Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I have published many articles and books as an English professor, but Hosta Seizure is my first venture into writing fiction. KIRKUS Reviews says, “Henry . . . subtitles his debut work of fiction ‘a magical realist gardening mystery,’ and it’s an appropriate description for this quirky, creative novel. In it, hostas are revealed to be sentient beings with a complex, nuanced system of communication. The author writes numerous chapters from these plants’ perspectives, and they have personalities as varied as the humans who tend them.”
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Hosta Seizure was inspired when my partner in the garden one day said, “I think Empress Wu is really beautiful this year,” and my knee-jerk reaction was, “Shh! Not in front of the other hostas! We can’t show preference!” That interaction prompted me to keep an iPod with me at all times while gardening to capture audio notes, and I delved into hosta history and science to develop personalities for hostas with names like Big Daddy, Sheherazade, Blue Mouse Ears, etc. The American Hosta Society serialized the novel that emerged, and I was excited to turn that product into a paperback then into a Kindle version.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I guess if carrying an iPod at all times while gardening so as not to miss an “emphed” idea from a hosta counts as unusual, that would be one. I record the voice memo on the spot and e-mail them to myself, then move those emails into a specific folder to review when I can knit ideas and dialogue together into a scene.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I think One Hundred Years of Solitude changed my life as a reader. It was followed by such monuments as House of the Spirits, Midnight’s Children, and others. I have read almost all of Tony Hillerman’s books. Then there’s Genus Hosta, The Hostapedia, The New Encyclopedia of Hostas, The Little Book of Hostas . . .
What are you working on now?
I am working on the second volume in the Cozy Magical Realist Gardening Mystery Series, Hosta Seizure. Gardeners have an adage that the first year you plant a hosta, it “sleeps” (i.e., gets its roots settled in), the second it “creeps” (begins growing larger), and the third year it “leaps” (grows into full maturity or well on its way). The first volume of Hosta Seizure, available in paperback and Kindle, has loads of sleeping metaphors layered into it: the protagonist, Funky, it turns out, fell from a tree as a kid, engendering a dormant capacity that is awakened in this first volume. I am currently drafting lots of scenes and dialogue driven by “creeping” and by “leaping” for volumes 2 and 3.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I am still trying to figure that out. I subscribe to the Awesome Gang newsletter, as well as that of the Fussy Librarian. I have established a big e-mail list which I use sparingly, so as not to bug friends. And Facebook. I also just created a trailer on YouTube.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
As a fiction writer, I probably need as much advice as I feel qualified to give. As an author more generally: become consumed by the project, research, write, revise, write …
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.
What are you reading now?
Quite a few books on the gut biome + lots of articles on hostas. Recently finished Green Island.
What’s next for you as a writer?
The next two volumes of Hosta Seizure.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
If I had writing materials, the books on hostas mentioned above. If I were stranded uniquely as a reader, the magical realist books I mentioned earlier and one of Tony Hillerman’s or Agatha Christie’s.