Italian Cultural Society. Maybe someone there could help you.” I was really interested in people who had lived in Genoa in 1946. They connected me with this professor who was currently living in Genoa. His father lived through the war. He agreed to chat with me. I had some WhatsApp chats with this guy. Then I had emailed Andrew’s cousins a bunch of questions. They were like, “We don’t necessarily know the answer, but here, you should talk to this historian.” Then the historian answered a bunch of questions for me and then also sent me a bunch of videos that he made. Then for the winemaking also, Alana, who is in here, is a sommelier, and I called her with a million questions about how to make wine and what wines you can grow in Italy, when, and how long it takes them to age and barrel. She was super, super helpful. Basically, I just found people who knew the stuff I wanted to know and then got them to tell me it.

Zibby: Kyle.

Kyle Owens: First is a comment, which .

Zibby: This is my husband.

Kyle: I just want to remind you that you also have a publishing company that you started.

Zibby: Oh, stop.

Kyle: It’s called Zibby Books. My real question is for Jill. I wanted to know, in The Light We Lost, what the experience has been like for you to have the opportunity to go back into the book and adapt it for the screen? It’s a really interesting opportunity for an author to have, to go back in and really open the book back up.

Jill: It’s really been pretty cool to know that this book might, hopefully, have a second life as a film. I had started working on it, but then we brought in a screenwriter, Kristin Hahn. She ended up writing the screenplay, but she was super collaborative, so would call me and be like, “Hey, I need a scene for this. What do you think these characters would do? I want to make this change. Are you okay with that? I want them to be reading a book here or talking about a Shakespeare play here. Could you recommend one that you think would work in the story?” It’s been really interesting to see how a story has to shift and change to fit into screenplay form. Now for one of my later books, for Everything After, I have been working on a treatment myself that, hopefully, something will come out of. It was really interesting to take that book — I rejiggered the entire way the story was told and the way the chronology unrolls for that one because it just made more sense if you’re watching it for it to happen more in chronological order than in the bounce-around order that it was in the book, which works on the page, but not on the screen. Fingers crossed.

Kyle: Thanks.

Female Voice: What’s a treatment?

Jill: A treatment, it’s a kind of synopsis with a bunch of information in it for the, hopefully, potential producer or director to want to get on board.

Zibby: Anything else? There’s somebody back there. We can’t really see.

Female Voice: Do you have a favorite place in Italy? Why? Is this book going to be published there?

Jill: This book is going to be published there. They’ve changed the title. The translation is Far Away Stars, less stella lontana. It’s hard to pick a favorite place. It’s such an incredible country. I think if I were to live in Italy, I would want to live in Milan. I feel like there’s something really cool and cosmopolitan about it. Also, it feels like there’s layers and layers of tradition too. It’s a really incredible mixture of contempory and old-fashioned at the same time. I think maybe there. It’s really hard to see.

Zibby: Anybody over there?

Female Voice: I was going to ask, do you like writing in the morning or more at night? Are you an all-nighter person? Do you get up at five AM?

Jill: These days, I can’t really do either. By the end of the night, I’m super tired. By early morning, there is a toddler around. I think my ideal writing schedule would be to write from ten to noon, have some lunch, and then write from one to six, just middle of the day, just real middle-of-the-day writing.

Male Voice: On the book cover, is that a photograph? How does the artwork come together cover?

Jill: Yeah, this is a photograph. The incredible designers at Putnam found it and basically sent it over. They were like, “We feel like this really captures the feeling of the book.” I a hundred percent agree. I think it’s really stunning. Then we used it again on the wine label.

Male Voice: One other. How early in the process do you have a title in mind when writing the book?

Jill: That’s a great question. With some books, I feel like it comes pretty quickly. What I write the book as is what the title ends up being. That was the case with my book Everything After. I think it was pretty much always called Everything After. Then there are other books — this one was called a lot of things up until the very end. I’m trying to remember what some of the titles were. One of them was Villa Della Rosa. There were a few different titles before we landed on this one, which was a big conversation with the publisher.

Female Voice: Do you know what is going to happen to your characters by the end of the book at the beginning? Is that something that you try out along the way?

Jill: Typically, I know more or less what’s going to happen to them. I don’t know every detail. Sometimes it shifts a little bit. I kind of know where I want them to end up or the direction I want them to go in. Then I’m pointing the story there.

Female Voice: What was your favorite book to write?

Jill: Probably, The Light We Lost because I wasn’t even really thinking about publication when I was writing it. It was a really free experience of just writing what I wanted to write and not really thinking about a final product for a while. It took me years and years to write, so I got to keep visiting the characters and sticking with them for a long time. They felt a lot like friends, my imaginary friends.

Zibby: All good. No judgement.

Female Voice: Who was your editor for this?

Jill: Who was my editor? Tara Singh Carlson.

Female Voice: I wasn’t sure if it was the same editor all the time.

Jill: Yes. She’s awesome. She’s not here tonight, sadly, but she’s awesome.

Zibby: I was going to say — I’m sure you know this. This is so commercial. To help with books, it really helps to leave reviews. I’m going to make a little push and post about it. I know these are all your fans anyway. All the little things really make a difference. It always helps to spread the word and tell friends. Give it five stars. All that good stuff. Just had to throw it out. You have an assignment to do for the rest of the night.

Jill: Thank you. Thank you, Zibby, for doing this. Thank you, everyone, for coming. If any of you would like your book autographed, I’m going to be right over there at that table, hopefully with a marker that somebody else brought because I just realized I forget one. I will be there signing books if anyone wants your book signed. Feel free to continue eating, drinking, buying wine, whatever you’d like to do. Thank you.



Purchase your copy on Zibby’s bookshop and Bookshop!

Check out the merch on our new Bonfire shop here.

Subscribe to Zibby’s weekly newsletter here.

You can also listen to this episode on:

Apple Podcasts