When my husband and I were looking at houses to buy—over 21 years ago!—he was a little distressed when at each property our realtor showed us, I would immediately start envisioning the garden I might plant there. I had to explain to him this was an irrepressible involuntary response to seeing what was often a blank space, and no “bonding” was implied. Until I had a garden of my own, this was just an exercise I seemed to need to go through to see if I could make a garden at whatever lot we were looking at.
My introduction to reading, and then writing, Jane Austen Fan Fiction was very much the same. The first title I read was What Would Mr. Darcy Do? by Abigail Reynolds. It planted seeds by answering questions I always had about various facets of Pride and Prejudice, with the biggest, healthiest sprout of curiosity being: why did Darcy visit Elizabeth in Lambton on that fateful Friday morning, when he knew he would be seeing her that evening? Sure, sure…we all think we know the answer, but Ms. Reynolds gave us her version, and set me thinking about what my own conjectures might be, and well, the rest, as they say, is history.
So, each new book of P & P variations I read became like those dozens of potential gardens I saw. What would I edit (pruning)? Were there too many introduced characters (weeding)? How did Darcy and Elizabeth progress in their understanding of each other (nourishing the soil)? Where there unbelievable elements (trying to grow tropical flowers in Portland)? Was there fulfilling physical intimacy between them (why plant a garden then cut off all the flowers just before they bloom!)?
Like settling into my own garden, when I began to write I was like a champagne cork shot out of a bottle. Big bold flowers, roses, phlox, clematis, peonies—sex!—everywhere, but perhaps that first story didn’t have the thoughtfulness, the structure, if you will, a good garden needs to give multi-season interest, and give the eyes an occasional place to rest without excessive stimulation.
Now we come to The Red Chrysanthemum, to be published in September 2013 by Meryton Press. Gardens continue to evolve and improve, just like writers. A garden is never finished, and most writers will tell you that no book is either…one can wordsmith one’s phrasing forever. But at some point, for better or worse, we feel the urge to share our gardens, invite friends and family, perhaps other gardeners, to see what has been created. The time arrives to engage in a conversation about how the garden came about, and where it is going. When TRC was nearly complete, I knew I felt about it the way I felt about my garden, nervously ready to share (letter of query = sending the invitations), ask for advice (editing = pruning, weeding, deleting unpleasing plants and adding better ones), and invite everyone to read it (publish it = hang out the sign “Garden Open Today”).
Welcome to my garden!