by Mindy Friddle
How I got the call? Funny you should ask. I'll tell you...a few paragraphs down. You can also find out how to win a "seedy character" package and a free signed copy of Secret Keepers. Scroll on if you like. Or take your time and read about the inspiration behind Secret Keepers, my second novel, just out this week from St. Martin's Press:
While I was writing an early draft of Secret Keepers, I trained to become a Master Gardener. The Master Gardener program teaches volunteers to be community educators by providing information on horticulture and environmentally sound gardening practices. I soon expanded my own garden, which is a National Wildlife Federation "Certified Wildlife Habitat," to include native plants, and I incorporated some of what I learned in the novel itself.
Many of the plants featured in Secret Keepers are real -- Amaranthus (or “pigweed”), for example, is an ancient Incan plant grown from seed in my own garden. Love-Lies-Bleeding is one of my favorite kinds of Amaranthus. It's gorgeous. And what a name, right?
Tongue orchids, which have evolved deceitful abilities to lure pollinators, actually exist. (Think Dynasty. Alexis Carrington. Crafty seductresses, those tongue orchids.) Dragon Arum -- Dracunculus vulgasis -- a plant that smells like rotten meat to attract flies actually exists, too. However, other botanicals in the novel tip into magical realism: “Secret Keepers,” for instance: a purely fictional flower with a potent aroma that evokes a powerful memory of love in a person’s life. After taking a whiff of a Secret Keeper, one character recalls the smell of her first son’s newborn head; another remembers the nape of his long lost lover's neck.
“Soul Shines,” with their eerie, petaled eyes, are preternaturally sensitive flowers, and seem to perceive a person’s feelings (or character). In one scene, Soul Shines appear to look back at a resident in a nursing home courtyard and provide comfort as she recalls her long dead fiancé; in another scene, they lean and shine toward their homeless caretaker in a bank parking lot, and shrink away from his estranged brother, a bank manager.
If you're interested in learning more about the backstory of Secret Keepers-- how The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the tales of nineteenth century plant hunters, and an old letter in a trunk all helped inspire the story-- feel free to visit my website page The Story Behind Secret Keepers. And if you want to know about the bootylicious story behind the cover of Secret Keepers--those boots are on my front porch as we speak-- visit my post "The Bootylicious Cover Story of Secret Keepers" on my blog, Novel Thoughts.
So. About the call. For my first novel, The Garden Angel, the call came one fine May day in 2003. I was walking my dog in the park, trying not to feel stressed that I hadn't had the call. My agent (I'd met a client of the agency at Breadloaf, I queried; my agent then agreed to represent me after reading my first chapters. She asked for the whole manuscript...which I hadn't yet finished. But she provided valuable feedback, and so after a year or two we had a novel to shop) had sent my manuscript out to some editors about a week previously and there's nothing more nail-biting than that...waiting. And so I'd taken my dog for a walk, and not taken my phone with me. That was not accidental--on a subconscious level. I came back and there was a voicemail from my agent who said, "I have some nice news." Indeed. Oh, yes. An editor had "fallen in love" and that's all it takes. An editor to fall in love.
And now for the contest: If you'd like a chance for a free signed hardback copy of Secret Keepers, along with a "seedy character" package of seeds from my own garden--including Amaranthus, Moon Flower Vine, and Hyacynth Bean Vine (and if you don't plant, you can always give them away...and Mother's Day is imminent you know)-- email me: 1) your name 2) your mailing address and 3) in the subject line of the email write "Good Blog Contest." Email me at email@example.com by midnight next Friday, May 8. I'll have a disinterested party choose a name out of a hat and that name could be yours. I'll post the winner's name on my blog.
One more thing. I'm about to embark on a book tour, and I really hope to see you there. Here are dates and places. More to come. Check my website appearances page for details and updates:
Thursday, May 21 6-8:30 pm Metropolitan Arts Council, Greenville SC (Books sold by The Open Book)
Friday May 29, Litchfield Books, Moveable Feast Luncheon firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, June 2 , Burry Bookstore, Book & Author Luncheon, Noon-2 pm
Thursday, June 4th, Fireside Books & Gifts, 4:30-6:30 pm
Saturday, June 6, City Lights Bookstore, 7:30 pm
Mindy Friddle's first novel, The Garden Angel, was selected for Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers program in 2004 and was a SIBA bestseller. Awarded a 2009 Artist Fellowship in Prose from the South Carolina Arts Commission, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson. Her second novel, Secret Keepers, is just out from St. Martin's Press. Join her on Facebook and Twitter.Visit her website www.mindyfriddle.com and her blog, Novel Thoughts.