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Author Interview: Merlina Garance Chats about The Flourishing

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Get ready to learn more about the book The Flourishing in this discussion with sapphic author Merlina Garance.

Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Merlina Garance about The Flourishing, writing, reading, and more.

This book is part of the Love After 40 category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.

Why did you write The Flourishing?

I often don’t know for sure where the inspiration comes from when I get the idea for a new story. This one isn’t the exception. I had a vague idea to write something with a murder mystery, and a missing man, then the plot about the police officer falling in love with the missing man’s wife came out of nowhere… and stuck with me.

It is relevant that this is the first sapphic story I ever wrote, shortly after I myself came to terms with my own pansexuality and attraction to women. It was a way for me to explore that in the safe confines of a story, and I did put a little of my own years spent in the closet into Thalia’s story.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

I love both the main character, Andy, and her love interest equally, but Thalia’s story means a lot to me, because I worked for some time with victims of domestic violence and it was important to me to give a realistic portrayal of that, and the consequences on her life and personality. I desperately want to give her a hug and I tried to bring her to the best place I could in this book, and the next.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

This is one bit I’m extremely happy about. If you read the book, you’ll see that Thalia’s name holds a lot of meaning in her journey to a better life. There is a strong link between her and Greek mythology, and if you google the Muses, you’ll find out that Flourishing is actually the Greek translation of Thalia… It made perfect sense to me to name the story like that because Flourishing is also her trajectory in the story.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?

There already is a (sort of) sequel out! I wrote this book as part of a trilogy in which each book follows a different character. The next isn’t focused on a sapphic couple, but Andy and Thalia are very present in it as support characters, and Thalia’s journey to healing continues in Just Stu.

What is your favorite line from your book?

She feels good, and young in the strangest way, eager for what the next day brings, full of hope and despair at the same time, craving.

And honestly, she wonders. What would be the point of life, if that was bound to disappear. If her hands were forever bereft of that tingling need to caress, and love. She nods off thinking that the light grey English sky cannot be that bad if it reminds her of her eyes.

What is your writing process like?

I’m a plantser… Everything I write stems from one scene that comes to me very vividly, and I have to start from details and get out those emotional moments (often the characters meeting, kissing for the first time, a fight…) before I can see the bigger picture and start arranging the story into a proper arc.

Honestly, I hate plotting! I do it because it’s necessary to avoid inconsistencies, but my favourite thing will always be diving straight in and getting to the prose. I’ve been experimenting with novellas, recently, which is a nice way for me to indulge this trait of mine and delve into a story with less need for preparation.

What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?

I just drink far too much tea… My favourite blend is a chestnut oolong that just feels like I’m drinking a sweet cake! I’ve also recently discovered Genmaicha tea and absolutely love it too.

Do you have any odd writing quirks?

I make a lot of faces! I associate writing to acting a lot. For me to find the right words to describe a character’s movements or emotions, I need to experience the same thing. Hence me often pulling faces at my computer screen to know how to describe what the character’s expression looks like, or crying if I need to get into a character’s mindset and they are distressed… I’ve even triggered myself a panic attack once, while writing one. That was less fun than the faces…

Have you ever cried when writing an emotional scene?

Sometimes… but not often. We have a joke with a friend who helps me brainstorm my stories, that if you can still see the character under the trauma, there is not enough. I think ultimately I write as a catharsis and end up hurting my charaters so I can fix them later, and experience that solace for myself. I actually wrote an article that is up on Katherine Blakeman’s blog, about why I like angst so much. As a reader, I also struggle to connect with characters who don’t suffer, or stories in which everything goes well all the time. I guess I should talk to a therapist about it…?

Have you ever fallen in love with one of your characters?

I am 100% in love and married to Aileena, a trans woman who is the love interest in a book I am currently querying! She is loosely inspired from a TV character who absolutely forced me to admit I was attracted to women, with the force of a hammer to the head. She is gorgeous (I have a thing for redheads…) and sassy and the most perfect woman on Earth.

What books did you grow up reading?

I studied literature in secondary school and specialised in it for our equivalent of A levels. In France, we do a lot of text analysis, and doing so for poetry as well as literary fiction, especially of the 19th and early 20th century, has made me give a lot of attention to detail in writing. I aspire to write in a style that isn’t too higbrow but still has a few poetic lines here and there. Those are my favourite to write, and when I’m really proud of what I’ve written.

Do you only read books in one genre or do you genre hop?

I really love romance, but not necessarily as a genre, more as a subplot. If there is queer romance involved, and I like the writing style, I’ll read anything! I love poetic prose and really enjoy stories that dig deep into the characters’ psyche, until I feel like I can really understand them. So in the end, whether or not I like the blurb of the book doesn’t say much about whether I’ll like a book! I often tend to read the first ten pages to see if the style grabs me. For example, I’m not a big sci-fi fan, but got the first book of Jasyn and the Astronauts (by Gwenhyver) for free during a sale and started out of curiosity… I am now the proud owner of both paperbacks and eagerly waiting for the third.

Meet Merlina Garance

Born in France and living there again now, Merlina passed through many interesting places in between.

Journeying across Europe and with many stops on other continents, stories were gathered, lessons were learned and adventures were had.

These days, Merlina lives rurally in a slowly-sinking house filled with love, magic herbs, and a little ball of fur, and is always thinking about the next story.

Visit Merlina’s Website

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Author Interview