Author Spotlight: Courtney Miller Santo

The Roots of the Olive Tree PBToday, Courtney Miller Santo is back to reveal her #literarycrush and more! Be sure and check out the Interview with Courtney Santo (especially because there’s a chance to win a book!)


Author Spotlight: Courtney Miller Santo


Courtney- who are some of your favorite authors?

Right now, I am in love with Laura Lippman. She knows how to tell a great story and also manages to raise questions about identity and motherhood that always leave me a bit shaken.

What is a book (or books!) that you will always make room for on your bookshelf?

L.M. Montgomery is most known for her Anne of Green Gables series, but I actually am in love with a trilogy she did about a girl named Emily. I find that even today, I’ll dip back into those three books to give me a real sense of why I love books so much.

Do you have any #literaryconfessions? 

Even though I live in the cradle of William Faulkner land, I don’t particular enjoy his work. Every year or so, I’ll try to pick up another one of his books, but they don’t capture my attention in the way I think they are supposed to. I think of it as a classic, “it’s not you, it’s me,” relationship.

Do you have a #literarycrush? 

I’m still in love with Almanzo Wilder from the Little House books. I mean with a nickname like Manly, how can you go wrong?

If you could  be best friends with a character in a book, who would you pick? And why?

Bridget Jones! She takes herself too seriously in exactly the sort of way that lends itself to epic friendships.


*Special thanks to Courtney Miller Santo for agreeing to Author Spotlight!


Courtney Miller Santo-  is hard at work on revisions of her 2nd novel. For more information about Courtney, check her website, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter pages.




Interview with Courtney Miller Santo, author of The Roots of the Olive Tree

The Roots of the Olive Tree PBCourtney Miller Santo’s debut novel, The Roots of the Olive Tree, came to me through TLC Blog tours. I had not heard of the book before; but the description sounded like something I normally read. As I read, I found myself immersed in the life of these women- the secrets, the struggles, the questions, and much more.

After reading it, I knew I wanted to talk to Courtney more- and lucky for me (and my readers!) she agreed to an interview! Haven’t read The Roots of the Olive Tree? You’re in luck! There’s going to be a giveaway!


Interview with Courtney Miller Santo

Courtney, I read on your website that your most prized possession is a picture of the 5 generations of women in your family. Did that influence the story of The Roots of Olive Tree?

The novel, in many ways, is an exploration of the family dynamics I grew up with. I had the fortune of having a long line of matriarchs in my family and I’d never found a book that explored the dynamics that arise when you get to talk with your great-grandmother about what your grandmother was like as a teenager. The matriarch of the book, Anna, is a fictional version of my own great-grandmother, who I lost this last October at age 104. My most prized possession now is a video of my nine-year-old daughter playing piano with her great-great grandmother.


How long did it take you to write The Roots of the Olive Tree?

Two pregnancies—that is to say the initial version took about nine months and then I spent nine months in revision.


Are any of the characters based on people you know? Or figments of your imagination?

When I wrote the book, I started with a clear picture of Anna (who is based on Winifred Rodgers, my own great-grandmother) and Erin, who is a version of me when I was in my twenties. The women in-between all contain characteristics of women in my life who I didn’t understand. In the case of Bets, I tried to work out questions I had of who my mother was as a woman (as opposed to my Mom) but in creating these characters, they very much became their own selves. At times, I find myself having imaginary conversations with Callie and Anna about Deb.


In the book, Anna, longs to be the oldest living person, but she’s also superstitious about the research Dr. Hashmi wants to do. I found that so interesting and such a telling story of the ages- because I think if I lived as long as Anna- I would not want to know the why; but being Callie’s age- I would be very interested. How did you decide on that particular angle?

Dr. Hashmi added an outside perspective to the Keller woman and helped raise the issues around aging and longevity that I was interested in. You are exactly right that Anna is much more interested in myth and accepts her longevity as an expectation, but Callie is much more troubled by it—in part because she has had a near death experience and because her body is damaged. In writing the book, I found that the natural questions and dilemmas about aging that arose as I wrote were all byproducts of the characters themselves. Once I started writing Callie’s section, I understood her view on aging and how different it was from her grandmother’s.


The distance between mothers and daughters can be measured in secrets is on the cover of The Roots of The Olive Tree.  That statement is so true.  How did you come up with that statement? Are other readers of The Roots of Olive Tree finding truth in that statement?

That tagline came pretty late in the production of the book and is a product of a conversation I had with my sister about our mother. We were up late talking about all that we don’t know about our mothers and what we as mothers conceal from their own children. It occurred to me the next day that distance can be measured in secrets and it felt especially applicable to Roots of the Olive Tree and the Keller women. I find that readers respond well to the idea that there is a natural distance between mothers and daughters—that grows out of having to be a parent—and the more time we spend with our mothers as adults, the fewer secrets they hold onto.

Do you have a favorite character in The Roots of the Olive Tree?

That is a Sophie’s Choice question! For me, I think that Bets is the heart of the book because hers is the only story that is complete by the end of the book—the other women’s journeys are ongoing and I expect them to show up again—especially based on the stories they keep telling me when I’m driving the car or in the shower.

Would you like The Roots of the Olive Tree to be made into a movie? If so, do you have a dream cast?

I discovered some of my favorite books because I saw the movie first—so of course I’d love for Hollywood to take an interest in Roots (especially considering how few parts there are for women over the age of forty). As far as a dream cast goes, I’d love to see the powerhouse combination of Vanessa Redgrave as Anna and Helen Mirren as Bets. For Callie, I always pictured Cybill Shepherd (who grew up in Memphis where I now live) because she can play sexy at sixty. Deb is the hardest for me to dream cast because she has to have that hard edge and yet also embrace redemption. Melissa Leo would be amazing. And for Erin, I’d love to see another Memphis actress, Ginnifer Goodwin play her.

Courtney- do you have a writing space? Or a writing routine?

I am a creature of routine! I try to write in the mornings for at least two hours—and preferably three. However my work space is always changing—especially since I just moved. Most of this book was written on my living room couch and the next one has been written in my office (which is literally a cement box with no windows. I can hear when it rains, but I can’t see it).

Are you working on another book? If so, can you give some hints at to what it will be about?

I am in the process of final revision on the next book. It deals with the troubles of three cousins (who just happen to be related to Bets). They come to Memphis to try and save a family house, which was built out of spite instead of necessity. There is this amazing tradition of building houses to make someone else angry or just to prove you could. One of them, in Virginia, was built in an alleyway because the owner didn’t like all the buggy traffic going through, another owner who had a view of the beach, had an addition built specifically to block his neighbor’s view. In the case of these cousins, the house was built on an odd plot of land that overlooks the Mississippi.


Courtney Miller SantoCourtney Miller Santo is hard at work on revision of her 2nd novel. To connect with Courtney, visit her website, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter pages. If you enjoyed, The Roots of the Olive Tree, let Courtney know (and consider posting a review to Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble).



*Giveaway: One lucky winner will score a copy of The Roots of the Olive Tree. To enter, comment on this post and include your email (you may use the AT and DOT). Giveaway is open to US only (sorry!) Giveaway is open from August 12- August 19 at 11:59pm EST. Winner will be announced August 20th.


To read Traveling With T’s review of The Roots of the Olive Tree, visit here.



The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo (TLC Book Tour 6)

tlc tour host

Courtney Miller Santo

Photo credit: TLC Book Tours

Courtney Miller Santo, author of The Roots of the Olive Tree confesses that she knows too much about Saved by the Bell, has read Gone With the Wind 12 times and that Anna Karenina is her favorite book. To find out more about Courtney Miller Santo, visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages. To read an excerpt of The Roots of the Olive Tree, visit here. Courtney’s most prized possession is a picture of the 5 generations of women in her own family.

The Roots of the Olive Tree


Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: William Morrow

Purchase: Amazon, IndieBound, Barnes and Noble

Source: TLC Books

The Roots of the Olive Tree PB

Photo credit: TLC Book Tours

The Roots of the Olive Tree is a tale of 5 generations of women in the Keller family- Anna, Bets, Callie, Deb, and Erin. Anna is the 2nd oldest person in the world- and she longs to be the oldest person in the world.

Callie is interested in finding out if the Keller family has a special gene or something of that nature that leads to a longevity of life. When she finds out about Dr.Hashmi and his study with genetics- she contacts him and he agrees to come study the Keller women. While Callie is excited about this, some of the other Keller women do not share her enthusiasm.

The Keller women, like many generational families, have secrets. Some of the secrets are a deep as the roots of a tree- anchored in the ground, and not willing to be revealed without a lot of work.

Each chapter in the book is titled with a name, the town or a word that relates to the tone of the chapter.  Courtney Miller Santo weaves together family secrets, interesting characters, love, generational stories, and much more to create The Roots of the Olive Tree.

Traveling With T’s Thoughts:

The description of The Roots of the Olive Tree sounds like a book that is the kind of book I like to lose myself in. Family drama, secrets, a tale of generational women and a beautiful setting in California- what is there not to like? The Roots of the Olive Tree is good- it’s interesting, the characters are characters you want to know more about- although at times, the characters can be unlikeable- but like any family, that is true. Overall, from beginning to end- the good outweighs any negative- and I think The Roots of the Olive Tree  will satisfy most readers.