A Story Teller's Garden
The annual onslaught of tomatoes has begun in my garden. They are red, yellow, orange-pink, black, and even variegated. Their size ranges from the ‘pop-in-your-mouth’ variety to the absolutely ginormous, which represent gallons of marinara, salsa, ketchup, and chutney, as well as my friends’ and family’s personal favorite, green tomato relish.
Blending different varieties of tomatoes can subtly alter the flavor of what your creating. Each variety brings its own unique qualities to the mix – much like the way elements of theme, plot, point of view, and character combine to deliver endless variations to create thrillers, mysteries, or romances.
Gardens serve as a wonderful metaphor for the elements of story-telling, which is probably why I love playing with their composition so much, developing different areas, or elements within the framework of the garden itself. I have the flower portion, mostly perennials – the hummingbirds and bees appreciate those. I started an herb garden, but it felt too linear and far too green, so I added gladiolas and echinacea (coneflower) as a transition to the flower bed. For an air of mystery and subtext, I planted moonflower vine and a couple of campanula plants – or as it’s known in fairytale and folklore, rampion. The rest is splendid chaos with showy, plate-sized dahlias, hollyhocks, sweet-williams, calendula, and daisies. The purple basil border tries to maintain a sense of decorum among the plants, but it rarely succeeds.
When you are writing romantic fiction, the romance is always predominant, but that still leaves a large area to fill with subtle components like setting, theme, character, and motivation. That’s the part I enjoy best, I think. I have an outline for each book, and I start each novel with a solemn promise to follow it faithfully, but along the way, motivations change and characters stubbornly refuse to stay within the confines of their plotted space, heedless of my orderly intensions. As in any garden, there are rogue elements, disconcerting weeds that must be pulled, or impudent upstarts like johnny-jump-ups, or forget-me-nots that delight in luring you off the path with their fanciful bits of color. If you’re lucky, you discover unexpected turns, new avenues of adventure with higher stakes and more interesting consequences than you’d originally foreseen. It’s these unanticipated elements popping up in the most delightful places that make the writer’s, or the gardener’s journey one of whimsical discovery.
I’m currently working on the second book, of my series, “Tales from the Arcadian.” This story, features music composer, Daphne Randall, the former Countess of Wakefield. Her wickedly sexy for husband has returned from overseas and he is less than thrilled to find his former wife writing ditties for the likes of the very complicated Morgan O’Banyon and his equally engaging partner, Trevor Stephens. I do believe there will be fireworks in the garden.