Jill and I discuss Everything After, how a Counting Crows song helped spark the title of this book, encouraging open conversations about miscarriage, maintaining individuality and identity after getting married, the one thing that Jill wanted for her recent birthday and more.
Jill and I discuss Everything After, how a Counting Crows song helped spark the title of this book, encouraging open conversations about miscarriage, maintaining individuality and identity after getting married, the one thing that Jill wanted for her recent birthday, and more.
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Everything After can be purchased at the CFAP Bookshop storefront or at Murder by the Book.
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Jill Santopolo, Cindy Burnett
Cindy Burnett 00:06
This is the Thoughts from a Page Podcast way interview authors about their latest works. My name is Cindy Burnett, and I love to talk about books. For more book recommendations, check out my website thoughtsfromapage.com and follow me on Facebook and Instagram at @thoughtsfromapage and on Twitter at @burn555555. I love producing this podcast, and I am so grateful for all of you who tune in. Thanks so much to everybody who contributed to my podcast last week. It greatly helps with the cost production. Today I am interviewing Jill Santapolo about Everything After. Jill is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author. Her work has been translated into more than 35 languages. She received a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is also the author of three successful children's and young adult series and works as an associate publisher at Philomel Books. A New Yorker at heart, Jill is currently living in Washington, DC. I hope you enjoy our conversation. Welcome, Jill. How are you today?
Jill Santopolo 01:10
I'm doing well. Thank you.
Cindy Burnett 01:11
I'm really looking forward to talking about Everything After. Why don't we start out with you telling me a little bit about it?
Jill Santopolo 01:16
It's about Emily Gold, who is living in New York City. She's mostly happily married, and she and her husband want to start a family. But something happens to her then that echoes something that happened in the past, and secrets that she had never shared with her husband come to light. And at the same time she hears a song on the radio and realizes it's her ex-boyfriend singing about her nearly 15 years later. And she has to figure out whether she's made the right choices and been on the right path. Or if there was another life she's meant to lead.
Cindy Burnett 01:53
Well, what inspired you to write this story?
Jill Santopolo 01:55
So a few different things. The first thing is that in the summer of 2019, I got married, and I was thinking a lot about two people becoming one but also maintaining their own individuality. And what that means as far as how much of your past you share with someone or you decide to tell your partner, which secrets, which that you don't, and what would happen if they found out something that you never shared. And then also unfortunately, a few close friends of mine experienced miscarriage around then. And one of the things that a lot of them said to me was that they felt really isolated and really alone because societally it felt like something they were supposed to be ashamed of even though of course it isn't. And I wanted to write a story where people could see that experience, which wasn't one I'd read about very often. And also, when I was a kid, I loved making music. I took piano lessons and flute lessons, and I sang in my school's vocal ensembles. And I'm not all that talented, like not even at all, but I love making music. And I wanted to put that in a book too. So it was sort of like marriage, miscarriage, and music all got smashed up in my brain and turned into this novel.
Cindy Burnett 03:12
Well, I have so many questions related to everything you just said. But I'll start out with the first one which is related to miscarriage. And I guess it's not necessarily a question. But I think miscarriage is one of those things that until you're to the age where you're thinking about having children and kind of going through that process, that you realize how common it actually is. And I feel like it's not something that's really talked about a lot. And then once I started having friends who were miscarrying and, you know, going to the doctor with my own pregnancies, realizing that it actually happens, sadly, way more often than you think.
Jill Santopolo 03:43
Cindy Burnett 03:44
And so that's nice that you're tackling that because I do think it's a very painful thing. And not only the societal aspect of it, but it's hard, I think, to be somebody who's dealing with that when maybe a lot of your friends are actually pregnant or have just had children, it's sort of a tough time to have that issue arise.
Jill Santopolo 04:02
Yeah, I think that's absolutely true. And one of the friends that I spoke to said that she would just see her friends or even people on the street with babies in strollers, and her heart would plummet. And I feel like it's something that a lot of women are walking around feeling inside, but maybe not talking about. One of the things that I hope is that Everything After kind of brings more of that conversation into, you know, friendships or even more public places.
Cindy Burnett 04:34
Well, I think that's wonderful. I just know from dealing with friends, you know, trying to help friends through those types of things, when that's happening, how hard it is, and it is something you can't get away from, because no matter where you go, you're going to see a baby or a pregnant person. And so it's just kind of constantly in the forefront of your mind.
Jill Santopolo 04:49
Yeah, yeah. And I think that, you know, there are a lot of things that people go through, and you as the random person that encounters them, you don't know. When I was starting to write this book I was thinking about who would Emily tell? How in detail would she get? And what would happen if someone she told had actually experienced it as well? And she didn't know. And then there is a moment of bonding between those women. That was one of the first scenes that I was thinking about when I started writing the book.
Cindy Burnett 05:20
Oh, that's really interesting. Well, I'm glad that you tackled that topic because I think that will reach a lot of people and hopefully, maybe bring them comfort and help with maybe ways to deal with it.
Jill Santopolo 05:30
I really hope so.
Cindy Burnett 05:31
And then on to the music topic. I love music. I have never been any kind of performer, but I just absolutely love to listen to it. I love a wide range of genres; it kind of competes with reading for me as my favorite thing. So tell me a little bit more about that.
Jill Santopolo 05:45
So when I was a kid, I started taking piano lessons. I loved taking piano lessons. Then I started at my elementary school which gave everyone the choice of learning an instrument in third grade. So I chose the flute, mostly because a lot of other girls were choosing the flute. But I really enjoyed playing the flute, and then took it all the way through high school. Again, I was not very great at it, but I really loved it. And I played in the marching band, and I took flute lessons and sang in my high school chorus and chorale and show choir/jazz ensemble. And I just it was such a big part of my life, and I just loved it. And I actually am turning 40 at the end of this month, and my husband said to me, what do you want for your 40th birthday? And I said the only thing I want is a piano. And we found this couple that were getting rid of a 100-year-old walnut handcarved piano.
Cindy Burnett 06:42
Jill Santopolo 06:43
And we got it last week. And I have had so much fun this week with my three-month-old baby just sort of having her hands play, you know, Mary Had a Little Lamb and Hot Cross Buns and whatever. And she was fascinated with the piano too. So I hope she's gonna love music as well.
Cindy Burnett 07:00
And I'm sure she just loves hearing the music too. I think when they're young, they just love any kind of music.
Jill Santopolo 07:06
We we've been laughing because her favorite song seems to be The Ants Go Marching One by One..
Cindy Burnett 07:12
which has many, many verses.
Jill Santopolo 07:16
And I don't actually know the real words, but I know they're supposed to rhyme. So I just kind of make them up as we go along.
Cindy Burnett 07:20
But that's even more fun, you know, that keeps you moving and thinking about stuff. And she's like, okay, that varied from last time. So trying to launch a book with a little baby, how is that going?
Jill Santopolo 07:33
It's going. I actually am so super grateful that we found an amazing, amazing babysitter, who is with my daughter right now. I think anyone that you can trust to leave your child with and you know, your child is going to be happy, it's such a nice feeling to feel like you can do that. And, you know, initially when it was not the pandemic, and I first told my publisher I was pregnant last spring, they were like, oh, do you think you could go on a book tour with your baby? And I was like, oh, yeah, sure, I could go on a book tour with my baby. I'm glad I didn't have to try. I miss going into bookstores and talking to people and seeing people for sure. But I think that the virtual book tour with a baby is a better plan.
Cindy Burnett 08:17
For sure. As soon as we were talking about that I was thinking with a pandemic and being at home and being able to do all these virtual things is definitely to your benefit at the moment, you know, just not having to be out and about. I can't even imagine trying to do a book tour with a three-month-old baby.
Jill Santopolo 08:32
I know I was imagining it yesterday and I was like oh man, the airports, the airplanes, the cribs in hotel rooms. Like the sleep would have really been a thing.
Cindy Burnett 08:41
Yeah, the lack of sleep you would have would have - it would have been a pain. Do you have a favorite character that you wrote in Everything After?
Jill Santopolo 08:49
No, I kind of like all my characters because there's something about all of them that I enjoy writing otherwise I wouldn't put them in the book. But I think my favorite character is probably Emily's friend Priya. I think female friendship is so wonderful and so important. And I just love creating friends for my main characters. So Priya is I think one of my favorites in this book.
Cindy Burnett 09:14
I love that because I do think female friendship is so important. And I think that's one of the things that's gotten me through the last year. So it's always nice to highlight those people. Tell me about coming up with the title and the cover for this one. I'm always so fascinated with how that comes about.
Jill Santopolo 09:29
Okay, so the title, do you know that there's a Counting Crows song called “August and Everything After”?
Cindy Burnett 09:34
Jill Santopolo 09:35
Okay, so the main character her name wasn't always Emily. In the first iteration of the book, her name was April, which in the end just felt like it didn't fit her right. But I had called the book April and Everything After as a sort of play on the Counting Crows title.
Cindy Burnett 09:50
Jill Santopolo 09:50
But then when her name wasn't April anymore, Emily and Everything After didn't feel right. But I liked the Everything After piece, and so when I handed it in, and I called it Everything After. My editor liked it. So we went with it. And as far as the cover, that's really Putnam that does that. I don't have that much input in the cover, but they have absolutely phenomenal designers. And I've loved every single cover that they've put on my books. And I think, you know, it's fun to have New York City in the background, especially since I just moved from the city to Washington, DC. So, so I like getting to look at New York when I look at my book cover.
Cindy Burnett 10:29
I love New York. That's one of the things that's been so hard about the pandemic is I normally go up with my girls and see a couple shows. I'm sad for Broadway being shut down, and you know, everything that's impacted everybody. And really, obviously, this is a first world problem, but I'm just ready for everything to get back to normal and to have New York be New York again.
Jill Santopolo 10:45
I know. I miss so much - live theater, live music is definitely one of them. But I was realizing the other day, one of the things I miss the most is just seeing strangers smile on the street. You know, when when people are wearing masks and you walk by them, you can't really see if they're smiling or not. And I feel like it just makes the world feel more glum.
Cindy Burnett 11:06
It definitely takes away emotion.
Jill Santopolo 11:09
Yeah, that Tyra Banks smile with your eyes. Yes, exactly.
Cindy Burnett 11:13
And it just seemed like people do do that. But it also just takes longer to even figure out sometimes who somebody is because the mask takes up too much of the face that I'm like, is that somebody I know or not? But you know, we're getting there it sounds like. So positive news. Well, what I like about your covers is that they are different, but that they tie together. So as soon as I see one, I realized that it ties in with your last two books.
Jill Santopolo 11:33
Yeah, I like that, too. I feel like the books seem like they're cousins.
Cindy Burnett 11:36
Yeah, I was trying to figure out how to think about that, because they're obviously not the same, but they tie in together. So cousins is a perfect way to look at it.
Jill Santopolo 11:42
I've gotten some emails from people who said, Oh, my gosh, I found Darren in Everything After, I found Nina in Everything After and I've sort of done that hidden little cameos of different characters from one book to the next. So they feel like cousins in that sense, too.
Cindy Burnett 11:56
I think readers love that those kind of Easter eggs almost, where you're going to see different people pop up from earlier stories. Well talking about an earlier story, I would love to hear a little bit more about The Light We Lost being selected as a Reese Book Club pick.
Jill Santopolo 12:09
Oh my gosh, that changed my life. I mean, Reese Witherspoon is is my personal goddess. I mean, the fact that she is supporting so many writers and elevating so many books by this book club. And I know she has her new app out, which is great. And I love it. And it sort of fosters that community even more. But yeah, when I found out that she chose my book, I was totally floored and then extra floored when I saw what happened to my book because she chose it.
Cindy Burnett 12:39
It's truly amazing the impact that she and Jenna both I think have with their book clubs. Those selections just almost always automatically hit the New York Times list. And then they're just everywhere, and everybody's talking about them. It's really such a great thing. I'm so happy that they're both doing that.
Jill Santopolo 12:56
Yeah, me too. And I think it's so nice that people seem genuinely excited to connect over books. I mean, that's just so happy-making to me.
Cindy Burnett 13:05
I agree completely, because talking about books is my very favorite thing. I feel like no matter who you are or where you are, you can start a conversation about books.
Jill Santopolo 13:13
Yes, absolutely. And I feel like you can tell a lot about somebody by which books they talk about when you ask them about books.
Cindy Burnett 13:21
I think that's actually really interesting. And you can also tell a lot if they don't read.
Jill Santopolo 13:26
That's true. I met someone once, and I started talking about books and the person said, Oh, I don't think I've read a book in about five years. And I was like, Oh, that's interesting.
Cindy Burnett 13:36
You're like, I'll see you later. Oh, and then you work in the publishing industry? Correct?
Jill Santopolo 13:42
I do. Yes.
Cindy Burnett 13:43
So do want to talk a little bit about that?
Jill Santopolo 13:45
You know, that's so interesting to me, because when my kids were little, I don't feel like there was such a wide range of picture book options. It's fabulous now that they're a much more diverse group of books that are heading out into the world. Sure. So I'm the associate publisher of a children's book imprint at penguin called Philomel. And our goal is to introduce young leaders and their families to new perspectives, and new worlds and new ideas. So in that role, I edit mostly picture books, some older books, but I've edited books by our vice president Kamala Harris, and Justice Sotomayor, and Chelsea Clinton and Temple Grandin and Mayim Bialik that are really I think, empowering and inspirational. And I love editing books. I love what I do. I love working with, with those writers to sort of get their thoughts to the next generation of little humans. Yeah, I think I don't know when it was, but I feel like children's publishing has really exploded between when your kids were little and now.
Cindy Burnett 14:51
It certainly seems that way. It's really nice that it has exploded and that they're just representing a wider range of people. Have you always worked in children's publishing?
Jill Santopolo 15:00
I have. I've been working in children's publishing since I graduated college in 2002. And actually before that when I interned, and part of why I went into children's publishing was because I loved reading books as a kid. And I wanted to kind of pay that forward, and hoped that if I edited books that other kids liked, and it started them off on a journey of loving reading, that would be really awesome. And I also love the combination of art and text and finding that balance and figuring that out. So there's just there's just so much to love about, about making kids books.
Cindy Burnett 15:33
Absolutely. That was one of the my favorite parts when my kids were little, was just reading all sorts of picture books with them. And like you said, the illustrations in addition to the text. Well, do you think that working in the publishing industry helps you, gives you any guidance as to what you should include in your book or not? I mean, probably working in children's publishing may not really do that. But I'm always curious if you feel like it gives, you know, guidance as to maybe what should be included, what shouldn't be included.
Jill Santopolo 15:58
I don't know if it gives me guidance as far as like content inclusion. But I think after I write my first draft, I do try and put on my editor hat and read it and think, you know, oh, you're going on too long about this, this doesn't make sense. This relationship needs to be deeper, you know, what was the point of this scene, and then edit and revise based on my own notes to myself before giving it to, you know, my writing group, or my agent or editor - they sort of get to see a later draft after I've edited myself. And I also think that working in publishing sort of gives me ideas about what I can expect and what I can do, once the book comes out, as far as engaging with readers and talking to different people about the story.
Cindy Burnett 16:45
Well, and that has changed so much in the last year. I mean, your timing on your book coming out is good, because you've had the year to kind of watch what people are doing. And there's just so many new ways that people are promoting. It's fascinating to watch.
Jill Santopolo 16:59
It really is. And one of the things that I think has been most interesting that came out of it is that now a lot of the virtual visits are one author talking to another author about their book, which happens sometimes in the physical world. But my entire tour is me talking to other authors about my book. And I just recently was the author who got to ask another author questions about her book. And I'm going to do that again in April, and again, in May, and potentially, again in June. And but I think it's really cool, because you get to have these conversations with basically, colleagues, because writers don't really have colleagues. But now we kind of do, and you get to talk about your book with someone else. And then each event is kind of different, because the questions are different. So I think that's a really fun thing that's come out of this.
Cindy Burnett 17:53
I agree. I have enjoyed watching a bunch of those. And then the other thing that does is it fosters all of these relationships for you. So now when you interview all these different authors, you now have encountered them personally and know each other. And I just think that's fabulous. I've watched that with a couple of my author friends who've really enjoyed meeting different people and having new relationships with other authors.
Jill Santopolo 18:14
Yeah, I think that's been a fun thing. Just in general. Since my book came out, I hadn't known many adult authors, and through different events, I've gotten to meet them and know them. And it seems to be a very supportive group fiction writers on the internet.
Cindy Burnett 18:29
I always say that I feel like it is the most supportive group of people - the authors, the reviewers, the readers, the bloggers, whoever, the publishers. Everybody tries to build everybody else up for the most part. And I just think that's wonderful.
Jill Santopolo 18:42
Yeah, me too. It's really nice. It's just really nice to be part of a community. I remember when I got my MFA, that was one of the things that I just I felt like, Oh, I found my community here of people who love writing and talking about books. And it turns out, there's a whole lot more of them.
Cindy Burnett 18:57
Yes, many, many more of them anymore. Well, before we wrap up, I would love to hear what you've read recently that you really liked, which may relate to what we were just talking about with other events that you're doing.
Jill Santopolo 19:08
Yes, so I just did an event with Ellen Feldman. And her book is called Paris Never Leaves You, that was the one that we talked about. And I thought it was absolutely phenomenal. I haven't stopped thinking about it. It takes place in Paris, right after World War Two, and also in New York City in the publishing world in the 1950s. And there's a lot about sort of secrets and identity. And it's just - revelations happen that will blow your mind. So I love that book. And then next month, I'm doing an event where I'm going to talk to Donna Freitas, about her new novel called The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano. And it's fascinating. It's basically the nine possible life stories of this one woman if decisions she makes are different throughout the book so you get all the different lives woven together. And it's a lot about marriage and motherhood and being a woman in society and what expectations are, and it's brilliant. And then I've read a couple of other books for blurbs recently that I really enjoyed. One of them is Blush by Jamie Brenner, which is coming out this summer, and is about three generations of women on a winery in the North Fork who kind of come into their own. And also, I recently read the Last Summer at the Golden Hotel, which is also actually a three generations of family story, the last summer that they're together when they're thinking about selling their family hotel, and that one is told in in very cool rotating perspectives. And each family member has slightly different information and slightly different secrets. So that's very cool, too.
Cindy Burnett 20:52
Well, I'm going to have to look for that last one. I have not heard about it yet. And it sounds fascinating and right up my alley.
Jill Santopolo 20:58
Oh, good. I'm glad I had one that you didn't know about.
Cindy Burnett 21:01
And I love Jamie Brenner. I just got Blush in the mail, the galley, and I can't wait to read it. I have loved her last three or four books.
Jill Santopolo 21:08
Yeah it's great. It's really great.
Cindy Burnett 21:10
Well, Jill, I've really enjoyed speaking with you today. And I appreciate your taking the time to come on the Thoughts from a Page Podcast.
Jill Santopolo 21:16
Oh, it's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you.
Cindy Burnett 21:21
Thank you so much for listening to my podcast. If you like this episode, and I hope you did, please follow me on Instagram at @thoughtsfromapage, tell all of your friends about the podcast, and rate it or subscribe to it wherever you listen to your podcasts. I would greatly appreciate it. Jill's book can be purchased at the Conversations from a Page Bookshop storefront or at Murder by the Book, and both links are in the show notes. I hope you'll tune in next time.
Here are some great episodes to start with.