Her mother destroyed her. The garden saved her.
Poppy was six years old when she was rescued from her abusive mother and taken to her grandparents' farm to recover. There, under a wide South African sky, Poppy succumbs to the magic of their garden. Slowly, her memories fade and her wounds began to heal.
But as Poppy grows up into a strange, fierce and beautiful young woman, her childhood memories start to surface. And then a love affair with a troubled older man explodes her world...
- If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
There are loads of authors that I admire, hugely, and would love just to be in the same room with, let alone write with. However, because I can’t actually imagine writing a book with someone else, my ideal writing partner would most likely be the master of the screenplay: Joss Whedon. Working together on the script of a TV series or a film would be an incredible experience, and I imagine I’d learn loads. Perhaps if I just hung around with him for a bit, some of his genius would fly off and glue itself onto me.
- What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
I start my day by writing. Before I even get out of bed. It’s a habit I got into when I was trying to fit my writing around a full-time job, and I discovered that committing to the work first thing, before all the other daily-life stuff had a chance to intrude, was the best way to ensure that my writing came first. I keep my laptop beside the bed, and pick it up as soon as I manage to switch my brain on (and sometimes before).
For the rest of the day, I write in patches, in shortish sessions in between my other work (I freelance), any meetings I may have, or doing promotional stuff (like writing this very article). In the evenings, I try and end off my working day with another, solid writing session. I generally write in a comfy chair with the laptop balanced on an old foam yoga brick on my lap. Regardless of how the writing is going, I consume indecent amounts of Earl Grey tea whilst doing it.
- What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
Keeping going, day after day, despite the fact that there are no guarantees that what I’m working on is worth anything. When I’m writing a book, it’s hard to step back far enough to gain any real kind of perspective on it.
I find writing action sequences easier than quiet scenes that deal with self-reflection or realisations. The action tends to carry me along, whereas it’s really difficult to explore the internal landscape of a character, to follow the flow of their dawning realisation, for example, without being dull. I find I have to work hard to ensure that I get the emotional truth of the character across without being repetitive, or ending up with a chunk of dead boring text.
- When and why did you first start writing?
I’ve been writing since as far back as I can remember. I wrote stories in old school books that had empty pages left over at the back. Alongside the weird, rambling tales I was trying to tell, I wrote bad song lyrics and awful poetry. I stopped when I finished school, believing that I didn’t really have what it took to be a real writer. It took decades to drum up the courage to try again. I’m glad I did.
- How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I kept being plagued by this image of a girl in an isolated garden. For some reason, I carried her around with me for years before I began to see her clearly enough to weave her into a story.
I was drawn to the idea that a haven, a sanctuary of solace and healing, could ultimately become a kind of a trap, a landscape of nightmares. If you were utterly alone, would it be possible to look within for the tools and the strength to escape? That notion just fascinated me.
- Are you a big reader? If so, wßhat are you reading now?
I am never without a book. I read constantly! Right now, I am reading Circles Around the Sun by Molly McCloskey. It’s a riveting non-fiction work about a boy who develops schizophrenia, and the journey his sister undertakes to try and understand what has happened to him.
- Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Stephen King, in his book, On Writing, advises that you should never tell anyone the story you want to write, because if you do, you no longer NEED to write it. I agree. Actually finishing a book is so difficult that I find I need that sense of urgency in order to get it done.
Finishing your work is essential, because without something complete, you’ve got nothing to sell. Finish it, and then rework it. I find that a piece is seldom ‘great’ unless a whole lot of editing and crafting has gone into it