This post originally appeared on the Tall Poppy Writers Blog on August 22, 2017
Today Ella answers some Poppy Questions to celebrate her latest release!
Talk about your book’s cover and/or title.
My latest is titled WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS. The story has much to do with genealogy, ancestry, and genetics. I felt like a title which referenced a “family tree” would be poetic and meaningful. I came up with lists of titles that included the word tree, or branch, or bough, or root. The publisher said that “tree” references wouldn’t sell a book. They also told me the title needed to be confirmed by Monday (this was a Friday) so I spent an intense weekend scouring poems and song lyrics to come up with something that would whisper “family tree”.
WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS is a riff on a line in one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, “where late the sweet birds sang” and it gives a nod to I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS by Maya Angelou. So where does the sweet bird sing? In a family tree, of course.
Has anyone ever thought a character you wrote was based on them?
In my debut ROOT, PETAL, THORN the modern day character, Ivy Baygren, adores her century old bungalow. It’s a real fixer-upper but she and her husband love the weight of the house, the history in the walls. Tragically, her husband is killed in an accident and Ivy is forced to continue fixing the house by herself. As she works, she finds clues from past occupants and discovers the stories of four other women who’ve lived in her home. Their stories help Ivy through her own grief.
Many people who read the book think Ivy is me (I do live in a century old bungalow that we’ve fixed up over the years). Here’s the biggest difference, Ivy’s husband is dead. When I decided I’d kill the husband to move the story forward, my own husband was horrified I would consider killing him!
What are you reading right now?
I have an interesting reading project right now. My book club selected THE PLAGUE, a classic by Albert Camus, as light summer reading (ha). It’s killing me (pun intended). But to add to the misery (pun intended), I decided to read a second book about the plague and this one is so much better. I’m reading YEAR OF WONDERS by Geraldine Brooks. I met her at the Historical Novel Society conference in June. I was star-struck! She’s so friendly and incredibly smart! Her books are well-researched and captivating. I’ve also read MARCH and PEOPLE OF THE BOOK written by Ms. Brooks (I won’t read another work by Camus, by the way).
Do you have any phobias?
I don’t have any specific phobias, per se, but I am a very superstitious person. If I say something out loud, or even think about something that worries me, I immediately try to knock on wood. If there’s no wood at the ready, I get a little desperate. I’ve mitigated this concern in my car (which obviously has no wood) by hanging a lucky four-leaf clover on the rearview mirror which I can touch at the first disturbing thought. On the regular, I fret about the safety of my children and imagine all sorts of random accidents befalling them. FYI, I knocked on my desk immediately after typing that last sentence.
What’s your next big thing?
Of course there’s always a next book! Aside from that, I was recently asked to teach a Continuing Education course on writing historical fiction at my alma mater, The University of Utah. I’ve made it through my first semester and I have a full class scheduled for the next. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to fill two hours each week without being boring, or repetitive, or sounding like I have no idea what I’m talking about.