When did you know writing was for you?
My 5th grade teacher told my mom that my writing skills were beyond my age group. I already liked to write and I feel like that little bit of acknowledgement was just the amount of encouragement I needed. From there on writing was “my thing.” I started out with mostly poetry and journal entries until high school and college when I really got into short stories and blogging.
Why was The Tulip Factory a book you wanted to write?
The Tulip Factory has been something I knew I wanted to write since my junior year of college. I honestly wasn’t 100% sure at the time what it was going to be about but I knew the title before I even began. Then piece by piece it started forming as little blog posts here or a poem there, with rhymes and clever puns about blossoming. One day I realized that all these blog posts were telling different parts of the same story. I was already creating the story and I didn’t even know it.
I love your cover! Can you tell us who created it and how much input you had?
Thank you so much! Creating the cover was so much fun and I actually had a ton of input! Inkshares, the publisher, has an amazing team and we had conference calls where I was able to brainstorm and discuss my vision. I am obsessed with autumn in North Carolina so having the fall colored leaves in the picture was a must. The red front door was my original idea for the cover and we just kind of went from there.
What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
The hardest part for me is just finding some downtime to really get into whatever I’m working on. My time can be pretty limited with a toddler and working a full-time job so I wrote most of this book either at 5:00 a.m. or midnight. Luckily I’m a coffee person so that always helps!
What are your favorite genres to read?
I really get into realistic fiction and am naturally drawn to the “chick lit” genre. I love a good romantic comedy and am a sucker for tragicomedies. I’ve recently read a few more suspenseful type, dramatic fiction novels but they’ve all had female characters I could relate to. I think the key to my heart is being relatable.
What do you want readers to take away from your story?
I just want people to feel inspired and rejuvenated at any stage of life. One thing I have realized the older I get is that there isn’t this magical age where everything finally makes sense and life just takes off. It’s all a learning experience and it’s truly never too late to do something different. Change your mind, follow a dream, get on a plane.
How important do you think social media is for authors these days?
I feel like it’s important to stay connected and to show your true colors and that’s why I like social media, in a way it can make you feel closer to people. And for authors, a simple hashtag and photo of your book can really make waves across social media. It’s pretty incredible to see!
What would be your advice to aspiring writers?
My advice is to never hold back when it comes to writing. Not everyone will always like everything you have to say and that’s okay. Just don’t compromise your thoughts and words out of fear of people’s opinions. Some will love it, some will hate it and some people just won’t understand you, period. As writers we aren’t meant to make sense to everyone, but to those people who get us, to those people who take to heart and value our words, we can make sense of everything.
When I was little, I was the flower girl in my aunt’s wedding. She was your true eighties rocker chick, and even in 1990, she was still clinging to her preferred decade, shoulder pads and all. The late-spring wedding was full of blue dresses, yellow corsages, and really big hair.
I can remember it like it was yesterday; we were sitting in the elder’s room of my family’s church before the ceremony. The scent of hairspray and old hymnals permeated the air. Back then my hair was much blonder and way curlier than it is now, and my mom had neatly pulled the front back with an oversize yellow bow. I sat on the floor in the corner of the room, twirling my empty flower girl basket in circles. It was painted white and had a yellow ribbon threaded through the handle to complement the wedding theme.
The florist had just arrived with a cardboard box full of carefully arranged white roses, also tied with yellow ribbons. She began passing out the bouquets to the bridal party, starting with the bride. One by one, the overzealous group of women in their puffy-sleeved dresses and stiff bangs eagerly took their budding bundles. I waited patiently with my empty basket for my white rose petals to sprinkle down the aisle.
My parents had been talking me up for weeks, so I was excited for my big debut. I had practiced multiple times during the wedding rehearsal, and I knew exactly when to walk and where to stand. I was a quiet child. I did what I was told without causing a scene, and I didn’t like getting into trouble. Once all the bouquets had been handed out, the giddy bridal party beamed proudly and got into position, ready to make their way down the aisle. That’s when my mom came in to check on everyone and to join the procession as the maid of honor. Noticing my bare basket, she hurried over and squatted down beside me, getting on my level.
“Sweetie, where are your rose petals?” she asked.
I had never gotten my rose petals. The florist had completely forgotten them. My aunt began freaking out, the florist started to panic, and the bridesmaids kept teasing their hair, pretending to be worried at the same time. Just then, my dad came busting through the door like a superhero. (Maybe he didn’t “bust” through the door, but that’s how it plays out in my memory.) He came straight over to me, and my mom told him about the latest wedding debacle. She was shaking her head and trying to calm my aunt by offering to tear some petals off of her own bouquet for me to throw. Apparently that “wasn’t an option.” That’s when my dad spoke up. He announced that he had an idea, kissed my mom on the cheek, and left the room in a hurry.
My aunt paced the floor and stared at the clock. It was a small room, and it was starting to feel smaller by the second. My stomach rumbled from hunger, and the hairspray fumes were making me dizzy. Just as I thought I was going to have to eat the sugar cubes next to the coffee maker, my dad came running through the door. His cheeks were flushed and he was out of breath. Before my mom could even ask where he had been for the last ten minutes, he made a beeline for me, holding something wrapped in brown paper.
He unwrapped the thin package and pulled out a handful of fresh yellow tulips. He eased himself down to the floor by my side and smiled. My aunt peered over his shoulder and commented on how the flowers didn’t look like roses. He immediately shushed her. Not only were they not roses, but they were certainly not white. He started pulling the petals off and dropping them into my basket, then handed me the other tulip and told me to do the same. My dad had saved the day and also my shining moment as a flower girl. I’ll never forget what he said to me next.
“This is your moment, baby girl. If the world is all white roses, then you’re a field of tulips.”