It’s been a busy busy past couple of weeks for writing, as well as life in general. The kids got out of school three weeks ago, and we’ve had a new nanny start. The dog got his cast off (poor Oliver).
Obligatory cute dog pic!
And I’ve been floundering with my new work. I am editing Call Me Elizabeth Lark, and with those edits getting closer to completion, I want to start a New Thing. It hasn’t yet percolated in my mind.
Here’s the great news!
I won a scholarship for my senior year at BSU for one of my short stories. That Night on the Bayou has a cover! AND it’s up for preorder. If you order directly from the publisher now, you receive 15% off, using the promo code PREORDER2019.
Here’s my lovely cover:
Also, my Goodreads Author page is up! Please head over and list That Night on the Bayou as Want to Read. Also, if you received an ARC, I would love it if you’d review!
I do have some VERY limited ARCs remaining. So if you’d like an eARC in exchange for an honest review, please fill out the contact form.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Hugg, author of The Forgetting Flower. This gorgeous book is to be released June 18th, 2019. She was so kind to answer some of my questions about writing while parenting, her process, and her inspiration for The Forgetting Flower.
THE FORGETTING FLOWER is so atmospheric and has this incredibly unique premise. How long did it take you to write the novel and what is your process? Are you a plotter or a pantser, a planster?
Thank you! The premise was an outgrowth of my work as a gardener. I often advised clients on which fragrant plants to use for their gardens. Then I started thinking about how interesting it would be if a plant existed whose fragrance would be dangerous to smell. What would that situation be and who might grow it? The story snowballed from there.
Writing it was a long process! I drafted the novel in late 2016. Then I revised in the spring of 2017, queried a bit, worked with a book editor that summer and revised again. In fall, 2017, I gave it to beta readers and revised based on their feedback that winter. Then I queried during 2018. Just when I was about to hire a different book editor that fall, I landed a contract with Magnolia Press.
I’m definitely a plotter. I worked as a garden designer for 15 years so having a cohesive plan before I dive into the actual work of anything is in my nature. That’s not to say there are no new discoveries because there always are but I like to know where I’m going when I’m writing a story.
Along those lines, do you have specific writing goals, such as a set time you write or a word count goal? We are both moms, and I know how difficult this is! What time of day do you feel most productive?
I’ve found during the drafting stages that I take advantage of every hour I can when the kids are at school. I never have a word count goal because if you write quickly and the words don’t work, you’ll throw them away anyway.
When I’m revising, I’m more flexible, working on chunks here and there, mostly in the mornings and some in the afternoons. Now that my kids are older and more independent, I can luckily continue concentrating even after they come home from school. They actually do homework independently in their rooms. But if you’re a mom and you can’t write for weeks, don’t worry. You’ll come back around to it and if you don’t, that’s okay too.
In his awesome book about writing and creativity, Booklife, Jeff Vandermeer talks about doing social media and more active things in the afternoons, after he does creative work. I love this idea and I’ve tried to adopt this approach.
I know that plants are a huge inspiration for your writing. Is there anything else that leads you toward specific themes?
I’m not often that conscious of specific themes but they do come out subconsciously, don’t they? For instance, in the blurbs and reviews for The Forgetting Flower, readers mentioned poverty and class divisions. I didn’t realize I was writing about that. I always thought I was writing about people in fancy Paris but later realized I was actually writing about people who don’thave money in fancy Paris. I think it stems from my working class, Polish background.
I do realize the book’s overarching theme was our need as humans to seek a better life. I moved west from Chicago to Seattle as a young adult and it changed my life (for the better!). The idea of migration and people living in places where they weren’t born or grew up interests me. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so interested in Paris. It has a lot of what we think of as traditionally French people but then there are newer French people, transplanted families from Vietnam and Africa and other parts of the world.
Are you working on or thinking about something new?
Right now, I’m in the final stages of the next book in this trilogy. It’s called Harvesting the Skyand about Andre, the botanist who Renia contacts in The Forgetting Flower. It’s his story of finding a medicinal apple tree in Kazakhstan and trying to propagate it in Paris. But someone keeps trying to break into his greenhouse and destroy his work and he can’t figure out who or why. Renia appears in the story but it’s really Andre’s journey. Then the final book in the trilogy will focus on the two of them and a new botanical oddity.
Any advice to new querying writers?
Make sure your manuscript is as finished as possible before trying to share it with the world. And don’t take rejections too personally. Agents and editors are busy. If you’re getting rejections, keep improving the work or move on to a new piece. Hire a book editor, a person you click with. Ask for feedback from fellow writers. Be as open as possible. Try to make your art better. Hang in there. Sooner or later, someone will recognize it.
Preorder the book today!
Technically, THAT NIGHT ON THE BAYOU was written before THE WEAVER, but who’s counting?
The novel is about a cast of characters in tiny Cypress, Louisiana, and how they deal with a murder of a sex worker that occurred years before. Patsy Bundy has had visions of ghosts down at the her childhood hangout on the swamp since she was six. Town legend has it Patsy is a witch, to the mortification of her town debutante mother. Her father has a shrimping business to consider, too. Patsy’s fierce defiance of her father’s conservative Southern values causes friction for everyone. She flees town after high school graduation to go to college in Boston.
Seven years later, the murderer, Archibald Parson, is up for parole, and Patsy pieces together his identity. She comes back to town to try and prevent his release, and navigates the complex relationship she has with her parents. Through the process, she must begin to understand her privilege through class and race relations. For all her wisdom, there is much she doesn’t know. Will her visions ultimately lead to the truth? Or will she naively trample through the family of the victim’s privacy?
When I started the book over two years ago, I knew that I would include this murder, that it would have paranormal elements, yet it really isn’t a murder mystery. It’s a story about family, feminism, friendship, and ultimately, love.
I am so excited about this book! My release date is set for November 27, 2019! I am seeking book bloggers and reviewers. If you’d like to get on the list for a free advanced release copy in exchange for an honest review, please fill out the contact form below.
I just finished my fourth novel about a month or so ago, and I’m working on the first round of revisions. CALL ME ELIZABETH LARK is about a woman who shows up at a grieving family’s inn, and drawn into a grieving mother’s desperation, takes on the identity of the family’s long missing daughter. Located in a rural town on the Oregon coast, the inn is legendary to tourists and locals alike. Finding herself caught in this dysfunctional family’s issues, Elizabeth brings along her own set of problems– namely, the abusive husband that kept her captive in a remote Washington cabin for years. Everyone has a secret, and all of them are dangerous. And Elizabeth’s arrival is the catalyst for it all to spill out. CALL ME ELIZABETH LARK is a novel about identity, the complexity of family, and a marriage that may buckle under a layer of secrets.
This one has a complicated plot and cast of characters, so I’ll be working on it for a while.
Meanwhile, I should be starting the process of developmental edits for THE WEAVER for Magnolia Press here soon, which is very exciting!
I recently wrote my first historical fiction piece, a short story, that I’ll start submitting to journals in the near future.
On top of all this writing, my family and I are moving in two weeks and I’m taking a full course load at BSU.
AND I will have a writing/ revising buddy here in two weeks. Oliver, our new Havanese puppy, is joining out family!
Dear Memphis and Harriet; Patsy and Ruth; Elizabeth, Myra and Gwen…
The women who star in my novels carry bits of my heart. Each one of you contains a part of me that could be worse or better if dramatized and flavored with other characteristics. and set in some other life. Patsy, I think I gave you a little bit of my badassery, except you are braver than I. (Who burns a Confederate flag at a swamp?) And Memphis, you’re quirky and existential, and maybe I have a hint of that, but I’m no magic weaver on a farm. Gwen, you’re vicious when you’re hurt. I can be, too, except I’m not brave enough to be so hilariously horrid. Ruth, you are the best friend I can imagine, a mentor and mother figure, and you’re quirky and crazy and dammit, you know people. Myra, you know loss, and I put you through more of it, just to see how much you could take. And Elizabeth, well, you search for identity like we all do, except few of us accidentally-on purpose- become an imposter.
Dear characters, you saved my life. After the 2016 election, I was gutted. Anorexia hit harder than ever, and I knew- god I have always known- that I needed something else if I had any hope of recovery. When I began my first terrible, melodramatic novel about the political disaster my country was (and is) experiencing, I was damned close to death. I couldn’t sit still. My labs showed kidney damage. I was severely underweight. When I finished the novel, I came up with the idea to go back to college. I discovered the deepest friendships in my own imagination.
Before I practiced craft and developed the authorly control to carry a story to novel length, I created characters. These characters changed my life.
I think about this as THE WEAVER is going to debut, and what it will be like when it’s out in the wild. And hopefully CALL ME ELIZABETH LARK will find a home. I am still madly, truly and deeply in love with the shelved novel, THAT NIGHT ON THE BAYOU. It needs something. I just need to percolate over what. A novel in short stories? Maybe. I’ve always wanted to do that!
I write creepy stories with a murder or a twist here or there, and I love atmosphere. But my novels come back to one theme, every time– women coming together to help each other.
So, this one’s for the characters in my books, especially the women.
eyes crawl down her neck
nestled in thick patches of forest
he is an owl
talons curled into a branch
the owl spreads watches with luminous eyes that cut
through the inky night
and she is
leaving leaving leaving
the flick of a match
cold and bright and the smell
of smoke billowing in plumes of gray
dust that smacks like briny waves
but she knows and she knows and she knows that
love is a spark but
fear gobbles oxygen with
vicious vicious viscious
and fear is energy
cannot be created or destroyed.