Birth of a Novel

In summer, I write less and garden more. I load up my tools in my truck and drive to a client’s house, then weed in the sun, the heat coming off the sidewalk and onto my arms. Sometimes I listen to podcasts, sometimes I think. This summer I’ve been thinking a lot. About a man who grows trees, in a greenhouse. I saw him in my mind after I read an article about Dan Hinkley, the plant explorer, and an excursion to Southeast Asia. He and his crew of 11 men had one pack of Ramen noodles to share for one of their last breakfasts. This image of being in the mountains, rainy mountains, crazy hungry, carrying backpacks and plant samples and wet tents stayed with me.

Now, I have an outline for a novel. The image of a man, with his friend, hiking into the mountains. What they find is rare. Who he is I’m still not sure. But I see Paris and a greenhouse and a villain, perhaps a man and woman, working against him. I feel his sense of urgency, about the plant, the love of it, the need to protect it. And these emotions not only stay with me as I work in clients’ yards, they grow and develop into scenes, dialogue, characters who I haven’t met yet. As I drive home, I’m searching the car for a pen, taking jagged notes at a red light, saving the ideas for a day when I’m gardening less.

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