Monday, August 29, 2016


In 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.
Ivy Baygren has two great loves in her life: her husband, Adam, and the bungalow they buy together in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Salt Lake City, Utah. From the moment she and Adam lay eyes on the home, Ivy is captivated by its quaint details—the old porch swing, ornate tiles, and especially an heirloom rose bush bursting with snowy white blossoms. Called the Emmeline Rose for the home’s original owner, it seems yet another sign that this place will be Ivy’s happily-ever-after…Until her dreams are shattered by Adam’s unexpected death.
Striving to be strong for her two children, Ivy decides to tackle the home-improvement projects she and Adam once planned. Day by day, as she attempts to rebuild her house and her resolve, she uncovers clues about previous inhabitants, from a half-embroidered sampler to buried wine bottles. And as Ivy learns about the women who came before her—the young Mormon torn between her heart and anti-polygamist beliefs, the Greek immigrant during World War II, a troubled single mother in the 1960s—she begins to uncover the lessons of her own journey. For every story has its sadness, but there is also the possibility of blooming again, even stronger and more resilient than before…

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!

Twitter: @ellajoyolsen


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