Our guest today: Sarah Jio Why we love her: Not only do we love all her novels, she's really cute. And nice. And funny too! (Girl crush alert!)
Her latest: The Last Camellia
The Scoop: On the eve of the Second World War, the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink lies secreted away on an English country estate. Flora, an amateur American botanist, is contracted by an international ring of flower thieves to infiltrate the household and acquire the coveted bloom. Her search is at once brightened by new love and threatened by her discovery of a series of ghastly crimes. More than half a century later, garden designer Addison takes up residence at the manor, now owned by the family of her husband, Rex. The couple’s shared passion for mysteries is fueled by the enchanting camellia orchard and an old gardener’s notebook. Yet its pages hint at dark acts ingeniously concealed. If the danger that Flora once faced remains very much alive, will Addison share her fate?
Our thoughts: Loved it. Our fave so far! This is a perfect gift for a friend, or better yet, to yourself!
Giveaway: One SIGNED copy. Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win. We'll choose the winners on June 2nd after 3pm PST.
Fun fact: Sarah's last novel, Blackberry Winter, hit the New York Times bestseller list!
CHICK LIT IS NOT DEAD PRESENTS...SARAH JIO'S 5 FIRSTS AND LASTS
First: His name was Andrew. I was in 8th grade. He asked me to a movie, and the only way I was able to go, was because I convinced my parents it was a group thing (true, sort of). But it was a date. My first date. And it would also be my first kiss (a girl just has a hunch about these things). This frightened me. Andrew kept his eyes on me during the entire movie. I could feel his gaze on my cheek, burning into me like a laser beam, and I just kept eating red licorice because, basically, I was afraid of what might happen if I didn't. I mean, how does one kiss a boy?? At some point during the movie, Andrew whispered, "you sure like licorice, don't you?" (Romantic, I know.) When I couldn't stomach any more licorice, he made his move. The kiss was … a little disappointing. He had braces. I had a stomachache. Basically, it cured me of boys for a few months.
Last: Tonight! My four-year-old son, Russell, just ran into my office and said, "mama, I'd like to give you a double kiss!" It ended up being a kiss on the cheek and a kiss on the nose. Russell kisses are the best!
RISK YOU TOOK:
First: Around the age of 7, inspired by an episode of the Smurfs (of course), I tied a pillowcase onto a stick and packed it with all the essentials (bubble gum, stuffed animals) and proceeded to "run away". I made it about three blocks away from home before turning back, when I realized that this was not my smartest move.
Last: Going nanny-less! I have three boys, six and under. Life is wild here, and I have a LOT of writing deadlines. Obviously, I need childcare help, right? We experimented with babysitters and nannies for a while, but honestly, it just wasn't working for me. I tried to work outside the home, but I missed my boys. Then, in my home office, I'd hear them crying outside my door. After many months of trying to make it work with a nanny, I decided to take a huge risk and just be on duty all day, every day. That's right: Zilch childcare. I write two books a year for Penguin, so this is mildly insane, I know. But it's working. I'm mom by day (with an occasional chapter or two or magazine article written during nap hour) and then writer by night. I usually have a glass of wine with my husband, after kids are in bed (we believe in early bedtimes here), and then it's writing time! I actually look forward to this after long days doing art projects, playing legos and changing diapers. In short: What I've realized is that no one solution works for every mother. I'd love to be the type of person who could make the nanny thing work, but I'm not. (At least not right now.) I am much happier when I can be mom during the day, and writer at night. They are only young once, and my job is flexible enough to make this work. Semi-work. (Which doesn't mean I am not tired and grumpy, or that the house is sparkling clean—it's not.) I don't always have the perfect balance, but it's working now. Sort of. But, believe me, I'm looking forward to 2016—the year that all of my boys will be in full-time school and I will once again work like a regular person!
BOOK YOU READ:
First: Oh goodness, I don't remember the exact book (though I wish I did!). But, I'll tell you about a book I read as a child that I am on the hunt to find—to this day. Every week, my mom would take us to the library, and I remember checking out a series of early reader books, the first of which was titled something like "Primrose Patty." This is only the memory of my 8 year-year-old self (aka, unreliable), and as a result, I have not been able to find the book, which I assume is out of print. But, I remember LOVING these books as a girl. I adored the flower connection, and the primroses, and honestly, I think I will do something with primroses in a future novel because of this book! It left an imprint on my brain.
Last: I just picked up a copy of Christina Baker Kline's ORPHAN TRAIN, and if my kids will let me, I hope to finish this weekend.
HELL YA! MOMENT
First: (Can I just say, this is such a fun category!) OK, my first hell ya moment was cutting off my very long dirty blond hair to a short pixie and dying it platinum blonde. I know! I did this when I was 16. I paid for the cut and color at a fancy salon (not cheap) with my babysitting money. When I came home, my parents' jaws dropped. And I got equal reactions the next day at school. But I loved that I did this. I loved that I could be bold enough to make such a dramatic change and own it. Honestly, looking back, short hair wasn't my BEST look, but I'm proud that I had the guts to do it. (And of course, it was right after a breakup with a boy!)
Last: Running my first 10K! I love to run, but I'm not a competitive or a particularly long-distance racer. (Read: I won't be running a marathon anytime soon, and am happiest keeping my 4-times-weekly jogs to about 2-3 miles: bliss.) But I signed up for a 10K with my dad last year, and I although it kicked my butt, I finished (without passing out). I felt pretty awesome for weeks later. I thought about running a half-marathon for about 2.5 seconds, but then came to my senses.
First: I probably had plenty of aha moments prior to this date, but one of the most transformative moments for me came after college when a close friendship of mine crumbled into a million ugly pieces. While my life was going well, this friend could not be happy for my successes (a new husband, new house, new job, etc.). She was there for me when I was down, but she couldn't be happy for me when I was … happy. What I took from this experience is a reminder that it's surprising easy to be there for someone who is in a difficult place (in other words, "my life is fine, but I can pat the back of someone who is going through a rough time), and yet it is much harder to cheer for someone who is achieving her dreams. True friendship transcends all of that. Look back on the history of your friendships and it's likely that the truest friend are the ones who could be happy for you when you were experiencing your greatest successes. I think it's a test of character, and friendship, to watch a pal experience crazy success/dreams-come-true and still cheer for her even when things aren't so peachy in your own life. If you have a friend like this in your own life, or you are one, xoxoxo.
Last: I have what I call a blessing and a curse: an overabundance of novel ideas. (I writer friend of mine calls this a chronic disease, and I agree!) I've learned over the years, in my sea of new ideas, to only stick with the ones that keep me up at night and haunt me by day. The theory here is that if a novel-in-progress can't excite me, as the writer, I can't expect it to do the same for a reader. Sometimes I'll get to chapter three, four or six before I realize that it's just not working. And, though it's painful, I'll ditch the work-in-progress. My rule-of-thumb is to only continue on with projects that I'm 100 percent into. Obviously, no project will be exciting all the time (after all, writing is work), but if, after a bit of time, it fails to grab me, I'm done. Onto the next idea!