The initial idea for my first novel, Mother's Nature, came to me one day while reading a poetry book my grandmother had given to me in 1981. The book, titled "Home Fairies and Heart Flowers" (1887), had gold-leafed pages and gorgeous illustrations of children surrounded by flowers. Each child's portrait was based on a flower, with a companion poem.
As I studied the portraits and read the poems, one in particular stood out to me. The portrait of a young girl framed by roses, accompanied by a poem titled "The Coming of the Rose".
Almost immediately, my dark imagination began to take over and I formed an alternate world in which the portraits and verse were not quite so lovely and innocent. I imagined the flowers slowly rotting, vines twisting, thorns piercing flesh and drawing blood. I assigned a symbiotic relationship between the poisonous rose and the evil, yet deceptively sweet-looking child. A new portrait had taken shape in my mind's eye, so vivid, so real that I felt the need to draw it myself. However, I am definitely not an artist. This is the best I could do. Apologies.
Next, the sinister image needed a creator (besides me). What kind of artist would draw something like that, and why? That's how Raven Thomas came to be, an artist who unravels her past through trance-like drawing sessions where her subconscious mind gives her visual clues to the truth.
Who was the Nymph Child? Now, just like Raven, I needed to figure out who this young creature represented. I descended into a dark journey of imaginative discovery as I created the character to go along with Raven's portrait. That is how Mona Thomas, Raven's manipulative and evil mother came to be.
As I continued down the path of discovery, I began to compile a theme involving flowers, gardening, herbal remedies, and poisonous plants. Here is where my interest in gardening came into play. (Hint: It is easy to research subjects in which you already have an interest. Otherwise, why write it?)
Eventually, I developed another character, Raven's twin sister Gwen, who dies at the age of eleven, creating conflict and past tragedy between Raven and her mother Mona. But how did Gwen die? Back to the poetry book!
Although the child in the portrait looked nothing like my vision of Gwen, the pansies and "dreaming eyes" gave me an idea. Another image formed in my mind, and again, I felt the need to draw it. A pair of eyes, surrounded by bluish purple pansies and jaundiced-yellow centers that hinted at a child's illness.
As the story progressed, more visuals came to me and I sketched them out to help me solidify their place in the story, and also because the images dogged me until I relented. If you are a sucker for punishment, you can find the images here.
With my debut novel, I discovered that I am very much inspired by the visual arts, even more so than the written word. Images spark stories for me, and that is why I am a such fan of abstract art. I continue to capture images for later use in future stories, as you will learn when I explore the inspirations behind my other works.
In my next post, I will explain the inspirations behind other themes in Mother's Nature.
I write novels and poetry and this blog.