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.
Karen Hugg is the author of The Forgetting Flower, available on Amazon and through bookstores. She writes literary mysteries and thrillers inspired by plants. Her stories are set in worlds where plants, real or imagined, affect people in strange new ways. Born and raised in Chicago, she moved to Seattle and worked as an editor before becoming an ornamental horticulturalist and master pruner. She earned her MFA from Goddard College and has been published in Rooted: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction and other journals and websites. When not writing, she digs in the dirt. When not digging in the dirt, she hangs out with her husband, three children, and four pets. When not doing any of those things, she sits outside and stares at the sky.
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