I love meeting new writers online and Karen is no exception. Last month I wrote about Beth Green, aspiring Crime fiction author.
What do you write? (genre etc) Mainly, I write fiction. Last year I finished a literary thriller called The Forgetting Flower about a plant shop owner in Paris. This year, I wrote a New Adult novel about a young woman who can communicate with ghosts through plants. Occasionally, I write narrative nonfiction and short stories. I’m always writing for my blog, The Cultivated Life, at http://www.karenhugg.com.
Favorite book that you think is underrated? This sounds weird but I think Les Miserables is underrated. A lot of people think it’s a boring literary book because it was written in the 1800s and is long but it’s actually a compelling thriller! Yes, Victor Hugo talks too much about politics but I encourage people to skim those parts and read the rest. It has nail-biting suspense and the most touching, sweet passages. Right now, as I think about Jean Valjean rescuing Cossette, I still get teary. He’s such a good father to her — and yet he’s hunted like an animal by the police.
Favorite book from childhood? That’s easy. When I was ten, I read The Lord of the Rings during a summer and it blew me away. I wanted to live inside that fantastic world. It was so rich with mystery and beauty and darkness. The idea of Lothlorien, a city built among trees, was the coolest idea I’d ever heard of. At the time, I was in Chicago and Tolkien’s love of the natural world awoke my love for it too. It’s no wonder I later moved to the Pacific Northwest where we have giant trees!
Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering? Plants. Dreaming. Sharing.
Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing? From the natural world. I’m a professional gardener and I love plants. I want to bring the awe and wonder of plants into people’s lives. From a more practical standpoint, I draw inspiration to keep writing from husband, who truly believes I have talent, and friend-writers, who are also struggling to share their truths. I admire established writers too, especially the ones whose road to success took many years of perseverance.
Do you have any tricks/tips for aspiring authors you’d like to share? I would encourage writers to write short pieces as well as long, and then try to get those short pieces published. You have to try again and again but when you get a hit, that small “yes” makes you feel like a million bucks. It means there is another person out there who does care about what you’re saying and thinks it’s worth publishing. It may take awhile but it’s worth the effort. Plus, it helps you build a list of publications to show off to an agent or publisher.
As a writer who/what is your inspiration (animal, vegetable or mineral ☺)? Again, it’s plants. Plants are amazingly delicate and yet incredibly tough. They’re fascinating. They have little lives of their own and care nothing about us. They make their own food and don’t need us at all. Yet we think we rule over them. It’s a crazy dynamic. Without them, humans would be eradicated as a group.
What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write? I’d say generally the first scene of every novel is the hardest for me to write. I’m constantly wondering if I’ve backed up the tape in this character’s life far enough or come in too late into the scene, etc. I do begin the novel just before the inciting incident but how far before is always the question. There’s a lot of pressure on a novelist to land in the exact right place.
What do you think helps you to become a better writer? Reading beyond my comfort zone. We all have favorite writers or genres we tend to read but when I read a book that is very unlike what I would choose, I find I’m always changed by it more. My brain has expanded into a new way of thinking. I put sentences together differently. I write insights I never would have before. For instance, I love reading 20th-Century, Eastern European writers like Bruno Schulz and George Konrad. They are wild and absurd and amazing. The language travels like a scribble on a paper, going where ever the author needs to go and the result is a trippy dream.
How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer? Being someone else’s beta reader temporarily turns you into an editor and that’s a good thing. It teaches you how to nurture someone else’s vision rather than you just rewriting the book as you would have. It also teaches you how to approach a work from a distance. It helps you become a better writer because you can take the weaknesses or strengths in another’s manuscript and apply those lessons to your own writing.
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If you like this post check out my other Q and A with aspiring author, Beth Green.