Hi everyone, I’m excited to tell you my new novel, Harvesting the Sky, will be published in fall, 2021! This book holds a special place in my heart for a few reasons.
The First Novel That Melded my Plant Passion With Fiction
Some of you know that I resisted focusing on plants in my fiction for years. I saw plants as soothing and beautiful, which they are, and so I struggled to find the darkness. Then I reworked the novel that was my MFA thesis with a botanist at the center of the story. Everything clicked. The story brimmed with stronger danger, atmosphere, and intrigue. Plus, it had this alluring premise related to a special plant. Instead of feeling sheepish about the book, I felt proud. I shopped it to agents in 2016 but couldn’t find a home for it. But now, post The Forgetting Flower, and thanks to my publisher, Woodhall Press, I can properly share it with the reading world.
A Very Special Apple Tree
Harvesting the Sky is about Renia’s professor friend, Andre Damazy, who appeared in The Forgetting Flower. In this book, he finds a medicinal apple tree in Kazakhstan and brings branches (also called scions) back to Paris so he can propagate the tree. It’s a personal mission for him as his mother had a stroke and he hopes to help not only her but many others who suffer from illness. But a stranger constantly harasses Andre and vandalizes his greenhouse. He can’t figure out why. Not only does he have to battle this mysterious person but other dark forces as well until the tension and anger and intrigue all culminate one warm fateful night.
Renia Plays a Key Role
One unexpected surprise I learned about The Forgetting Flower was readers really liked Renia. They rooted for her and wanted her to succeed. Well, I’m happy to let you know she’ll return in this book. At first, I struggled with how to fold her into the story but then suddenly found a logical way that felt perfect and obvious. You may remember Renia had a secret crush on Andre in TFF. Now in this story, that relationship grows through his perspective as well.
Set in a Secret Greenhouse
Though the book is a stand-alone read, it’s set in the same world as The Forgetting Flower. The story picks up about ten months after TFF ends. While outlining the plot, I realized Andre would be propagating special, coveted trees and therefore needed a hidden greenhouse in Paris. After some research, I found a real-life work yard with a greenhouse. It’s out of view from the public and available only to parks department employees. This real-life place provided the inspiration for the area called “L’Enclos” where most of the mystery and action takes place.
More Updates Coming
My publisher and I have completed some preliminary work on the novel so I’ll have more to share in terms of release date, cover, and other details soon. You can sign up for monthly updates if you’d like here. And in the meantime, you can read my three-part series of posts about Harvesting the Sky, which cover how I got the idea for the novel and created its characters and plot. It includes an excerpt from the first chapter at the third post’s end.
Apple photo by Janos Patrik
Hi all, I wanted to share a surprising experience I recently had, but before I do, I’ll let you know that the happy result means I’m celebrating by offering a free copy of The Forgetting Flower to readers!
Taking a Risk
Several weeks ago, I sent off the book for review to Kirkus Reviews. Kirkus has a reputation for being pretty harsh in their book reviews so I debated whether or not to submit it at all. But I thought, you never know until you try, so I submitted it and held my breath. When I got notice the review was completed, I avoided looking at it. I didn’t tell my husband it was finished. I waited to read it until I was home and alone and had braced myself for disappointment.
But after reading the review, I was delighted. Not only was this assessment of The Forgetting Flower positive, but the reviewer truly understood the story as I intended it. It was incredibly gratifying for someone to read it, recognize the ways I tried to make it good, and appreciate it for the reasons I did as well.
In closing, they said: “Superb characters and alluring prose make for a truly exceptional read.” This sent my heart soaring. I was honored and humbled.
You can read the full review here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/karen-hugg/the-forgetting-flower/
To Celebrate, a Giveaway
So after I came down from my relieved, happy high, I thought I’d share the joy with readers. Why not giveaway a few copies? So I’ve set up a giveaway on Amazon for three free copies of The Forgetting Flower. It runs until this Saturday, August 3rd, 2019. I know I won’t always get positive reviews (in fact a few on other sites already aren’t so) but this one is so I want to spread the happiness.
If you’d like to enter, go to this link. It’s pretty quick and easy! https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/e3087add4391f135
Have a great week, all!
It was late afternoon in St. Petersburg, Russia. A cloudy day but warm. I was walking back to the inn where I was staying for a writer’s workshop through the Summer Literary Seminars program. Soon, I came to a strange dried puddle on the sidewalk and almost stepped in it. I had to take a wide turn into the street to go around. Red and crusted, about a two-foot-wide blob, I thought it was paint. I looked up at the line of apartment windows, wondering where the scaffolding or ladders were. There were no workers in overalls or any such thing, so I walked on, wondering where the paint had come from but ultimately thinking nothing of it.
A Friend’s Story
Later that evening, after a group of us writers had had dinner and were chatting, my friend Adrian said he’d seen the craziest scene earlier that day. He was in a nearby bar having lunch when he saw a man beat up another man across the street. “Oh God, the one guy just kept pounding the other guy, so viciously, over and over and over,” he said. He shook his head as if to clear it. “Ugh. It was like the sound of a club hitting raw meat.”
Apparently, a woman had been at the fight too, trying to pull off the aggressor from the victim. After the guy beat the hell out of his nemesis, Adrian said, he did something that struck Adrian as funny. “He went over to his car, unlocked the trunk, and took off his T-shirt. It was soaked in blood. Then, he took out a fresh T-shirt, put it on, closed the trunk, and walked across the street into the bar,” Adrian said. “He just sat down and ordered a drink like what he’d done was no big deal.”
Shocked, we laughed and shook our heads. We’d all seen intense, crazy things in St. Petersburg but this was truly the story that epitomized Russia. It could be a mean nasty place where somehow life went on. A few minutes later, I realized something. I asked Adrian where the fight had happened. He said about 50 feet from the inn, on the same side of the street. Where I’d been earlier. It dawned on me: that dried stain on the sidewalk hadn’t been paint. It was blood.
A Lasting Image in My Mind
That realization stayed with me for years. The image of the dried blood on the sidewalk that had drained into the street. It was so big! The brutality of it was extraordinary. Still, I’ve always wondered how I could have mistaken blood for paint. It was so obvious after Adrian told the story. But the dark stain looked exactly like scarlet paint. As if someone had accidentally kicked over a bucket. I didn’t think in a million years it could be blood.
So when I started outlining The Forgetting Flower, I had this experience sitting in the back of my mind. And when I started drafting the first chapter, it just came out in the story. Renia walks by a building, sees a streak of red liquid rolling down a building. She thinks it’s paint. What else could it be, right? Well, she figures out soon enough that it’s not, and when she figures out what it is and where it’s from, her entire world turns upside down. It’s not from a fight, it’s from a different kind of event. And the rest, of course, is the unraveling of events that make up her story. If you’d like to read it, click here.
If you’d like information on the Summer Literary Seminars, which is a fantastic, supportive program for writers, go here. I highly recommend it!
Good morning, everyone! I’m thrilled to answer the question of what The Forgetting Flower looks like! And in more ways than one. The cover of the novel is now live and it’s a dream come true. In some ways, I can’t believe it’s actually happening.
You can now see what my speculative flower resembles in real life. I don’t want to give too much away but the flower is part African violet. And this cover makes it so beautiful yet menacing! I love the dark background, which makes the flower seem like it’s rising from a dangerous unknown place. And the scent streams from the blossom in that spooky way, evoking danger. In the story, that vapor isn’t anything you’d want to inhale accidentally.
Pre-orders Are Now Open
The other thing to know is that preorders for the book are now open! At the moment, you can order the ebook at Amazon. It will soon be available at several online retailers. The paperback is coming within days. And as a thank you, I’m giving away a seed packet of wildflowers that helps bees thrive to the first 25 people who preorder. I wrote about the bees recently. What’s happening to the declining bee population is serious and it’s so important we do something about it. I’ll be talking about the flowers in those seed packets in the next few days.
Oh, and the release date for The Forgetting Flower is June 18, 2019.
Expressing a Story in an Image
I’m so excited about the spooky danger of this cover. How the letters fade (and weave) in and out of the smoke. How the bloom rises up into the viewer’s consciousness from somewhere below. And how the words come at you with more force, expanding as they scroll down the cover.
Who’s behind this alluring artwork? Magnolia Press‘s book designer Dionne Abouelela, a talented entrepreneur in her own right. She’s not only a book cover designer, she’s an author as well. She really captured the spirit of the book and has done that for several authors. If you check out my fellow Magnolia Press author, Autumn Lindsey’s novel, Remaining Aileen, or Dionne’s portfolio, you’ll see what I mean.
So there it is, the beginning of this journey. If you are a book blogger or know of anyone who’d like to receive an advance reader’s copy (ARC) for review, please let me know! The book is a literary thriller about a woman who hides a dangerous plant and finds herself in difficult circumstances. You can read the description here. You can also mark it as Want-to-Read on Goodreads here! Lastly, you can preorder it here. Thanks for your time, everyone!
The British writer Kazoo Ishiguro has now released a fantasy novel called The Buried Giant. It was actually the first novel he attempted many years ago but later set aside. He said he had trouble forming it fully. Now, as a seasoned writer, he returned to the eerie story and fulfilled the vision that he’d probably originally had. It’s an interesting work, dealing with memory and spells and wounds from the past. In reading it, I haven’t marveled at the story Ishiguro decided to write (which is compelling from the first few pages) but rather how this particular writer has traveled artistically from Remains of the Day to When We Were Orphans to Never Let Me Go and finally to this. It’s impressive to say the least.
Remains of the Day is a meditative narrative on one humble yet proud butler’s life, a tour de force of voice and character. It’s a psychological study that reveals one beautiful piece of personal history at a time, which quietly lays out how Stevens has come to be who he is. It’s a heartbreaking, highly literary story.
When We Were Orphans is essentially a detective story about a British man named Christopher Banks seeking out his biological parents in China. It’s not particularly suspenseful but I had a difficult time putting it down, drawn by Ishiguro’s voice and the question of whether Banks will ever find his parents.
Never Let Me Go is a science fiction (for lack of a better term) story in a real world-like setting. Constructed in simple sentences with direct dialogue and guileless characters, the book deceives us into thinking at first we’re just visiting a regular boarding school. Of course, we soon realize something’s off about the place and kids. As we attach to the characters, we realize we’re inside a horrific, dystopian society. How casually and non-judgmentally he treats the issue of (spoiler alert) cloning and harvesting organs is effectively chilling.
Ishiguro writes drastically different stories from book to book, changing the narrative voice according to what the story dictates while maintaining his keen insights and vivid details. I like that. It tells me that though I’ve written a literary thriller, a sci-fi story, drafted a women’s fiction novel, and outlined a memoir about adoption, it doesn’t mean I lack direction. It means I’m versatile. Ishiguro is willing to take in various aspects of the world and articulate them artistically. He stretches. He surprises. He’s unafraid to change. In an age when writers pump out similar novels again and again for money, Ishiguro reminds us of the breadth of the human imagination and deep abilities of a creator. He isn’t nailed down by genre or conventional labels. He simply writes what fascinates him and hence, we are fascinated.
What authors give you hope? Let me know in the comments below.
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