We have three Poppy books hitting shelves next week, so we’re spreading out the celebration, starting with Ella Joy Olsen and WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS!
Ella Joy Olsen, the author of Root, Petal, Thorn is back with a powerful story of resilience, hope, and the secrets that, no matter how deeply hidden, can shape and ultimately unite a family. What connects us to one another? Is it shared history? Is it ancestry? Is it DNA? Or is it love?
People respond to tragedy in different ways. Some try to move on. Some don’t move at all. A year after her young son’s death due to a rare genetic disease, Emma Hazelton is still frozen by grief, unable and unwilling to consider her husband Noah’s suggestion that they try to have another child.
As the future Emma once imagined crumbles, her family’s past comes into sharp relief. Searching for the roots of her son’s disease, Emma tries to fit together the pieces in her genealogical puzzle.
Hidden within an old wedding photograph of her great-grandparents is an unusual truth Emma never guessed at–a window into all the ways that love can be surprising, generous, and fiercely brave . . . and a discovery that may help her find her own way forward at last.
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.
Ella Joy Olsen was born, raised and currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, a charming town tucked at the base of the massive Rocky Mountains. Most at home in the world of the written word, Ella spent nearly a decade on the Board of Directors for the Salt Lake City Public Library System (and four decades browsing the stacks). She is the mom of three kids ranging from just-barely-teen to just-flown-the-nest-teen, the mama of two dogs, and the wife of one patient husband.
Though she’s crazy about words Ella is also practical so she graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Finance. After years analyzing facts and figures Ella gave up her corner cubicle and started writing fiction. Fun fact: she now teaches a historical fiction course at her alma mater. She has also lived in Seattle, Washington & Savannah, Georgia.
ROOT, PETAL,THORN (September 2016) was her debut and coming in August 2017 – WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS.
Connect with her on her website http://www.ellajoyolsen.com/
Follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/ellajoyolsen
Or on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ellajoyolsen/
Like her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ella.joy.olsen.author
I read this book and loved it. So heartfelt about a tragic topic, yet full of hope. Another great book by this author!