• 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

    News About My New Novel, Harvesting the Sky

    Apple in Leaves (by Janos Patrik), News About My New Novel, Harvesting the Sky, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/12/20/harvesting-the-sky/ #books #fiction #KarenHugg #HarvestingtheSky #Paris #thriller #mystery #crimefiction #author #novel
    Apple in Leaves (by Janos Patrik), News About My New Novel, Harvesting the Sky, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/12/20/harvesting-the-sky/ #books #fiction #KarenHugg #HarvestingtheSky #Paris #thriller #mystery #crimefiction #author #novel

    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.

    Stay well,

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

    Apple photo by Janos Patrik

  • 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.
  • Books

    Enter for a Free Copy of The Forgetting Flower Today!

    The Forgetting Flower Book, Enter for a Free Copy of The Forgetting Flower Today! Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/07/30/free-copy-of-the-forgetting-flower #books #novels #literarythriller #Paris #TheForgettingFlower #France #debutauthors2019

    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!

  • Plants & Gardening

    How a Mild Obsession With African Violets Led to the Fantastic

    Pink African Violet, How a Mild Obsession With African Violets Led to the Fantastic, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/07/15/african-violets/ #AfricanViolets #houseplants #plants #gardening #indoorplants #pinkAfricanViolet #books #bookssetinParis #Paris #flowers #TheForgettingFlower

    I’ve grown African violets as houseplants for years. I love them because they like indirect light and don’t mind drying out between waterings. They bloom in lovely little pops of color and aren’t fussy about soil (lighter is better). So, it’s not too much of a surprise that as growers have diversified the plants via its flowers, I’ve acquired those new introductions.

    As a plant geek, you have to have all of the cultivars, you don’t know why. And you don’t question it. It just is. The good news though is through my deepening adoration for this simple genus (Saintpaulia) of plants, I created a kind of African violet that growers hadn’t created yet. One that only lives in my mind. And for me, a writer, the ability to play with that imagined plant was a thrill.

    Early Common Delights

    I started with the deep purple African violet most commonly grown. It has dark velvety petals and simple, cupped flowers. Its deep beauty hypnotized me. I couldn’t stop staring at its lush depth. I can’t tell you what cultivar it was because African violets are rarely marked at nurseries. But you’ve probably seen it. Most are derived from Saintpaulia ionantha. At any rate, I was able to enjoy it while it required so little to set flowers that lasted for weeks.

    As the years went on, I bought African violets whose flowers were a more magenta shade, or had rose-shaped flowers, or frilly petals, and on and on. They rarely died because their care was so low-maintenance (indirect light, weekly or biweekly water) but a few times the cat did get to its stalks and I had to toss a couple. But mostly, those fuzzy petioles didn’t taste good in the cat’s mouth. For the most part, the plants grew happily.

    The Oldest African Violet

    Later, that initial purple plant tripled in size. Because African violets don’t like their leaves getting wet with cold water, I often lifted up the plant’s green skirt of leaves and watered the soil. At one point, I noticed it was growing in two stalks that were beginning to look like branches. They curled slightly, kind of like a yucca or wild dracaena, but being herbaceous, weren’t true “branches.” They weren’t woody.

    African Violet Stalks, How a Mild Obsession With African Violets Led to the Fantastic, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/07/15/african-violets/ #AfricanViolets #houseplants #plants #gardening #indoorplants #AfricanVioletstalks #books #bookssetinParis #Paris #flowers #TheForgettingFlower

    But what if those branches hardened off to the point where the plant grew higher and its stems held lignin, the hard stuff that makes a woody branch woody. And what if it didn’t need to naturally mutate like that but was crossed with another plant that gave it that contradictory form? What if that other plant had a scent that gave the African violet its scent? As far as I knew, no one had successfully hybridized an African violet so that it emitted a fragrance. But what if someone could?

    A Plant at the End of the Mind

    These “what if” questions occupied my mind for a weeks. It was a fun botanical puzzle to imagine. One that couldn’t exist in the real world. It just couldn’t because of the difference between woody and herbaceous branches (one containing lignin, the other, cellulose). But my imagination didn’t have any bounds. I pictured what the plant would look like. It would be lovely and awkward at the same time: a jade plant with African violet blooms at the branches’ ends.

    I loved the idea, that it didn’t exist but could in a world that I made. I could create any situation I wanted. And I did. The world I made for my unique plant was in Paris: the most beautiful city in the world to house the rarest plant in my story’s world. And as I thought up who would take care of my imagined plant, I started spinning a plot, then I threw everything else I loved into the novel. And it became The Forgetting Flower.

    Purple African Violet, How a Mild Obsession With African Violets Led to the Fantastic, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2019/07/15/african-violets/ #AfricanViolets #houseplants #plants #gardening #indoorplants #purpleAfricanViolet #books #bookssetinParis #Paris #flowers #TheForgettingFlower

    Do I still grow African violets now that I’ve created the penultimate plant in my mind? Absolutely! I just saw this gorgeous beauty the other day (above) and had to have it. There was no reason behind it, there was no justification. I simply became entranced by its uniqueness. I’d never seen its kind before and wanted to incorporate that into my life. And that’s the thing about plants: their loveliness doesn’t have to fade and die quickly, it can expand and enlarge and delight your soul for years to come.