Authors Celebrating Authors: Jill Santopolo

Hello, my fellow book addicts! I hope you’re enjoying October and all the delights it brings. Personally, I’m more about the Halloween candy than pumpkin spice everything, but I think I have an autumn treat that we can all agree on. This month, I’m featuring a book and author who blew me away a few months back…


Jill is the USA Today and internationally best-selling author of The Light We Lost (published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House), which has been translated into more than thirty languages (wow!).


Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes them forever. Together they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York City.

What follows is a thirteen-year odyssey of dreams, jealousies, and ultimately, of love. Lucy will begin a new life with handsome and reliable Darren, while Gabe will travel the world. Their journey will take Lucy and Gabe continents apart but never out of each other’s hearts. And Lucy will find herself asking: Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away?

Lucy’s powerful voice brings to life the universal truth of first love, of being completely understood for the first time. Emotional and page-turning, The Light We Lost is a devastatingly romantic debut novel with a shattering, unforgettable ending.


Busy writing her WIP and editing the works of fellow authors (yep, Jill is a much-coveted editorial director of best-selling books for young readers), Jill graciously took a few moments to answer my questions and indulge my fangirling bookish ways!

JM: What inspired you to write Lucy and Gabe’s story in The Light We Lost?

JS: So many things inspired The Light We Lost, but I began writing it after a horrible break-up. The kind that made me feel like not only my present, but my future had shattered, too. I was trying to figure out a way to exist in the world at that time, and I did it by writing a story. The Light We Lost isn’t my story, and Lucy isn’t me, but the emotions she grapples with are emotions I was feeling as well, and writing helped me to sort them out. People often ask if this book is autobiographical, and my answer is that while plot-wise it isn’t, it’s emotionally autobiographical, which is–I hope–what makes it resonate with readers.

JM: The Light We Lost is a celebration of first love. For me, Lucy and Gabe’s story wrapped itself around my heart and just wouldn’t let go! What is it about stories about first love that captivate readers so much?

JS: I think first loves are special because when you fall in love for the first time, it’s like a new world opens to you. There are emotions and experiences that are different and exciting, and you get to feel seen and adored for who you are for the first time–and feel that way about someone else. It’s a special moment. And I think that even if people don’t speak to their first loves years later, they still remember them and how being in love for the first time made them feel.

JM: New York City is a pivotal character in the novel, and your book opens on one of the most infamous days in the city’s history—September 11. Why did you decide to begin The Light We Lost on that day?

JS: I began Gabe and Lucy’s story on September 11, 2001 in New York City for a couple of reasons. The first was that I lived through that experience as a Columbia University student, and I know that it profoundly affected my and so many of my friends, as far as the paths we chose to take in our futures and the way we saw the world. I also wanted Gabe and Lucy to be quite vulnerable when they met so that they could connect the way they did, and I remember how venerable so many people felt that day, so it seemed to fit as the opening of the book.

JM: Fate is a major theme of the book. It’s a romantic notion to believe that a force we cannot see is orchestrating who we meet, why we find each other, and when. Do you feel that fate helped or hindered Lucy and Gabe’s relationship?

JS: I think fate was part of Lucy and Gabe’s relationship initially–the fact that they were in the same place at a particular time–but I think a lot more of their relationship was driven by the choices they both made and then how those choices played out over the course of so many years. I think one of the lines I wrote (I could look it up, but I’m going to try to remember it off the top of my head) is something about free will despite their fate. And I think that’s really how I think about their relationship.

JM: Is there a message you would like readers to take away with them after reading The Light We Lost?

JS: I would hope that readers walk away from The Light We Lost thinking about how life is unpredictable and finite, and that if there’s something you want to do, or someone you love, now’s the time to do it or do something about it.

JM: Let’s touch upon writing and how you go about creating addictive stories like this one. Do you plot out all the twists and turns early in the writing process, or do they just happen as you go along?

JS: When I write I have a general idea of what I want to happen in the plot, so I know some twists when I start. And then I outline the story in scene-by-scene kind of way, and as I’m doing that, some other things come to me, and I add them in. And then while I’m doing the writing, I’ll add in even more. It’s kind of a layering of plot, I guess you could say.

JM: When you’re creating your stories, do you start with a character first, a setting, or a situation?

JS: For me, character, setting, and situation all tend to come pretty close together, but if I have to pick one, I’d say that situation comes slightly before the other two. It’s probably situation, then character, then setting–but all in quick succession. Then comes the story.

JM: What inspires you to write? Some authors love using music as a spark, while others rely on a setting or travel. What revs up your writing mojo?

JS: I think I find emotions the most inspirational, and the challenge of trying to capture feelings with words.

JM: I love how you feature Lucy and Gabe’s reading list at the back of the book. Did any of these works help shape the story for you?

JS: Most of the works I listed at the end of the book shaped the story in one way or another, but I think the one that shaped it the most was Le Mort D’Arthur. I’ve always enjoyed the Guinevere/Arthur/Lancelot love triangle, and tried to replicate some aspects of it in The Light We Lost.

JM: The Light We Lost gave me a major book hangover. I thought about it for days and the only way I could cope was to re-read the book—I just didn’t want to let Lucy and Gabe go! Do you have favourite novels or movies that have stayed with you?

JS: Thank you so much! What a huge compliment! The book that I’ve read the most–that is my literary equivalent of comfort food–is Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I think I’ve read it more than a dozen times, and when I do, it feels like coming home.

JM: You’ve written several children’s and YA books in addition to The Light We Lost. Do you have advice for aspiring writers?

JS: The best writing advice I ever got was to read. Read as much as you can in your chosen field. It’s only once you’ve internalized your genre that you can start to build on what’s come before you and find your place among the other books and authors already there.

JM: Would you like to share what you’re working on next?

JS: I’m working on a new novel for adults called The Shape of Our Words. It’s also set in New York City and is about love and loss and secrets and betrayals–but it focuses on some different themes and ideas.

JM: Jill, thank you so much for your insight into writing and The Light We Lost.

Want to purchase The Light We Lost? It’s available from all major retailers including AmazonAmazon UKBarnes and Noble, and Indigo. You can also follow Jill on social media. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram, and visit her website to discover her latest news, and read more about her brilliant books.


You can also try to win a signed copy right now! Jill has generously offered a signed hardcover copy of The Light We Lost to give away to one lucky reader in the US and Canada…here’s how to enter:

Leave a comment below answering this question: September 11 changed Lucy and Gabe, and the choices they made going forward. What event or day changed your life forever and why? Please note: comments on my website have to be approved manually, so if you don’t see your answer showing up in the comments right away, don’t panic! It’s just awaiting moderation and once that’s done, it will appear.

For an extra giveaway entry, head over to my Instagram @JaxMiddleton_Author, and do the following:

Like the giveaway photo (the The Light We Lost shot you see above),

Follow me (@JaxMiddleton_Author), and Jill Santopolo (@JillSantopolo),

Tag up to three friends who might be interested in this wonderful giveaway!

Entries will be accepted here in my blog’s comments until Monday, October 16/17 at 12 noon ET.  This giveaway is not associated or sponsored by Instagram. GOOD LUCK!