This interview originally posted on the Sharing Your Book Blog on August 29, 2016. Interviewer: author, Jill Hannah Anderson.http://sharingyourbook.blogspot.com/2016/08/rose-petal-thorn-by-author-ella-joy.html
ROOT, PETAL, THORN, by author, ELLA JOY OLSENIn this beautifully written and powerful debut novel, Ella Joy Olsen traces the stories of five fascinating women who inhabit the same historic home over the course of a century—braided stories of love, heartbreak and courage connect the women, even across generations.
Some Q & A with Ella:
1. 1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m the mom of three teens: A boy who leaves for college a week before my book hits the shelves, one sixteen-year-old girl who is a teen cliché (but we still love her madly), one who barely became a teen and would like to find at least one armpit hair (nothing yet). I have a super supportive husband who also works from home, so we wear matching bathrobes all day long and meet in the kitchen at noon for frozen burritos. I also have two dogs who, I swear, smile at me every time I look at them (more than I can say for the teens).
I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and I based my first two books in my neighborhood which is full of old houses and history. I’ve always loved imagining scenes from the past when exploring an ancient place (you can only imagine how long pondered the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris), so when we searched for our home, I insisted we buy one which spoke to the passage of time. My husband groaned about the old wiring and I squealed about the porch swing. Guess who won?
2. What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
I love to travel (see above – I have an obsession with historic locations). I spend as much time in the mountains near my home as I can. And I adore all things summer (outdoor concerts, al fresco dining, art festivals, family reunions, farmers markets, cold drinks with a kick). And I read, like crazy.
3. Can you tell us how you started writing and your challenges in getting your first book published?
I was one of those nose-in-book kids. Of course, I tried to write back in the day. I would complete one opening chapter, exactly like the book I was currently reading (names and location changed). Then I would stop writing, as I realized how hard it was, and I would pick up another book. Throughout junior high and high school I scripted angsty-teen poetry and diary entries full of broken hearts and 1980’s pop-culture. As an adult, I wrote hundreds of two-page analyses on the financial stability of publically held companies – and died a little every day.
After my youngest kiddo started first grade, I decided to teach myself how to write a novel. Not so easy. It was slow going at first, maybe three hours a week. When I finally typed THE END I didn’t realize I was actually at the beginning.
Years of rewrites, querying and rejection followed. I developed a thick skin, likely rewrote the entire book several times, and sent hundreds of query letters. It took me almost eight years from conception to publication.
4. What are you working on now?
Currently I’m working on a “sister” book, publishing September 2017. The title is: WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS. It’s not a sequel but a linked book, sharing a couple common characters. Here’s the elevator pitch:
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 Emma to untangle the branches of her family tree, where she discovers a legacy of secrets. Where the Sweet Bird Sings explores the meaning of family and identity. What connects us to another? Is it shared history? Is it ancestry? Or is it love?
5. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?
Oh, don’t get me started. Root, Petal, Thorn takes place in a hundred-year-old bungalow and traces the stories of five women who lived in the home over a century. The location is based on my own home, in my own neighborhood.
Some unknown family inhabited my beloved home when the Titanic sunk, on V-E day, when JFK was assassinated, when the Beatles performed on Ed Sullivan – and all the years in between. So I started imagining. Then I started writing. And a story was born. The characters, by the way, are entirely fictional. Their lives are much more interesting than mine.
6. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The easiest advice to give and the hardest advice to follow is: Just Keep Writing. If you give up, the book you want to write will never be written. There are oodles of times you’ll want to quit: after someone insists your main character is unlikeable, after a red-pen session with a beta reader, after you read a gorgeously written book and realize yours is nothing like it, after your hundredth query rejection, after you celebrate selling your book to a publisher then realize you’ve been paid essentially $.07 per hour for your hard word, after you realize you must spend most of said advance to promote your own book, after your first bad review…
7. Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Please read my book! Too desperate. Read it, love it, and write a fantastic review! Too direct. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy! Better. I’d love to connect!