Author Interview: Sarah Hogle – Just Like Magic – out October 4th. I’m a big fan of Sarah Hogle and I’m overjoyed she joined me for an author interview. Her newest book, Just Like Magic is a fabulous holiday romp filled with magic, holiday spirit, lots of love and laughs. This post may contain links to purchase books & you can read our affiliate disclosure here.
Sarah Hogle is a mom of three who enjoys trashy TV and provoking her husband for attention. Her dream is to live in a falling-apart castle in a forest that is probably cursed. Her novels are You Deserve Each Other, Twice Shy, and Just Like Magic.
Synopsis for Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle
Bettie Hughes once knew the comfort of luxury, flaunting a collection of designer purses and an enviable dream home in Hawaii. That was before she lost all her money. Long obsessed with her public image, Bettie boasts an extravagant lifestyle on social media. But the reality is Bettie is broke and squatting in Colorado, and her family has no idea.
Christmas, with its pressure to meet familial expectations, is looming when Bettie plays a vinyl record of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” backward and accidentally conjures up Hall, the Holiday Spirit, in the form of a charming and handsome (if offbeat) man. Once the shock wears off, Bettie knows she’s stumbled upon the greatest gift: a chance to make all her holiday wishes come true, plus a ready-made fiancé.
But as some of Bettie’s wishes lose their charm, she finds herself thrown off-kilter by Hall’s sweet nature. Suddenly, grumpy Bettie is finding her heart merry and light. But the happier she gets, the shorter Hall’s time on earth grows. Can Bettie channel the Christmas spirit and learn to live with goodwill toward all men? Or will her selfish ways return as soon as the holidays are over?
Author Interview: Sarah Hogle
Sarah, I’m so excited to talk to you today about Just Like Magic. Thank you for joining me for this Q & A!
Thank you for inviting me to chat about this book!
I’ve been dreaming of reading Just Like Magic since I first read the description. It was everything I hoped for and more. Can you tell me a little about the inspiration behind Just Like Magic?
The premise of Just Like Magic came to me in a strange flash right after waking up one morning, out of the blue, and was going to share it on Twitter as, like, a jokey “haha, what if I wrote a book like this.” Not being serious about it, of course. But the idea quickly grew on me – it was so bananas that I couldn’t not write it, so I didn’t share the joke and I wrote the book instead. I decided that I wanted it to be extremely over the top, and lean aaaallll the way into bananas. Kind of the same vibe as the movie Airplane! You don’t see a lot of farce in the rom com sector, so I thought, well I’ll do that! I’ll make everybody ridiculous! I’ll make the magic system preposterous! Off the rails, full speed ahead. I didn’t know if anyone else would want to read a book like this, and I had very little confidence that my publisher would want it, but here we are.
For me, this book touches on grief and loneliness, which happen to be two of my favorite topics in love stories. For many of us, the holiday season brings a lot of these feelings to the forefront, and I loved how your book explored those feelings. Can you tell readers what tropes and/or themes to expect from Just Like Magic?
Fake dating, chaotic goblin/chaotic sugar cookie, Shenanigans!, she isn’t really into the holidays and he IS the holidays, getting over yourself enough to say you’re sorry, small town, opening up to your loved ones, accepting an apology you’ll never receive because the bitter feelings are only damaging yourself, being a good person for the sake of it, not for what you’ll get in return, embracing yourself and living authentically, trying to place less importance on what other people think about you.
Bettie is not looking forward to spending this holiday season with her family. She’s struggling, desperate to impress her family, and also wishes to seek revenge on them. You give readers an inside look into Bettie’s thoughts and I was only a few pages into the book and I’d cackled several times. Can you tell me some of your favorite characteristics of Bettie?
Bettie Hughes is stubborn, crispy-on-the-outside, vulnerable-marshmallow-goo-on-the-inside, holds the blue ribbon for Longest Grudges Nursed, and boasts a bottomless wealth of imagination when it comes to petty revenge schemes. She was an absolute ball to write. I love Bettie’s mile-wide devious streak, and I love the moment when it clicked for her that she wanted to make this Christmas special for Hall, putting his wishes above her own. When she realized that making Hall smile was her favorite thing to do, and developed a fierce sense of protection where he’s concerned. I’m so proud of my little gremlin’s growth!
Hall is a sunbeam of holiday goodness and a spirit who loves to make people’s wishes come true. We could all use more Hall in our lives. Can you tell me some of your favorite things about Hall?
I’ve described him as similar to the prince in Enchanted. I love that he’s kind to everyone, not just the heroine. His unique perspective on what is important, as an observer of humanity since humanity began, has led him to celebrate every little thing he likes without fear of judgment. He’s the embodiment of “dance like no one is watching,” not at all ashamed of his many, many, hobbies and honest, effusive communication of his emotions. He loves to bake desserts, decorate, bedazzle, knit, watch movies (especially ones starring Lacey Chabert), hug people, drink coffee creamer, and shop. He’s the number one fan of Bettie’s actress grandmother and has zero chill about it. He’s my favorite character I’ve written so far.
There are so many scenes from Just Like Magic that will now live in my head. I particularly loved Hall’s excitement at the Holiday Inn Express and will think of him every time I see one. Do you have any favorite scenes in Just Like Magic?
A couple of my favorite scenes are when Bettie and Hall find a Cracker Barrel and Hall cries because it’s so beautiful, and also when they’re walking home after caroling late one evening, and they finally voice some of what they’re feeling, however doomed those feelings might appear to be.
Sarah, as your Twitter handle suggests, you truly are the Witch of Words. I would love to chat more about writing. Do you have any favorite snacks, music or rituals for your writing?
I can’t write without listening to music or some sort of ambient noise, like thunderstorms/ocean waves/nature sounds. I create a playlist for every book I write, and will sometimes listen to the same song on repeat for over an hour if I’m working on a scene that needs a particular feel to it. I also like to create Pinterest boards or drawings of scenes/characters, and I hang up art that relates to my book next to my desk. While working on Just Like Magic, I listened to Christmas classics and instrumental Yule Log videos; next to my desk, I hung lots of Christmassy décor: a “deck the halls” sign, a red truck that read Christmas tree farms, a Robert Frost poem, and a drawing of Bettie’s townhouse.
Do you have any advice for fellow writers?
Changing your font every time you reread your manuscript can help your eyes spot mistakes. Also – write to entertain yourself, first and foremost. If you’re stuck in a chapter and find yourself procrastinating writing because the material feels like a slog and you aren’t particularly excited, it’s 100% okay to throw out your plans and tweak the scene to be something that does excite you. If we’re bored while writing, that might mean that our plans aren’t working, so don’t be afraid to go where the story wants to go! Whatever you write about, do so from the heart, and don’t try to force yourself to write for trends. Ask yourself: “What is a story that I, more than anyone else, am best suited to write?”
Your characters are some of the most lauded amongst romance readers. Many readers are on a first name basis with your characters – we say their name and other readers know we are talking about Sarah Hogle’s books. Can you tell us more about how you come up with such detailed and memorable characters?
Wow, this is the highest compliment! I get bored pretty easily, so when I’m designing characters, I want them to have personalities that get them into trouble, or that lead to them running into interesting situations, so that I never run out of ideas for what to do with them. I am particularly fond of characters who have limited self-awareness and jump to incorrect conclusions, purely because it’s fun. If they’re grouchy, I want them to have a secret layer of loneliness/fear/vulnerability underneath that explains their behavior. I’m also very big on showing: it’s one thing to say that Maybell Parrish is a daydreamer, but I can show the reader a lot more about her by bringing them into Maybell’s daydreams and letting them experience, with lots of sensory detail, what she dreams about. It’s one thing to say offhandedly that Nicholas and Naomi prank each other, and another to detail exactly what pranks they’re doing, showing escalation of pettiness. I think one of the things readers like about my characters is that they have ugly, honest thoughts just like any other human. (side note: this is also what turns many readers off! Which goes to show: don’t write with the intention of trying to make your characters universally likable, because it’s impossible. There will always be people who do not like your characters, and there’s literally nothing you can do about it, so just write what you want to write.) They’re very flawed, and even if the characters themselves don’t realize they’re doing wrong, the narrative does.
Just Like Magic is one of my new favorite books! I can’t wait to read it again and again every holiday season. What are some books on your TBR? and/or Do you have any favorite holiday books?
Ahhhh! Thank you so much! Hearing that you want to re-visit the little world of Just Like Magic every holiday makes my heart sparkle like a Cullen. 🙂 A few books on my TBR are: Mrs. Nash’s Ashes by Sarah Adler, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna, and Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake by Mazey Eddings. For holiday books, a few favorites are In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren (cozy and romantic!) The Mistletoe Motive by Chloe Liese (bookshop romance! Steam!) and You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky (hilarious! Matthew Prince and Bettie Hughes are cut from the same cloth).
I always love talking about TV and movies. If you were to cast an adaptation for Just Like Magic, do you have anyone in mind for your characters?
I spent about two hours thinking about this question. For Grandma Bettie Watson, I’m gonna go with the one and only Cher. For Bettie Hughes’s sister Kaia: Miley Cyrus or Kristen Stewart. I think Channing Tatum would make a great Felix, Bettie’s brother, and Liza Soberano as Marilou, Felix’s wife. Then Gillian Jacobs as Athena, Bettie’s other sister. Bettie Hughes and Hall are the hardest for me to cast, but at the moment, I’m thinking Olivia Cooke or Hailee Steinfeld, and Tom Holland. I’m leaving a lot of characters out, but these are the big ones for me.
If your vehicle’s glove box dispensed cookies, what kind of cookies would you choose?
The best cookies I’ve ever had are Tollhouse Lumps of Coal cookies – which, of course this is the case, because it seems they’ve been discontinued. I can’t find them anywhere during the holiday season anymore! If my glove box dispensed these, I would never leave my car.
I am a George Michael superfan and I was thrilled to see the Christmas classic “Last Christmas” mentioned in Just Like Magic. Do you have any favorite holiday songs?
I am VERY big on the classics: “Sleigh Ride,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “The Holly and the Ivy,” “O Holy Night,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” Top favorites are “Carol of the Bells,” “Last Christmas,” and “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
There’s a scene in Just Like Magic where it’s discussed that Lacey Chabert is a great choice to narrate for a car’s navigation system. If you could choose anyone besides Lacey to narrate your GPS, who would it be and why?
John Roberts, in character as Linda Belcher from Bob’s Burgers.
I love this line about Mariah Carey, “every time you recite her lyrics, the world becomes a sparklier place.” Do you have a favorite Mariah Carey song or phase of Mimi’s career?
I would say that “Fantasy” is my favorite, although my husband just told me we’re getting a divorce if I don’t say that it’s “We Belong Together,” which he thinks is Mimi’s best song. But also, I am clearly a big fan of “All I Want for Christmas is You,” so I suppose this means I’m single now, lol. And “Always Be My Baby” always slaps.
Another line I loved from Just Like Magic is there is “no deadline for figuring yourself out.” What are you hoping readers take away from this book?
I hope that this book reinforces to readers that trying to live your life based on how it will look on social media, or how it might impress others, or get them to respect/validate you, is wasting your limited hours on this earth. Be your own unique self; if you’re not going to be you, then who is? Like what you like, express yourself however feels authentic, wear what you want, nerd out with your hobbies, prioritize joy. But most of all, I hope that this book makes readers laugh. My goal is to spread holiday cheer. 🙂
Thank you again for taking the time to speak with me! How can readers best connect with you?
This was a wonderful interview! Thank you for the thoughtful questions.
Readers can find me on Instagram at @sarah_hogle.