The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Presenting Debutante Sarah Jio and
The Violets of March

April 25, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Lovely, dreamy, calming, and hopeful are all words that best describe Debutante Sarah Jio’s first novel, The Violets of March, being released tomorrow, April 26, 2011.

Although a love story, the romance of the book is first found in a diary revealing a mystery of star-crossed lovers from 1943. Rather than time travel, the novel follows a time-bending exploration until the past and present convene to answer where the characters came from, who they are now, and what they will be. In fact those are similar questions that gave the author her idea for the book. Writing in the February 10, 2011 Debutante Ball post, Deb Sarah on the 1940’s Print That (Partially) Inspired Her Novel, she explained:

“I’d been mulling novel ideas for a while, but nothing had jumped out at me. My eyes darted around the room until they stopped at an iconic photograph my sister had hanging on her wall—the one of a sailor and his lady locked in a kiss after the second world war. Everyone’s seen this image, of course, and it certainly wasn’t anything new to me, and yet on that pre-Christmas afternoon, I let my mind consider what the real story might be behind the photo. Who was the sailor? The young woman? What was their story? And while my novel didn’t end up having anything to do with a sailor and his lover or their fated kiss, it did set my brain on an interesting trajectory of thinking about the 1940s, the war, interrupted love, second chances and more.”

One major part of the “more” was including the mystery/diary. It was simply where Sarah’s mind went with this story, though she admits: “I love books with a mysterious element, and I knew that to grab readers (and me, as I wrote) the book needed mystery to solve.”

And then the author added the final element of Bainbridge Island. It’s a special place for Sarah who grew up just a few miles away, over the bridge, in Poulsbo, Washington, and spent happy times on the shores of Bainbridge. Believing the island has a mystical, alluring quality, she knew it was the perfect setting for the novel.

And after watching this video you’ll likely agree.

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

Is the island beckoning, along with the praise?

Here’s a synopsis for The Violets of March:

A heartbroken woman stumbles 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.

Now for an Excerpt? Actually there is only a brief tease that can be found in The Debutante Ball’s February 17, 2011 post, Deb Sarah Shares a Love Letter from The Violets of March.

Sarah Jio’s natural talent is being able to infuse chemistry into her writing and her main character, Emily, is the most notable example. Although newly divorced, Emily is more shell-shocked than whiny and possesses enough common sense to realize that something has been missing in her life. In other words, though emotionally devastated, she comes across as an adult who knows healing must take place before moving forward. Also there’s not a “blame game” to wade through as Emily’s unfortunate circumstances rally her to leave the past behind by growing and challenging herself in new ways.

However the irony is that to leave her past behind Emily feels compelled to delve into the lives of those found within the diary’s pages. Were they real or fiction? If real, what happened to them? And are they connected to Emily and her family?

Readers are once again reminded of how much of the present is shaped by the past and how resolving such issues comes through reconciliation. Sarah further explains:

“Without giving away too much of the story, I, myself, am really fascinated with the concept of reconciliation. So many of us have people—friends, family, co-workers from the past—who we need to reconcile with to move forward and to bring peace to our lives. And I used the humble wood violets in the story as a symbol of reconciliation and redemption.”

Indeed, when the Bainbridge Island violets bloom out of season, their mystical presence is meant to heal. That is their power and that is the beauty this debut author captures in her tale. With only words, Sarah transports readers to this island of the past and the present that offers compelling hope for the future. Why? Because of the book’s message: Love is timeless.

Redbook magazine declares Violets “engrossing” and chooses as a must-read in their May issue!

This literary Fairy Godmother declares: I am not a true love story fan/reader, nor do I often cry. But Sarah Jio casts a spell in her novel (the only explanation) and The Violets of March not only captured my heart, I cried….for joy.

Now listen to the island calling you.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of The Violets of March by Sarah Jio in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Sarah Jio — From Journalist to Novelist

April 19, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Although there are some born storytellers who become novelists, most novelists come from varied backgrounds that have inspired their storytelling. In today’s guest post, debut author Sarah Jio shares how being a journalist has fueled her creativity with enough ideas to write one novel, The Violets of March (coming April 26, 2011), and more.]

From Journalist to Novelist

As my first book, The Violets of March, makes its way into the world, I’ll tell you, honestly, that I’m a ball of nerves: excited, happy, elated, nervous, anxious, hopeful, and the like. (And if you came over to my house right now, you’d see me pacing the floors (with a newborn baby in my arms!) and checking Amazon sales rankings and my Blackberry for email updates a little too frequently.) But I think the biggest emotion I feel today is a sense of joy. Not every person can say they love what they do for a living, and although the writing life isn’t a perfect career, it’s perfect for me, and I’m so grateful to be able to do what I love.

I’ve been writing for magazines for the majority of my career, and while I’ll probably continue forever (I’m a huge magazine junkie, and I love reporting on fun new topics for all the big newsstand glossies—Glamour, Real Simple, Redbook, Health, etc.), I’ve found a new home in fiction, and I plan (and hope) to stay a while. Fiction fulfills me in a way that no other writing work has. I have never felt more passionate, engaged, and challenged in my work as I have been when I sit down to write a story. I also love the freeing feeling of being able to make things up (believe me, after 12 years wearing a journalist hat, this is pretty cool!).

And, just like with magazines, the thing I also love most about fiction is the idea-development process. Nowadays, editors assign me the majority of my articles, but when I was just starting out, I was always coming up with new story ideas and pitching them constantly. And now, I find that all that work sharpening my brain to think creatively about story ideas has parlayed into successful book ideas. Consequently, I think of book ideas all the time, and I find it so much fun. (Just today, I got a great idea for a new book—in the shower!). While a lot of these ideas go nowhere, many have stuck. I’ve already written, and sold, my second book, THE BUNGLAOW, which will be published by Penguin (Plume) in April of 2012. And, I’m a quarter of the way through my third book, which I’m so ridiculously excited about, I can’t wait to tell you about it—and everyone else. As soon as I can, believe me, I’ll be shouting it out from the rooftops. This story has really grabbed onto my heart, and my hope is that it will have the same effect on readers.

But, today, I’m thinking about Violets. I’m sending it out into the world, and hopeful that it resonates with readers in the way it resonated with me as I wrote it. No matter what the future holds, I’m just so happy to be here at this place.

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Announcements: For those who have been wanting and waiting to read Holly LeCraw’s stunning debut novel, The Swimming Pool, it’s being released today in Trade Paperback. And for those who may have missed reading about this debut last year, here’s the presentation/review.

Also today Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA) debuts with Fourth Grade Fairy for ages 9 – 11.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Meg Waite Clayton and The Four Ms. Bradwells. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Sarah Jio

April 13, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Journalist and blogger Sarah Jio turns her attention to writing friction with the debut novel, The Violets of March coming April 26, 2011.

In an intriguing one sentence, the book is described: A heartbroken woman stumbles upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.

And the early Praise is impressive:

“Mix a love story, history, and a mystery and what takes root? THE VIOLETS OF MARCH, a novel that reminds us how the past comes back to haunt us, and packs a few great surprises for the reader along the way. “—Jodi Picoult, author of Sing You Home & House Rules

“The Violets of March is a captivating first bloom of a novel, with tangled roots, budding relationships and plenty of twists and turns. Sarah Jio is one talented writer!” —Claire Cook, bestselling author of Must Love Dogs and Seven Year Switch

“An enchanting story of love, betrayal, and the discovery of an old diary that mysteriously links the past to the present. The Violets of March is a delightful debut.” —Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Violets of March for Monday, April 25, 2011 but, in the meantime, lets meet the author through her “official” bio:

A Seattle-based writer and the health and fitness blogger for, Sarah has contributed to major magazines including O, The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, Cooking Light, Glamour, SELF, Real Simple, Redbook, Fitness, Marie Claire, Hallmark magazine, Seventeen, Health, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, The Seattle Times, and many others. She has also appeared as a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition. Sarah has a degree in journalism and writes about topics that include food, nutrition, health, entertaining, travel, diet/weight loss, beauty, fitness, shopping, psychology, and beyond. Sarah is married, with three little boys, and a rascally golden retriever named Paisley who steals socks.

And now for an upclose look at who Sarah IS:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Caffeinated. Chaotic. Creative. Happy. Hopeful. Fun. Healthy. Sleep-deprived.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Right now at this stage in my life juggling work with motherhood, it all boils down to ‘keep it simple.’ I have three little boys (2, 4 and an infant born weeks ago) and I’ve learned that keeping things simple directly correlates to my happiness level.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: A happy home filled with my healthy little boys. All I can ask for! And, I’d add to that: Something on the horizon (anything) to look forward to. I love thinking ahead to the next thing—keeps me going and engaged!

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: The death of one of my children (oh I’m getting weepy just thinking of it!). And, rodents!

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Right here at home in Seattle. I’m a homebody! But, next up: Paris, with my husband. I was there by myself in 2006 for a cooking class, and I kept thinking, ‘why am I here in the city of love without the man I love?!’

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: That’s a tough one, but I like to think I identify with other female authors from the past, especially those that began their writing careers by publishing magazine stories, like L.M. Montgomery, of the famed Anne of Green Gable series (a fave of mine!). I’ve been reading biographies of Montgomery and I see so much of myself in her early years—her curiosity and imagination, her love of getting stories published in magazines, her drive to write as a career and a hobby. She definitely had the same spark and fire for writing that I do. It would be so fun to go back in time to meet her—just not during the winter. The Prince Edward Island winters were unbelievably harsh! Oh, and I think if I’d been a young woman in the 1920’s I would have been a flapper all the way.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Too many to list. I could name dozens of public figures, but I’d say that when it comes right down to it, I admire my grandmother so much (VIOLETS is dedicated to her, Antoinette, and also my late maternal grandmother, Cecelia). She and my late grandfather, were huge supporters of my early “writing,” and encouraged me to keep at it.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Oh too many to count—and many of them are the made-up, baby-talk words my boys have coined over the years. Rent-raunch anyone? That would be “restaurant.”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Singing. I wish I could hold a tune. In another life, I’d like to be a jazz singer and pianist. I’m a huge fan of jazz—old and new.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: My three sons! Carson, Russell and Colby. And I have a Tiffany charm bracelet that my husband got me with each of their names on little charms. I feel proud every time I look at it—and them.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: My work-a-holic tendencies. This has fueled my career, but it’s also meant little rest/peace at times in my life. I’m working on finding more balance so I don’t work on weekends as much as I have in the past. My husband and boys are always nagging me to get out of my office and join them for family fun!

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Oh I feel like I’m giving myself a compliment here, which isn’t my intention, but I think I’m generally a very friendly person, and I hope that people feel a sense of warmth when in my presence. I probably don’t get it right all the time, but I tend to be like my dad: outgoing, talkative and—hopefully—outwardly focused. I think one of the best skills to hone is learning to be genuinely interested in others. It sounds so simple, but so many people struggle with this. My dad has it down, and I hope I’ve inherited the trait!

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Oh dear, this could easily become a confessional booth, but I’d bore you! At present, I have few major regrets (thank goodness for that!), but I do wish I didn’t get that Poodle-esq perm in the 5th grade. Good grief, what was I thinking?

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’d love to have the skills of a pastry chef. I’m a huge fan of cooking, and do fairly well with baking, but to be able to make fancy pastries? I would love to have those skills!

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Maybe my curiosity? I have a degree in journalism and have been writing for magazines for 10+ years, so I’m naturally driven to ask a lot of questions and get right to the heart of a matter.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Off the top of my head, probably Anne, of Anne of Green Gables (you have to love that spirited redhead!). I used to be such an Anne fan—I even had an Anne of Green Gables cookbook as a girl. True story.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Well, when I was a child, I was pretty fascinated by Cruella de Ville in “101 Dalmatians!” I also think that Nellie from “Little House on the Prairie” was a pretty terrific “mean girl.”

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I played tennis as a child and teen, and there was a time when I really and truly wanted to grow up to be just like Jennifer Capriati, the teen tennis sensation of the 80’s/90’s. I think it would be fun to meet her, though I’m not sure what I’d say—maybe I’d confess that she used to be my idol and that I also tried to style my hair like hers. Oh dear, the memories.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Wearing shoes in the home. We have a no-shoes policy in our house (as annoying as it is to some of my best pals—but they understand!)–I just can’t stand the idea of tracking in mud, dirt, germs and whatever was stepped on in the public restroom into the house! Yuck!

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Mothering! But sometimes it makes me really crazy, too. Like today, when my 2 year old dumped orange juice on his brother’s head.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Again, probably a jazz singer/pianist like Diana Krall (I’m a huge fan!). But I’d get stage fright and it would be a huge flop. Better stick with writing.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Integrity. Loyalty. Kindness.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Simple pasta dishes with lots of veggies and Parmesan!

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: So hard to answer this one, as I have so many, but I’ll share the five fave songs that were a huge part of my writing of THE VIOLETS OF MARCH—songs that inspired so many scenes:
*Toshiko by Jessica Williams (a gorgeous piano ballad which is also the backdrop to my book trailer!)
*Until (a song written by Sting, but I adore the versions by Connie Evingson and Stefon Harris)
*Where I Stood, by Missy Higgs (such a thought-provoking and gorgeous song)
*Body and Soul, by Billie Holiday (this song is a personal favorite and also one that was of great importance to the characters in my book)
*The Waters of March, by Susannah McCorkle (this song INSPIRED my book, which—a little history—was originally titled “The Waters of March,” but got a name change before publication!)

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The list is constantly evolving and changes with the seasons, but these ones definitely come to mind: “The Secret Garden” (such fond memories reading as a child!); “The Little House on the Prairie” series (I loved being in Laura’s world!) and the “Anne of Green Gables” books; Maeve Binchy’s books (too many to list—I love her magical story-telling); “Years of Grace” (the 1931 Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel that I read while working with my editor on THE VIOLETS OF MARCH); and most recently “Sarah’s Key,” a book that really moved me.

Talented, creative, and almost ready for anything, Sarah Jio is a debut author to follow on Twitter and become a friend/fan of on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Jael McHenry’s The Kitchen Daughter in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Jael McHenry and The Kitchen Daughter. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrows post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.