In 2011, Sarah Jio burst onto the fiction scene with two sensational novels—The Violets of March and The Bungalow. WithBlackberry Winter—taking its title from a late–season, cold–weather phenomenon—Jio continues her rich exploration of the ways personal connections can transcend the boundaries of time.
Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three–year–old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night–shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May–Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face–down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator’s.
Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 ”blackberry winter” storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways…
Sarah Jio is a frequent contributor to major magazines, including Real Simple, Glamour, Cooking Light,and Redbook, and is also the health and fitness blogger for Glamour.com. She lives in Seattle with her family.Sarah Jio is a frequent contributor to major magazines, including Real Simple, Glamour, Cooking Light, and Redbook, and is also the health and fitness blogger for Glamour.com. She lives in Seattle with her family.
Q. Emily and Bee from The Violets of March make an appearance in Blackberry Winter. Is it fun for you to circle back to old stories that way? Will we see Claire and Ethan again some day?
Yes! I love plucking characters from previous books and giving them little cameos in future novels. As a reader, I think it’s such a treat when my favorite authors do this, and I get a kick out of it as an author. While my novels are not related or sequential, I do like to think that the worlds in which my characters exist overlap a bit.
Q. You mention in your author’s note that a song by Hilary Kole was your inspiration for the book’s title and for the two blizzards that set the scene in the opening pages. Were there any other inspirations behind the Vera and Claire’s stories?
No particular inspiration for Vera and Claire-they really just came to me so vividly. For both of them, I really dug deep into the emotions of motherhood, and tried to think about how I’d feel if I lost a child. How would it change me? I have to admit, writing this book was quite an emotional journey for me. As a result, this story will always have a very special place in my heart.
Q. You’re a mother yourself. Was it difficult for you to write the scenes depicting Vera’s anguish over her son’s disappearance? Did you find yourself imagining what you might do in the same situation?
Yes, believe it or not I actually cried a bit when I wrote this book (as cheesy as that may sound!). Picture me at my desk typing away with a box of Kleenex at the ready. That was my reality as I delved into the emotions that surrounded Claire and Vera’s personal heartache. Most heart–wrenching for me to write about was the scene in which Vera’s son’s teddy bear is found lying in the snow. My sons are all stuffed animal lovers, and that scene still breaks my heart-even though I wrote it!
Q. What are you working on now?
I’m hard at work on finishing up my fourth novel, The Last Camellia, which will be published by Penguin (Plume) on May 28, 2013. It’s a suspenseful, page–turner that combines a bit of history, mystery, and a sprinkling of romance.