I’m doing it again with today’s blog post – judging a book by its cover and The Poppy Garden by Claire L. Brown is one of the most gorgeous I’ve seen. As someone slightly obsessed by the poppy as a symbol of remembrance, after studying Wilfred Owen as a teenager, I had to invite Claire on to Linda’s Book Bag to be interviewed to find out more about The Poppy Garden.
The Poppy Garden is published on 11th November 2016 and is available for order in e-book here.
The Poppy Garden
What would you do if the love of your life didn’t know who you were?
What if he forgot you?
Forgot the first time you met, your first kiss, the day he proposed and the day you married?
What if six months after your perfect start it was all taken away in the blink of an eye?
Sky Flynn thought she had it all, she was the happiest she’d ever been from the moment she met Nick Robinson until the moment a military officer showed up at her door, then things changed.
Fighting to save her marriage and help her husband recover from both physical and mental scars of war Sky has to find away to cope and overcome.
Inspired by memories of her grandfather and how he channeled his PTSD into his garden she sets out to create somewhere for recovering service men to go, to assist in their recovery and create a place of beauty to share with their families. But will the beauty of the garden heal her husband’s wounds and bring him home to her forever?
An Interview with Claire L. Brown
Hi Claire. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and The Poppy Garden in particular.
Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
I’m a creative not an artist; I create worlds with my pen as an escape and appreciation for life. When I’m not creating worlds and lives I’m generally with my dog Hero or curled up some where with someone else creation!
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
I’ve never not been a writer; I started even before I could hold a pen. I was taught to read and write at an early age by my parents and grandparents and would always scribble endings to books if I didn’t like them, or if I wanted to read a particular story and no one had written it yet I would have a go myself. I was also bullied from an early age so writing gave me an outlet.
The Poppy Garden seems a slight departure from your usual genres. Why did you choose to write differently this time?
I had been trying to tell a particular story for a long time I just couldn’t find the right way to do it. I realised one day while working in my garden it wasn’t about tell that particular story but telling the meaning of it. The story I wanted to tell was that of my grandfather; if you think of everyone’s life as a book, I still had a lot of blank pages to his that I think I wanted answers for, but due to circumstances I can’t get them. Telling The Poppy Garden the way I have is more about the things I do know on a more emotional level than the facts that I don’t.
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet. Would it have been within the beauty and fashion world?
As a child I would probably have said an actor but I think being bullied put that out of my reach. I think I would always be a story teller but a behind the scenes one so maybe I would have worked in film or TV behind the camera somewhere.
I know that, as part of your studies, you were in America for a while. How far has that experience impacted on you as a writer?
I think it can make me think differently. If I’m setting stories the US I can imagine the lifestyle because I’ve experienced it. It also helped me to think about things in different ways and to be a bit more adventurous with what I think I can and cant write.
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
Research is great, if there’s something I want to write and maybe I’m not sure on the details I’m quite analytical and logical about finding out. However, if it doesn’t always sit right with the story I would put the story above accuracy.
PTSD features in The Poppy Garden. Why did you decide to have this as one of your themes?
I spent a lot of my childhood with my grandfather and he had certain rituals that as a child I didn’t understand but he made me part of them. Now I’m a lot older and while I don’t have him with me any more I’ve grown to understand their meaning through my research. The rituals he had in going to the beach every Saturday morning and working in his garden were his way of dealing with his PTSD from his experiences in WW2. That’s where the main idea from The Poppy Garden came from, his way of dealing with PTSD was passed on to me as a hobby and in a way it does something similar for me when I need it.
(I think you’re right Claire. There’s someething very theraputic about being in a garden.)
In The Poppy Garden you’re exploring the physical and emotional scars of war. How far do you think it is the role of authors to challenge and educate readers about difficult topics as well as to entertain them?
Every story has meaning, the meaning you get from it may not be the one I intended but if it creates an understanding, realisation or challenges a way of thinking then, as a writer, I’ve done my job. If I want to elicit emotion such as making a reader cry – then when I’m writing I’ll be crying myself. You can’t get emotion out if you haven’t put it in.
I want readers to learn and have fun. If at the end of the last page they put the book down and never think of it again that’s okay, but the real achievement for me is if something stays with you after you close the book, something that makes you think, maybe makes you look to your own experience, inspires you or challenges what you thought before.
If, at the end of the day my book would make someone go out an buy a Poppy on Remembrance Day, I think that would make me very proud.
(What a lovely sentiment.)
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I think it varies, some times coming up with the idea is the easiest thing and writing the book is hard. Other times the idea might be just a tiny sliver of detail but writing chapter after chapter is a breeze. Or sometimes I can be writing something for days and then just hit a wall and there’s no other way out but to start again.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I think I vary from story to story. I’ll generally flesh out an idea first in a strange kind of elongated synopsis. I’ll generally create a mood board or vision wall, which I’m now using Pinterest for and then I’ll start working on the chapters.
For some books I write out of sync, as the scene ideas come, for others I write chronologically.
You will usually find me in my study working or curled up on the couch with my laptop. I write at all times of the day or night and I always have a notebook or voice recorder with me. I’ll flesh out stories while walking the dog and record it on my phone – this does make me look a bit strange I will admit!
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
It depends on how much time I have. As well as writing I have a full time job so sometimes I may only have thirty minutes before bed to read in which case something light and not too taxing. Other times it’ll be history books, my favourite this year was Lucy Worsely’s History of Murder. I like to vary my reading as it challenges me and inspires me.
I think the cover of The Poppy Garden is absolutely stunning. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?
I work with a great cover artist, Jeanie Henning, I’m creative but not artistic where as she is an amazing artist. For The Poppy Garden, I gave her the back-story of how I’d come up with the idea and why this book is so special to me. While it’s not a period piece I wanted to include a picture of my grandfather, as he is my inspiration. I knew I needed a field of poppies and a gold colour to keep the whole thing feeling warm and light. We used modern images of warfare to connect with the contemporary setting and the planes connect with my link to the RAF through my Grandfather and placing it in a modern war setting.
If you could choose to be a character from The Poppy Garden, who would you be and why?
I guess I identify most with Sky, she’s strong but in a quiet way. I think I put a lot of my life experiences in the way she deals with things and that of the women in my family.
If The Poppy Garden became a film, who would you like to play Sky and Nick and why would you choose them?
Lily James for Sky and Richard Rankin for Nick.
If I’m honest they chose me. When I was first considering writing the story this way I was watching The Crimson Field on the BBC and when I saw Richard Rankin in that I thought he’d make a perfect Nick.
I loved Lily James in Downton Abbey and when I was writing Sky she was the image that always came to mind. I think she has a great balance of youthful energy and dramatic calibre to handle the ups and downs of Sky’s journey
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that The Poppy Garden should be their next read, what would you say?
Love is stronger than any battle and will help you find beauty in the darkness.
(Oo. I couldn’t agree more!)
Thank you so much for your time, Claire, in answering my questions.
About Claire L. Brown
Claire L Brown was born in Sunderland, England. Claire is a BA Hons Graduate in Media with American History from Sunderland University. After attending Western Washington State University and spending several years working as a personal assistant in her native North East, Claire now writes part time.
Claire concentrates mostly on romance, fantasy and thriller genres.
Claire also writes two blogs, My Life as a Writer focusing on her experiences as an author and My Life as a Writer When I’m Not Scribbling where she writes about lifestyle, beauty, books, movies and anything else.
You can find out more by visiting Claire’s website, finding her on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, following her on Twitter or visiting her blogs My Life As A Writer and My Life As A Writer When I’m Not Scribbling. Claire also has an Amazon author page.