Besides the interview, which is below, I highly recommend everyone read Amy's thoughts on writing the novel that only you can write. It's one of the best takes on inspiration and originality that I've seen. Now, on to the questions!... OK, first the blurb, then the questions!
When someone leaves three mystery flowers outside her dorm door,Laurel thinks that maybe the Avondale School isn’t so awful after all — until her own body starts to freak out. In the middle of her English presentation on the Victorian Language of Flowers, strange words pop into her head, and her body seems to tingle and hum. Impulsively, Laurel gives the love bouquet she made to demonstrate the language to her spinster English teacher. When that teacher unexpectedly and immediately finds romance, Laurel suspects that something — something magical — is up. With her new friend, Kate, she sets out to discover the origins and breadth of her powers by experimenting on herself and others. But she can’t seem to find any living experts in the field of flower powers to guide her. And her bouquets don’t always do her bidding, especially when it comes to her own crush, Justin. Rumors about Laurel and her flowers fly across campus, and she’s soon besieged by requests from girls — both friends and enemies — who want their lives magically transformed — just in time for prom.--
1. I've read about the inspiration for your novel, which has a truly unique premise, but I was curious about your inspiration for Forget-Her-Nots' main character, Laurel. Was she based on anyone you know? How did you come up with her?
I think all main characters have a lot of their author in them. (It's funny, because a friend from high school whom I haven't seen in years just told me she recognized much of me in Laurel, too! LOL.) Most importantly, I wanted Laurel to be someone most people could relate to. She's still trying to figure out where she fits in to everything and how to handle the tough things life has handed her. She's a strong person, but in her own way. I also coach my daughter's soccer team and played some myself, so the team aspect of Laurel's life was important to me, too.
2. The novel takes place at Avondale, a boarding school in Charlottesville, Virginia. I actually tried searching for this school online, wondering if perhaps it was real. Have you ever attended a boarding school? Is there a real Avondale out there?
I attended a public high school in Dayton, Ohio. There's a boarding/day school in , but I've actually never been there other than to drive through the campus once. (I did live in Charlottesville for four years, though.) Avondale is entirely fictional. I wanted a place that I could imbue with a rich history and amazing gardens. I didn't realize there were quite so many boarding school books out there!
3. You've mentioned that it took about 8 years to write your novel and get it published, and that, as with many books, it was a long and winding road. Can you tell me a little more about that journey? We can probably guess the high point of the journey, but what about the low point? The bumps along the way?
The low point was some difficulties I had with an agent. (Not my current wonderful agent, Steven Chudney.) I think I said somewhere that agent X "promised me the moon and left me in a ditch." I don't name names, but just be careful if an agent asks you to do revisions before signing. Be sure to get very good recommendations, although that's tough if it's someone new. I ended up wasting a lot of time and energy. The road was also bumpy in part for me, because I was writing something really original that was hard to pigeon-hole. FHN isn't a fantasy; it's not paranormal, and it's intergenerational. Lots of people loved the idea, but they wanted me to take it places I didn't want to go.
4. If you were going to create a tussie-mussie (a bouquet of flowers chosen for their meaning) for an aspiring author, what flowers would you use?
Oh, fun!! Snowdrops for hope, because you need lots of that to survive rejection. Rosemary to remember so that the events of your life will be vivid and memorable and inspire you. Red camellia for unpretending writing excellence. Mountain laurel for ambition, because you REALLY need to want to do this, and sage because I esteem and admire your efforts!
5. From what I've read, you've done a lot of traveling and a lot of gardening. After reading Forget-Her-Nots, where would someone go to learn more about flowers and enjoy them in person? Do you have any hidden gems to recommend, both locally (DC area) or nationally?
Any conservatory or public garden is a fabulous place to start, especially if the plants are labelled. Their gift shops might even have a language of flowers book in them. Locally, I love the U.S. Botanic Garden and conservatory on the mall. The gardens near the Smithsonian "castle" are always fabulous, too. I used to take my kids to Meadowlark Gardens near Wolf Trap a lot. Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, is wonderful, too. River Farm Gardens in Alexandria has some amazing heirloom plants and a fabulous view of the river. This is my favorite place to picnic.
Nationally, I love the gardens around Duke University in N.C. and also those of in San Francisco. Longwood Gardens and Winterthur in Pennsylvania are amazing to visit.
6. Finally, do you have any upcoming appearances, panels, workshops or projects you'd like to announce?
Sure! I'll be at Aladdin's Lamp in Arlington on 4/11 for a reading and signing and other fun stuff. I'll be at Fountain Books in Richmond on 4/17. I'll be signing and selling at the Friends of the National Arboretum Plant sale on 4/24. I'll do a May Day reading and celebration at Hooray for Books! in Alexandria on May 1st.
I've applied to some festivals, so watch my website for updates.
Thanks so much for having me, Melissa!!
You're most welcome and thanks for stopping by!