Please summarize the book for the readers here:
ROOT, PETAL,THORN is my debut and you could say the book of my heart. In the novel, five women (over the course of a century) each call the same historic bungalow in Salt Lake City, Utah, their home.
The present day character, Ivy Baygren, has recently lost her husband in an unexpected accident. Though heartbroken, she knows she can’t mourn forever, so she continues the home-improvement projects they started together. As she works, she discovers clues from past occupants hidden in the walls of her home. The loves and lives of five, very different, women entwine within the pages of the novel.
As in real life, each of the five women faces challenges: from a young Mormon woman torn between her anti-polygamist beliefs and her heart, to the Greek immigrant during WWII who can’t bear to send her son to war, to the 1960’s cover girl who suffers from bipolar. But in the midst of loss, there is always love.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
The sound was only mildly alarming, a persistent non-menacing scratch like bare branches against thin glass on a blustery December night. But it wasn’t winter, the covers were kicked to my ankles and the house was July-muggy. I reached over and tapped the mattress near my husband’s head to wake him, knowing without opening my eyes our raccoon was back and nesting in the attic.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- The story takes place in one home over the course of a century. I live in a hundred-year-old home and many of the “clues” Ivy finds as she remodels are taken from my real-life projects.
- Only one character is not fictional. George Pearson was my across-the-street neighbor and lived in his home for fifty years. He went from young man, to old man to gone – all within the same home. I dedicated my book to him.
- My grandma was chased up a tree by an amorous polygamist man who wanted to marry her. I fictionalized this true story and put it into the pages of Root, Petal, Thorn.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Since there are five voices which braid throughout the pages the novel, I’ll just give you the skeleton sketch of each of them, except the present day character, Ivy Baygren, who I mentioned in more detail in an earlier question:
- Emmeline Lansing is a young Mormon woman who moves to Salt Lake City in 1913. Her true-love is swept onto the battlefield during WWI. Emmeline is forced to choose between her beliefs and her heart.
- Bitsy Robinson lived in the home when she was a child during the darkest years of the Great Depression. She visits Ivy as an old woman, crooked and papery with age, and gives Ivy a leather memory book kept during those tumultuous years.
- Eris Gianopolous is a salty Greek immigrant with a barbed tongue. Her beloved son Adonis turns eighteen in 1944 and is determined to have his shot at Hitler.
- Lainey Harper is a model in New York circa 1965 when she’s accused of taking drugs. She’s no druggie, but she still can’t escape the madness lurking in the corners of her mind. Diagnosed with bipolar she returns to her hometown to heal and care for her young daughter.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
This is a tough question. Since the story is told in five voices, I would need five scenes. So I’m going to break-away from the question and describe the trailer of the movie-version of Root, Petal, Thorn. Of course, I don’t know the technical film terms, so bear with me.
The opening shot would be of the home in the evening. Ivy would be at work somewhere in the house, her two children at play. The camera would focus on a few of the features of the home that are common to all of the characters across the decades: the Emmeline rose, the porch swing, the towering ash trees lining the street. Cut scene: Brief snippet of a night-time. Ivy hears raccoons in the attic, tries to alert her husband, camera focuses for several seconds on his empty side of the bed as she realizes he’s not there. Cut scene: Ivy’s in the attic searching for the raccoon nest when she discovers a tiny leather case with a rusted clasp. She opens it to discover an incomplete embroidery sampler reading –Marriage of Emmeline and Nathaniel. She asks aloud, “Why was this hidden?” Final: Two young women in old-fashioned dresses are sitting on the recognizable porch swing in front of a familiar home. One girl speaks, calling the other by name. Her name is Emmeline.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
Ultimately people read books for enjoyment, so I hope my readers enjoy my characters and are willing to follow them through the pages and cheer them on through their challenges. If you are wondering about a larger theme, I guess I wanted to explore the permanence of place and the impermanence of people. The place stays and the people move on. There’s something haunting, yet beautiful, about this concept.
However, I also think these braided stories illustrate the nature of home. Home, to me, means sanctuary. It should be a place where you can be your truest self. Maybe that means eating ice cream out of the container and spending the day in a bathrobe. Or maybe that means safety from the overwhelming world, from mean people, and uncertain situations. Home in this sense is not a given, but it’s something we all strive for. No matter the appearance of the dwelling, we all want a place we can call home.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2016?
People always ask me if I’m writing another book. I’m in the thick of it, so I’ll reveal. The title is WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS and it will publish about this time next year. It’s a companion (not a sequel) to Root, Petal, Thorn and is told by Emmeline’s great-granddaughter.
Here’s the teaser: Though she has a loving husband, Emma Hazelton is adrift, struggling to rebuild her life after a tragedy. But one day, a simple question and an old black-and-white photograph prompt her to untangle the branches of her family tree, where she discovers a legacy of secrets. What connects us to one another? Is it shared history? Is it ancestry? Or is it love?
Thank you for having me!