The Violets of March
A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.
In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.
Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.
A mesmerizing debut with an idyllic setting and intriguing dual story line, The Violets of March announces Sarah Jio as a writer to watch.
-Jodi Picoult, author of Sing You Home & House Rules
"Sarah Jio's The Violets of March is a book for anyone who has ever lost love or lost herself."
-Allison Winn Scotch, author of Time of My Life and The One That I Want
"An enchanting story of love, betrayal, and the discovery of an old diary that mysteriously links the past to the present."
-Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
"Sarah Jio delivers a gem of a book, perfect for reading on the beach or under a cozy quilt."
-Sarah Pekkanen, author of The Opposite of Me and Skipping a Beat
"The Violets of March is a captivating, bittersweet tale of what happens when the long-buried truth finally makes its way to the surface. I didn't want this book to end!"
-Kelly O'Connor McNees, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
"Sarah Jio is one talented writer!"
-Claire Cook, bestselling author of Must Love Dogs and Seven Year Switch
There are three interweaving stories that run throughout the book: Emily's story, Esther's diary, and Years of Grace. What challenges did you face bringing those stories together?
Three stories in one book can get unwieldy, so I was careful to keep each thread neat and tidylike three balls of yarn, weaving them together without introducing too many tangles or missed stitches. In doing so, I spent a lot of time outlining the key events of Esther's story, then planning just the right moments in the book to plant clues and make key revelations. I enjoyed putting little hints in the diary for Emily to discover in her present day experience on the island. This was fun work! And, the Years of Grace thread was an absolute delight to work with. I stumbled upon this book purely by chance and fell in love with it. And, readers should know that it is indeed a real book (not just something I made up!)a classic from the 1930's that is most likely forgotten by present day readers. I challenge any and all to read this beautiful book. It had shocking parallels to Esther's story in Violets, and made the perfect book for my characters to read, love and think about in their journeys.
You write affectionately about Bainbridge Island and its denizens. Do you have a specific connection to the island? What inspired you about the island while writing this book?
I'm so pleased to hear that my love for Bainbridge Island came through in my writing. It's a very special place to me. I grew up just over the bridge, in the little town of Poulsbo, Washington, and spent many happy hours of my life on the island, playing on its shores. Bainbridge has charmed me from an early age, so it was a natural place for me to set my story. I have always felt that it has a certain beauty and peace that is absolutely unmatched. While I tried to preserve the island's characteristics and feeling, I did take artistic license in places (for instance, not all streets mentioned in the book exist or are geographically accurate; nor do violets bloom in March!)but after all, this is a work of fiction!
There are multiple characters in this book across different time periods. How do you go about constructing so many fully fleshed-out characters? What aspects of character are most important to you?
What it boils down to, for me, is immersing myself in the characters as I writereally trying to hear their voices and think about what choices they would make, versus what choices I would make. What helps me, also, is thinking about people in my life who may remind me, a little, of my characters (not that any of the characters in Violets are modeled after real people, because that isn't so). But, the strong and memorable characteristics of people in my life definitely play a role in character-development in my fiction work. For example, the bit about Bee enjoying her usual breakfast of sourdough toast with softened butter and whipped honeythis was borrowed from my late grandmother, herself an artist. I've found that paying attention to the traits, quirks and habits of those around you can help create realistic and loveable characters on the page.
So much of The Violets of March is about true love and fate. Where do you stand personally on these topics? Do you see parts of yourself in Emily?
While my own life and story does not mirror Emily's in the slightestI'm happily married with three young sonsI've always been curious about others who haven't been so lucky in love, others who may be looking back on their life and wondering about their first love, like the love Esther and Elliot shared. And, a hopeless romantic at heart, I guess I believe that if you truly loved someone once, that flame continues to burn, forever maybe. I really enjoyed toying with this idea in Violets.
What are you working on now? Will we be reading more in the life of Emily Wilson?
I just completed my second novel, The Bungalow, which will be out from Plume in April of 2012. While the book won't be a continuation of Emily Wilson's story, it does pluck one key character from The Violets of March for a brief cameo appearance! The Bungalow, which I'm so very excited about, is the story of a woman, who, at the very end of her life, receives a letter that triggers haunting and bittersweet memories of her time in the South Pacific during World War II, an unfinished love story, an unspeakable tragedy, and a mysterious beach bungalow at the center of it all. And, I am also hard at work on my third novel. Stay tuned for more on that!
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