The Story Behind The Story – Sarah Jio on Blackberry Winter

Today’s post by the wonderful Sarah Jio | @SarahJio

Sarah Jio

Hi She Reads friends! I’m so honored to be back with the publication of my new novel, BLACKBERRY WINTER! This novel is tremendously special to me and as  I shared in the author’s note in the back of the book, this was a story that really reached out and grabbed me. After hearing a beautiful song on the radio called “Blackberry Winter,” I immediately researched the phrase and lean red that it’s  old-fashioned weather jargon for a late-season cold snap–think of plunging temperatures and snowfall in May, just when the delicate white flowers are beginning to appear on the blackberry vines. Before I knew it, I was sketching  out the concept for this novel. The story came to me quickly and vividly: Vera and Daniel and the little apartment they shared in the 1930s; his beloved teddy bear, lying face-down in the cold snow; Claire and her curious reporter’s mind and her own deep pain and grief; snowflakes falling on the spring cherry blossoms.

For the next many months, I lived and breathed Blackberry Winter. At the heart of this story, for me, were the raw emotions of motherhood. I began writing the novel when I was pregnant with my third son, and I channeled Vera and Claire’s pain and often-heartbreaking experiences. I thought a lot about how it would feel to lose a child, and what I would do.

Then, in a heartbreaking turn of events, shortly before I finished the book, one of my dearest friends, Wendi, lost her two-year-old son to a rare form of brain cancer. It broke my heart to watch her say goodbye to her precious boy, and I wept with her on the phone as she held her son against her chest in the final hours of his life. But, I also saw her strength, and the light in her eye–the one that told me how thankful she is to have been the mother of this beautiful child, and how excited she is to know, with certainty, that she’ll be seeing him again, in heaven. Wendi reminds me, always, that motherhood–life–no matter how short, is a gift.

While my characters’ challenges are great and their stories tragic, like my dear friend, I like to think that they found their own sense of peace and truth–swirling in a late-season snowstorm and hidden amongst the protective thorns of the blackberry vines.

Thank you for reading.

BLACKBERRY WINTER is our October book club selection. Click here to learn more about the novel and to enter this month’s giveaways.

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About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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2 Responses to The Story Behind The Story – Sarah Jio on Blackberry Winter

  1. bookmagnet October 3, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks for sharing this, Sarah! I always love reading how a book idea forms. Loved your new book.

  2. Hallie Sawyer (@Hallie_Sawyer) October 3, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    Got my copy in the mail today and can’t wait to get started! I can’t imagine life without my children and I’m sure this story means so much to you because of Wendi. Thank you for sharing the backstory.

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