Moon Willow Press is happy to announce that Back to the Garden, a story written and told by me, under pen name Clara Hume, will be returning next year as a revised edition. This novel is being slightly edited as I have decided to launch Back to the Garden as the first volume in the new Wild Mountain series rather than a stand-alone novel, as it is currently. This will postpone Up the River, but promises to help usher in the wilder world of modern eco-fiction just the same.
Why am I so excited about this? For one, as the New York Times recently posted, eco-fiction (which has been around since the 1970s) has come of age as well: wilder, more reckless, and more breathtaking than previously thought. Back to the Garden was originally conceived of in this light. It is a novel portraying a world whose characters narrate a journey with the nostalgia of the world as we know it today, but who also have survived a tipping point and have been ushered into a new wilder world. Not that we could have foreseen the NYT’s take on this literature, but in a way, many authors are perceiving similar ideas because we aren’t just writing. We are imagining, we are researching, we are warning, we are hoping, we are kind of going a little crazy and wild. Fiction is a great place to do this in, and though eco-fiction may not be a boxed in or neat little genre, it can act as kind of an umbrella to the numerous novels that exalt nature or tackle human impact on the environment–and may help to categorize the various literary or speculative novels that try to capture the hyperobject that is climate change.
As an author, my heart is always with my debut novel, and I’ve been going back and forth between continuing it or branching off into different projects (two others are in the works, including Up the River and an ecological weird fiction novel that may become a short story instead). But I’ve decided to put Up the River on hold because the more I think about Back to the Garden, the more I read it, the more I have realized that my heart really is into continuing it, and that time seems to be now instead of later–whereas my other projects, though they are coming along, will be postponed until Part II of the new Back to the Garden series is complete.
Part II, To the Waters and the Wild, is in the works, and begins on Wild Mountain in Idaho, where Part I ended. It is told in the eyes of the children born to the tipping point survivors (if you’ve read the first novel, you may remember Fran and Leo, Elena and Daniel, Maisie and Caine, Buddha, Mei, Kenny, and others). However, Idaho becomes too hot and dangerous to continue to live in, and so the families decide to pack up and move up to Canada’s northwest coast to build a new homestead.
Why I am personally excited about this upcoming novel is that I believe with new experiences, authors evolve and find new ways of storytelling. I am eager to incorporate some new thoughts floating around in my head, into this story I began telling back in 2012. After the publication of the first novel, I visited Ireland and renewed my long interests of myth in fiction. You may have noticed that Part II is a direct nod to William Butler Yeats, from “The Stolen Child.” Last summer, I spent time hiking, running in, and visiting parts of Ireland. Running around and admiring the pastoral and sometimes isolated country of Yeats’ youth sure did bring a lot of exciting new ideas to mind, some of which I had really planned to explore in my weird fiction project, but find now that I can fit these ideas in to the Back to the Garden canon.
I have to admit too that, like many, I have been a little submerged in disbelief regarding the Trump era, but deep inside I feel a lot of hope and inspiration by running and hiking and biking–just being in the great outdoors–and this kind of feeling, this being in nature, is ultimately freeing. While Up the River is a response to Trump’s fossil fuel decisions and my own research about Canada’s oil sands, I realize that though I really love the project and plan to complete it, right now I need to feel motivated not by fossil (old) politics, which I believe to truly be temporary, but by the larger aspect of freeing myself from these issues of a weeping world, while trying to warn about our future still. I feel that am not much of a political writer–more of a speculative writer, and if I need to tackle issues, I feel I do best by breaking out of political anguish and letting myself go into into the wild. This is, by the way, a big component of some of Yeats’ work, whose physical poetry said essentially that embracing nature can liberate us. Not just embracing it as a concept but being in it, celebrating it, preserving it, admiring its power, and understanding and accepting the side of nature that isn’t comfortable to us humans who like climate-controlled abodes and plenty of materialistic conveniences (our trappings). Yeats said, “Come Away” in more than one poem, but in “The Stolen Child,” he asks us to come away to the waters and the wild. I have run in Sleuth Wood mentioned in “The Stolen Child,” and boated to the “Lake Isle of Innisfree” (a small island in Lough Gill). The idea of going “to the waters and the wild” is my muse, and I am eager to address that when writing Part II.
I am discovering other new ideas, such as charnel grounds, or hauntings in general, to cast the light of our future planet in, and am excited to work with these ideas. Old Irish myths, like many old myths, relate directly to the physical environment around us, and I think these old stories are something to consider when expanding old myths or creating new ones.
Nature ideas are being searched in modern eco-fiction, and they will be central in the continuation of Back to the Garden as the Idaho troupe travels again to a place we might consider wilder, mythical, impossible, and even reckless. Thought utopian in nature, there will be tension: romantic drama and the growing knowledge of (and intersection with) a sect of survivors who are in a cult and have inherited some of the modern ideology we see today that has led us to environmental catastrophe. I believe the addition of To the Waters and the Wild will appease those readers who didn’t get enough “what happened before” intel as well as tell more of a story than Part I, which was what may be seen as an account of a newly born myth.
Stay tuned for more in the upcoming months.
1. [Regarding Jeff VanderMeer’s newest novel Borne] This coming-of-age story signals that eco-fiction has come of age as well: wilder, more reckless and more breathtaking than previously thought, a wager and a promise that what emerges from the 21st century will be as good as any from the 20th, or the 19th. (“There’s No Escape From Contamination Above the Toxic Sea,” May 5, 2017)