• Books,  Personal

    The Dark Petals of Provence Is Now Available!

    Dark Petals Book, The Dark Petals of Provence Is Now Available! Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2022/03/01/dark-petals-of-provence/(opens in a new tab) #books #novel #Provence #DarkPetals #France #thriller #mystery #fiction

    Hi everyone,

    Just a quick note to let you know my new novel, The Dark Petals of Provence, is now available in all formats: paperback, ebook, and even audiobook. As I mentioned in my newsletter, I was terribly disappointed when the physical book was out of stock for a while but it’s now available. Whew!

    Dark Petals was inspired by the evocative yet sinister books by the French writer Marcel Pagnol. Pagnol grew up in Provence and created stories based on his childhood experiences for both literature and film.

    One of the more famous of these is the book Jean de Florette, about a city lawyer who inherits his family’s country farm and decides to be a simple, gentleman farmer. But the small-minded prejudiced town blocks his progress at every turn until things come to a dramatic head. It’s a study in dark group mentality and revenge against the strength of familial love and personal dreams.

    The Idea Behind the Book

    I was inspired by how people behave when a newcomer arrives to disrupt things. And so, I created April Pearce, a modern-day American photographer who visits Provence to take photographs for a travel magazine. April’s in her late 30s and struggling to secure a permanent place at this company to prove to herself she’s not a career failure. But it seems all of the most fascinating shots she finds lead to trouble.

    In the book, I tried to bring the hot weather, rough terrain, and alluring culture of Provence to life. I also tried to draw interesting characters whose secret pasts raise questions for the reader. April’s character reaches into my own past feelings as an outsider. And of course the story pivots on one particular plant. How else would I write a novel? haha.

    Anyway, if you want more information, check out the jacket description here. And by the way, I do realize the paperback cover is not as beautifully saturated with color as the ebook cover, not sure why nor is my publisher. Regardless, you can also read tidbits on my Instagram feed or read the first chapter here.

    And if you’d like to buy it, click here.

    In the meantime, have a great day!

    Karen Hugg, sig, http://www.karenhugg.com #author #books #fiction #Paris #journal

  • Books,  Writing

    The Cover for The Dark Petals of Provence is Here!

    The Dark Petals of Provence Cover, The Cover for The Dark Petals of Provence is Here!, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2021/12/09/dark-petals-provence-cover/, #books, #Provence, #France, #mystery, #specialneeds, #photography

    Hi everyone,

    Just a short note to let you know the cover for my next novel, The Dark Petals of Provence, is finished and ready to go! It was created by designer Jessica Dionne who again expertly combined danger and beauty for a delicious atmosphere.

    A Story Set in Provence

    The book tells the story of April Pearce, an American photographer assigned to cover the countryside in Provence. On her first night, she sees a teenager running through a lavender field covered in blood. But when she investigates, the local town turns aggressive and threatening, making her job more and more difficult until the climax when April has nothing to lose and reveals the dark secret the village has kept hidden for years.

    The Earliest Idea

    I’ve always loved Marcel Pagnol’s books Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring. They focus on a city family shunned by local country folks and their subsequent revenge. You may remember the movies, which starred Gerard Depardieu. They expertly captured the book’s tension and danger. Plus, you feel like you’re in the hot landscape of Provence. I love them. I thought it would be cool to write an updated version of that dynamic, of an outsider accidentally stumbling upon a local community’s nefarious nature and in effect blowing it all apart.

    A Character Near to my Heart

    I started with the image of a wounded teen boy running through a field as a photographer accidentally snapped photos of him from a distance. Almost like a Rear Window situation. Then a key character took on the personality traits of my daughter who’s the friendliest, most compassionate, cognitively delayed young person you’ll ever meet. And the plot unfolded from there.

    An Alluring Setting

    The book also grew out of my love of stories set in Provence. A few years back, I spent a bunch of time reading mysteries by Serena Kent and M.L. Longworth and others. They’re some of my favorite books in which to escape. So now, I offer my own mystery that combines my love of France, my wish to dream of Provence, and my urge to spin a compelling story. Plus, of course a unique plant! I hope you enjoy it. You can pre-order it through Amazon now.

    Cheers,

    Karen Hugg, sig, http://www.karenhugg.com #author #books #fiction #Paris #journal
  • Books

    Harvesting the Sky Hits Shelves in September!

    Harvesting the Sky cover

    Hey everyone,

    Just a quick note to let you know my new novel Harvesting the Sky has a cover! Here it is above. I’m very excited. The talented Jessica Dionne, who created The Forgetting Flower, also designed this one. It’s ominous and threatening and mysterious and I love it.

    Here’s the jacket copy:

    Botanist Andre Damazy lands on the opportunity of a lifetime when he discovers a rare medicinal apple in Kazakhstan and brings back tree cuttings to his hidden greenhouse in Paris. Growing the cuttings into trees is personal for Andre since the apples can heal people with serious illnesses, like his sweet mother who’s suffered a stroke.

    But a mysterious stranger constantly thwarts Andre’s work, sending harassing calls and menacing effigies, stalking Andre, and vandalizing his trees. Andre doesn’t understand why anyone would do this, but he wonders if it’s related to a project from his past that went all wrong and resulted in a deadly mistake. So with the help of his new friend Renia (The Forgetting Flower) and her street smarts, he works to outmaneuver his enemy while uncovering a larger, more dangerous plot that threatens the foundation of all that Andre holds dear, including the woman he secretly loves.

    Harvesting the Sky is the second book in the Botanique Noire series that combines vivid literary prose and a thriller plot, while enticing readers with the wonder and magic of plants.

    Here’s a post on my inspiration for writing the book. And if you’d like to pre-order a copy, go here. I can’t wait to share this story with you all!

    Karen Hugg, sig, http://www.karenhugg.com #author #books #fiction #Paris #journal
  • Books

    Paula Munier Shares Her Special Joys in Life

    Paula Munier, Paula Munier Shares Her Special Joys in Life, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2021/05/19/paula-munier/ #PaulaMunier #books #author #mystery #thriller #gardening #dogs #French #France

    Recently, I interviewed mystery writer Paula Munier for the magazine,The Big Thrill. We had a fantastic fun chat by video that lasted well over an hour. We yakked on about her new book, The Hiding Place, her life in New Hampshire/Vermont, the doggie characters she puts in her stories, the writing life, and more. The whole conversation simply didn’t fit into my article so I thought I’d share a few choice bits from our conversation here. We talked about her dogs, why she puts all things French in her novels, and why gardening is important for one’s mental health.

    A Dog’s Life

    The dogs are one of my favorite aspects of these books. Can you talk about your canine inspirations? Obviously, Elvis and Susie Bear are actually trained search and rescue military dogs. But I know that Susie Bear bears a resemblance to your dog...

    Yeah, my dog Bear. Here’s Bear… [Bear comes into view.]

    What a good boy, I love Newfoundlands.

    We were laughing because he’s about 85 pounds and my husband would like one of those 160-pound Newfoundlands. But we saw someone the other day who had a Newfoundland and he called his dog a “Pocket Newfie” because he’s only 85 pounds. A “Pocket Newfie.” [laughs]

    Yeah, you need a giant pocket for that Newfie.

    That was so funny. But during the pandemic, so we have three rescue dogs, and in Blind Search, the dog that Henry gets at the end, that dog he names Robin, who’s trained to keep him on track, that dog is based on our great Pyrenees Australian Shepherd mix named Bliss. She never moves, she’s on the couch. She only moves if there’s danger. Otherwise, she’s hanging out.

    And during the pandemic, we were lucky enough to rescue a Malinois like Elvis. And although they said she won’t get much bigger, because Malinois are smaller than Shepherds, well, she’s enormous. [laughs] She’s also crazy athletic and super smart.

    The biggest difference between my dogs and the dogs in the book are my dogs aren’t that well trained. It’s harder during the pandemic. Blondie may end up, there’s a great trainer in Massachusetts, he trained all kinds of dogs, so Blondie may go to boot camp at Mike’s to get her in shape. She’s pretty good but she’s insanely strong and so athletic. But she’s so much fun. It’s so nice to have a living breathing Elvis in the house. I’ve never had one so…

    All Things French

    I’m a total Francophile and I really like that you have a lot of references to France and French people in your books. What’s your relationship to France?

    Well, my dad was in the military so I spent half my childhood in Europe. We were stationed in Germany and my mother took me to Paris when I was 12 because she loved Paris and we have a good French name, Munier. All my family, most of it, are all from Alsace-Lorraine. I went to high school in New Orleans so that sort of compounded the French thing. And I studied French. Now, my daughter and granddaughters live in Lozon. My granddaughters are native French speakers. So I have every reason to keep up my French. And I love the French. I’m an Anglophile and a Francophile. I watch all the Britbox and Acorn TV. And I watch all the French mysteries on MHz. So for me and my mother, we’re half-French, half-German.

    Yes, my husband is the same ancestry. His family name, Hugg, is from Alsace.

    Oh, yeah! My mother is French and my dad is German. My mother has a highly evolved French aesthetic. She loves French food, French art. It’s part of our lives and part of our loves. And I love putting in art and French stuff [into the novels].

    Gardening During a Pandemic

    I’ve been working on a book about plants and mental health. I know from Twitter that you’ve recently gotten into gardening so I wanted to ask, what does gardening do for you in terms of mental health?

    Oh, interesting. Yeah, a few years ago, I wrote this little book called Happier Every Day and one of the things to do is grow a garden! Plant a garden because all these studies show that people who garden suffer less depression, are more physically active, and all those things. There’s something about playing in the dirt. It’s like when you’re a kid. It’s fun! You forget! I mean for me gardening is just me being three years old and playing in the dirt. That’s basically what it is with fancier tools. But that’s the appeal of it. I think that’s why more people have taken it up during this pandemic.

    I’ve always been a gardener but I grew flowers and shrubs and I didn’t grow vegetables or fruit to eat. So, during this pandemic, like a year ago, I said to my husband, “What if there’s no food?” because we were already having shortages here. I said, “I think we better build” — we have 19 acres here and most of it’s woods — but I said, “You know I think it’s time we put in a potager garden. We’re going to have to have it just in case. We better grow some vegetables.” So he built me this spectacular big, rectangular garden with raised beds and arbors at each end and … just beautiful and I thought, “Oh no, now I have to plant something in there!” [laughs] And I wasn’t convinced I could do it.

    But we got some good soil from the guy down the road, amended soil, and my neighbor said, “Oh, the soil’s so good here everything will grow,” and everything grew! I ordered a package of vegetable seeds, some of them I didn’t know what they were, some were vegetables I’d never heard of, but they came from this artisanal seed company in Vermont. It was 50 bucks worth of seeds and we had radishes and okra and tomatoes and chard and lettuce and beans and peas and squash. I mean this goes on and on. It was insane. And we got Blondie not long after we built that, and I would just spend the summer out there, in the garden with the puppy.

    It’s like a form of meditation really. I do a lot of yoga and meditation and it’s a form of meditation to be out there in the dirt, digging away in nature, in the sun. I think that’s what a lot of people are missing. We were lucky because you know, we couldn’t travel, we couldn’t go to the movies, couldn’t go to dinner, couldn’t do any of those things, but I could go out in the garden and dig for a while. And that’s what really saved me.

    And all we did was cook because we live, as my son says, in “Nowhere, New Hampshire,” so having the garden and all these new vegetables and new recipes, it even made cooking more fun. I would encourage everyone to grow something.


  • Books

    Lisa Barr Brings Energy and Sex to her New Novel

    Lisa Barr, Lisa Barr Brings Energy and Sex to her New Novel, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/08/06/lisa-barr/ #LisaBarr #TheUnbreakables #books #novels #Paris #France #Provence #LisaBarrInterview

    Lisa Barr is, in short, a pretty amazing author. She writes books packed with energetic intrigue and her productivity is off the charts. Starting her career as a reporter and editor for various periodicals, Lisa has transitioned to full-time fiction writer. Since then, she’s written a vivid historical fiction novel, Fugitive Colors, and now The Unbreakables, a women’s fiction novel packed with emotion and sex and art. It’s a novel for those who like stories about women breaking out onto their own and discovering the truth about who they really are. I chatted with Lisa about her work and life. Check out our conversation.

    You’ve had a long career as an editor and reporter. What made you decide to write fiction? 

    Actually, I’ve always written fiction. By day, I was a working journalist, by night I worked on my fiction – short stories and manuscripts. I wrote the first draft of my debut novel, Fugitive Colors, when I was on bedrest for nine months (yes, you read that right) with my eldest daughter. I have three daughters … talk about drama (hahaha) …. 

    Fugitive Colors is a wonderful portrait of young relationships in the art world against the backdrop of war. The novel is rich with imagination and ideas. How did it first come about?
    The Unbreakables, Lisa Barr Brings Energy and Sex to her New Novel, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/08/06/lisa-barr/ #LisaBarr #TheUnbreakables #books #novels #Paris #France #Provence #LisaBarrInterview

    I was 26 years old, serving as the managing editor of a women’s magazine in Chicago, and was sent on an assignment to cover the “Degenerate Art” Exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Entering the museum, I literally stopped in my tracks — I had found my story. What I saw at that exhibit would later morph into the historical-fiction tale of Fugitive Colors. Even as a daughter of a Holocaust survivor, I never knew about the Nazis relentless mission to destroy the avant-garde — particularly painters. Hitler and his henchmen went after the German Expressionists with a vengeance never seen before. I am a writer not an artist – but I needed to understand what made someone both a murderoumadman and an artist. The story is a historical thriller; a fictional tale of three young artists and how the looming war destroys their lives, their art, and their friendship. The theme of this book and all of my work is: How far would you go for your passion? Answer: all the way

    The artistic life in Fugitive Colors is vivid and seems authentic. Are you yourself an artist of some kind? Did you research artists of that time? 

    I am not an artist, but I am a huge art lover, and I gravitate toward art in some form in all of my work. My characters – whether historical or contemporary – are artists. I connect to the artist’s temperament and passionate nature. I did a lot of research on art and technique in both books. I’m kind of a research junkie – it’s my journalist background that pushes me to insure authenticity. I researched Fugitive Colors for nearly four years before I allowed myself to write a single word.

    Your new book, The Unbreakables, is a pretty dramatic shift away from historical fiction. It’s contemporary and about a woman moving to Provence to rediscover herself. You wrote a beautiful portrait of that region. I love it too. Why do you think Provence is so alluring?

    Setting is like another character in my novel, with a personality of its own. The south of France is captivating. The air, the sea, the historic Medieval structures, the fragrance of lavender, the perfumeries … you can lose yourself there, and conversely, find yourself.  My protagonist Sophie Bloom needed to break away from Suburbia in order to really blossom. Her first stop was Paris, but ultimately, she discovers her true self amid the natural beauty of the countryside. And by the way, doing research in Provence, was NOT torture. I bathed in it, utilizing all five senses every step of the way. Only then, I could gift it to Sophie. 

    Chicago also often plays a smaller role in your books. As a native Chicagoan, I always smile at that. Do you see yourself fully setting a book there ever?

    I have traveled the world but I love Chicago – it’s home. It does play a smaller role in both my books (and the next one I’m working on too) … but it is usually a starting point, a home base, from which my main character launches into more exotic locations. 

    What are you working on now? Anything new that’s knocking about in your head?

    I’m working on a novel that is suspenseful but yes, filled with love, passion and art. It’s about a young female investigative journalist who uncovers a deep dark story in the art world (I know, I know – I can’t keep away).  This new manuscript taps into my journalist background, which has been fun for me to dig deep and go back there. As you can see, I’m a bit of genre jumper. My first novel was historical suspense and The Unbreakables is hardcore women’s fiction. But if I’m captivated by a story — especially if art and passion is involved — then I’m all IN.

    More Info on The Unbreakables

    “Artful, feminist, and emotionally gripping. The Unbreakables is a remarkable tribute to a woman’s strength in the face of heartbreak and adversity.”  — Helen Hoang, author of The Kiss Quotient

    “This exquisitely wrought novel will appeal to readers who believe in the redemption of new beginnings, and the necessity of  facing the past while making a deliberate effort to move forward.” — Publishers Weekly


    Enter to win a free paperback copy of The Unbreakables, here! The giveaway ends on August 31st, 2019.