Finding Healing Through Words: Olivia Wilder, Author of ‘To Pick a Violet

Discover the empowering journey of Olivia Wilder, author of “To Pick a Violet,” as she shares her personal story of resilience, postpartum anxiety, and finding healing through writing. Olivia’s initial inspiration for her book came during her teenage years, but it wasn’t until facing her own struggles with postpartum anxiety and PTSD that the story truly came to life. Through late-night writing sessions and embracing imperfection, Olivia crafted a narrative filled with bravery, healing, and the magic of overcoming internal battles. Join us as Olivia dives into the themes of her book, offers advice to others facing similar challenges, and shares her plans for future literary adventures.

What inspired you to start writing “To Pick a Violet”?

The basic plot for To Pick a Violet came to me when I was 18, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Despite this, it just seemed flat, there wasn’t a “why” that was answered by the end of the storyline I had in mind. Sure, it was fun and an adventure, but I am the type that I needed there to be some type of message or meaning to it by the end, and I just couldn’t find something that resonated with me. 

After giving birth to my son, I found myself deep within the trenches of postpartum anxiety and PTSD from a difficult delivery. I revisited this story that had bounced around in my head for just under a decade and began writing it on my phone during nighttime nursing sessions and naptimes as a way to process my thoughts and pass the time. I never truly meant for it to become a published book, but by the end it was a story I believed in and knew I had to share with the world. 

Could you share more about your personal story and how it influenced the themes in your book? 

I found out I was expecting my son when I was 24 years old and was absolutely thrilled to be welcoming him into our family. My husband was deployed throughout the majority of my pregnancy and to ensure that my husband would be able to be there for the birth of our first child, I was scheduled to be induced. My induction was a long and arduous process, but again I was more excited to meet my son than I was bothered by the discomfort. When it came time to begin pushing I began to feel like something was wrong. 

I became overwhelmed with the feeling that I was going to die. I was heartbroken by the thought that I would not see my son take his first steps or hear his first words. After he was placed on my chest I began to notice that he was not crying and had begun to grow dark in color. I alerted the nurses and they took him away from me to a corner. I remember looking at my hand that had held him and it was covered in blood, dripping with it. My son had his umbilical cord around his neck when he was born, but fortunately, the nurses were able to help him take his first breaths fairly easily. 

While the nurses were caring for my son and then allowing my husband to hold him, another nurse and my doctor was tending to me. I had began hemorrhaging after delivery. and I was becoming more and more fatigued by the second. Holding my eyes open was a chore, but despite not being told what was happening, I continued to feel that if I closed my eyes I would not open them again. I fought with every ounce of energy I had to hold my eyes open and stay present with my son and family.

After receiving a shot and internal fundal massage, the doctor was able to stop my bleeding. Because my hemorrhage and tearing I had a difficult recovery, and my husband had to return to his deployment a mere three weeks after my son was born. Alone with my child and still recovering I became increasingly overwhelmed by fear of something happening to me or my child outside my control. 

I would later attend therapy where they helped me realize that my trauma and experience with my son had contributed to my postpartum PTSD/anxiety.

To help process these fears and the trauma of what happened I began writing about this kind-hearted princess who had experienced her own trauma and was overwhelmed by her fears. She wasn’t a conventionally strong character, but because she faced her fears and continued in the face of them she was brave. It helped me to feel less alone in my own struggles and to see my own bravery through the character when I felt anything but brave. 

How did you navigate postpartum anxiety and PTSD while juggling motherhood and writing?

In truth, in the beginning, I didn’t have a choice but to keep going. My husband was deployed and there was this tiny human that needed me for everything. I didn’t have time to do anything but to keep taking a step forward day by day. Writing during my son’s naptimes and during those late-night nursing sessions gave me time to think adult thoughts and process those scary feelings in a way that was safe. Writing wasn’t always done in the “ideal” environment, often it was done in the darkness on my cell phone. As a new mom and a working mom, I took whatever seconds of opportunity that came to me, even if it didn’t look like the typical author in the moment. But through letting go of those perfections and giving myself the chance to write for the enjoyment of it and not for the perfect standard, I was able to create this beautiful story that I believed in and that I was proud to publish.

What role did healing and plant magic play in shaping the narrative of your book?

If you think of plant and healing magic, they are both gifts that are nurturing in their essence. My main character’s strength is not found in her ability to use her gifts in a violent fashion, but the ability to heal and bring hope. To Pick a Violet is a story about a prince and princess coming together to end a century-long war, but it’s also an internal journey of my character – taking her own struggles, fears, and traumas and overcoming them. 

What advice would you give to other women dealing with similar struggles?

First and foremost, do not for a second feel ashamed. This is not your fault and most importantly of all, it is curable with help. You can get better and will feel okay again. If you have a loved one that you feel you can trust, start by sharing with them. If not, or if you are more comfortable, I would highly recommend visiting Postpartum Support International. They have helplines, support groups, and organized resources to find local help to you. 

How has writing served as a form of healing for you?

Writing gave me a conduit to process those feelings in a way that was safe and to feel less alone in my struggles. It was easier to see my character’s strengths than my own while I was in the middle of my struggles, and completing the book gave me a tangible sense of victory over my own struggles as well. 

Can you discuss the significance of bravery in your story and its connection to your own experiences?

Often in fiction and in particular in fantasy novels, the female characters are delegated to two archetypes. They are either a warrior that is sharp-witted and selflessly brave or they are pushovers. I found that I didn’t particularly identify with either of those. Much like my own character, I am not one that delights in violence or in being a “warrior” – I don’t have this fearless approach and dislike conflict, but I am also not one to sit idly by while others are suffering. My main character Violet’s strength is not seen in her fighting abilities but in her persistence in the face of difficulty. Despite facing horrendous trauma and circumstances she continues to be kind and remains true to herself. To me that grit is just as brave as being the hero on the battlefield. 

What challenges did you face while writing and how did you overcome them?

As a mom who also works from home, my time is constantly pulled to other matters. There is a never-ending list of things that need my attention on any given day. I simply did not have the time to sit at my computer and write this book or better yet to visit a library or coffee shop to write it. Instead, I wrote what I would estimate as 80% from my cell phone. The majority of it was in the wee morning hours while nursing my son or during naps when I couldn’t put him down. Often these writing sessions may only last five minutes, but they slowly built the 115,000+ word story that became To Pick a Violet. 

How do you hope your book will resonate with readers, especially those dealing with trauma or mental health issues?

My wish for readers is that they too can see their own strength through Violet. I have found so often that I can be my worst critic and far harsher on myself than I would ever be on others. By taking a character that struggles with mental health issues and having her still be brave and still be the hero, I hope that allows readers to see that they are also worth celebrating. I like to say that the soft-hearted princess with healing magic helped heal my soul and I would like nothing more than for readers to have that same experience. 

What motivated you to share your story publicly and through social media?

One of the things that delayed me seeking treatment was the fear of how others would perceive me. I loved my son more than anyone on this Earth and would do anything for him, but I was terrified that when I sought treatment he would be taken from me or that I would be seen as an unfit mother. Mental health, and especially that of a mother, still has a stigma to it. As mothers, you are told these are the best days of your life and you almost feel guilty for being so overcome with fear and anxiety when you are “living your dream” of being a mother. To me, it was important to share so others feel less alone. 

In my instance, I also thought it was important to share my story because I did not initially recognize my own struggles. When you hear of postpartum struggles usually it revolves around postpartum depression. Because I did not struggle with thoughts of harming myself or my child I falsely thought that I was not struggling with my mental health or that I didn’t need help. When in reality my brain was forcing me to relive the trauma of my near-death experience and my fear of my child’s near-death experience in a variety of ways. Essentially I had almost died and lost my child. To prevent that from ever happening again my brain would show me graphic and horrible things that “could” happen so I could protect us both from them. These instances would be so graphic and alarming that my heart rate would spike – making me dizzy with dread and I would often have to shake my head to physically clear away the image. Therapy was a wonderful tool in helping me cope and dismiss these images. 

How do you balance being an author, a mother, and running a business?

One of the things that I had to embrace early on is that I can’t do all the things all the time. There simply is not enough time in the day for me to check off all my boxes. With that in mind, I have been very intentional about shifting my workload. There are days or even weeks that I don’t write a single word on my book, because I am focused solely on being a mother or being a business owner. Likewise, there are days that I don’t work on my business. I work at any opportunity that I have (often still during naps or late into the night), but I also work ahead and try to stay ahead so that I can allow more time to do the things I need. I feel like spreading out what and how I work allows me to stay fresh and not experience burnout by doing everything all the time. Ultimately my child always comes first. If that means I take him to the playground during the day and stay up an extra couple of hours at night, then that’s what I do. It’s not always easy, but for me it’s worth it because it’s also not something I will do forever. As he gets older, it’s also become easier to balance the demands. 

What lessons have you learned throughout your journey as a writer and entrepreneur?

Believing in yourself and your vision is the most important thing you can do for yourself. You have to have a “why” to what you do. If it’s just to make money you will burn out fast and become quickly disappointed. I am passionate about my story because I poured so much of my soul and heart into the plotline. I know it is not the best book ever written nor do I think that I am the best writer out there, but I have passion behind it and it’s a story I believe in. Likewise, when you believe in your business and bring that passion to it, others can see it too and they’ll want to be part of it because of the humanity behind it. 

Could you share a memorable moment or feedback from a reader that touched you?

Hearing that people connect with my story in general has been such a surreal experience. I’ve loved hearing from nurses that say they can relate to my character as a healer that “gives to the point of being empty” for all of her patients. My mother and my dear friend are both nurses so they were a big inspiration to that facet of my character. I have also had a reader who shared that they have also struggled with their mental health and that seeing Violet face it bravely despite her fear was empowering to them. At the end of the day that is perhaps my greatest hope of all for this book, that it shows someone like me or Violet or this reader that they’re not alone and in the words of my character, that “You are stronger than your fears.”

What are your future plans or projects in the literary or business realm?

So many! I am currently writing two books within the same realm of To Pick a Violet. One is of course the continuation of her story, which I am very excited about as she has experienced so much character growth. Truly writing it feels like coming home at the end of a long day. Simultaneously, I am also writing a novella/prequel to To Pick a Violet that will feature some familiar characters and introduce some new ones for readers to fall in love with. Ultimately I look forward to connecting with more readers and continuing on this writing journey. I have wanted to be an author even before I knew the word for it, and it’s a dream I am so excited to be able to live. 

Lastly, how can readers connect with you and stay updated on your work?

I am most active on TikTok! Though I am on InstagramThreads, and Facebook as well. Most of my accounts are under the username OliviaWilderWrites while my Facebook is Author Olivia Wilder. 

by Harness Editor

Harness believes that freedom of expression equals female empowerment. The truth? We’re a badass authentic community of fierce women, and we exist to help your voice be heard. Harness is here to be your safe haven. A place to shed the competition, the insecurities. This is a place to rise by lifting others. This is who we are.


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