The Grove and Its Background Story

Guest Author: Jean Johnson

Jean Johnson 2009 2 - avatar largeThe Grove is the second book in my Guardians of Destiny fantasy romance series. It can stand on its own reasonably well, but I’ll admit readers will get more out of the story if the read the rest in that series when they all come out, and if they read the previous series Guardians is linked to, the Sons of Destiny Series. But what you won’t find between the covers of this book is where I got the idea for a magical garden gone wrong.

I’d say I have my father to blame, but my father is neither a mage, nor has he ever damaged a garden if he could help it. Quite the contrary; after struggling for years in the business world as an engineer whose skills weren’t being used in any sort of engineering way, he determined that he had to quit his office career in order to salvage his mental health. I don’t know exactly what turned him in this particular new direction–I was only a child at the time, barely into double digits–but turn he did, and headed up a new path: the gardener’s path.

Trading suits for coveralls and calculators for pruners, he opened a landscape maintenance business. He wasn’t much into fantasy–certainly not romances–and though he loved shows like Star Trek, my father has always been a pragmatic man, so when he opened himself up to the world of horticulture, he dove in up to his brain, checking out book after book from the local libraries on the proper care and maintenance of plant life. He’d regale us with tales from his experiences with his customers, discuss why one pruned branches at certain angles and in specific places, and tried to instill his daughters with a deep love of the outdoors, because that was where he had found his happiness in his work.

Alas, it didn’t quite take. My sister’s one of those constantly-on-the-phone Cover of THE GROVEmodern woman types; in fact she got a job at an answering service, where she is now the manager. For myself…I hate, loathe, and fear bugs. Creepy crawlies. Spiders. It took me until I was in my thirties to stop shrieking at the sight of even the teeniest of spiders, and lo–if you go into a garden, there they be: bugs of all shapes and sizes. Coupled with the fact I wanted to be a published author, and that writing–oh, joy!–was an indoor profession…neither of us wanted to follow in his footsteps. They were pretty big footsteps, too: he was honored with a rare lifetime membership in a landscape professionals’ association for all his contributions. Unfortunately, health complications ended his career before he could find someone to carry on his business. But to this day he’s still proud of all he learned and all he accomplished, and his wife and daughters are proud of him, too.

Because he loved his work, we learned to appreciate it as well. And because as a writer, I am constantly asking increasingly outrageous “What If…?” questions, I have always had in the back of my mind for many years the question of, What If…a garden in a land of mages was warped by magics running wild? What would happen to the plants, the trees, the animals? Yes, even to the bugs? What sort of plants would be actually magical by their own nature? Would some become ambulatory, able to walk around? Why would they want to? Would some of the flowers have unique potions embedded in their perfumes? Would trees become treants or treemen, able to move and defend their arboreal territories? How would a magical garden react to intruders, or confinement? Would even the soil be contaminated by the magic as the plants broke down and decomposed, or was the soil itself the source of the problem?

Thus were born the migrating marigolds, the power-infused sap, and the magical bleeding hearts that are seen in this story. They’re only a small part of the overall story, which is indeed part fantasy epic and part romance. Still, for all that my father won’t ever read my novels–they just aren’t his sort of subject, and I’m perfectly fine with that–The Grove is in a way a nod from me to him for sharing his love of gardening with his family. Thanks to him, I know to mow my lawn in different directions each time to keep it well-trimmed, and how to prune a tree to not only cut back on wild growth, but where to prune it to encourage or discourage new growth, and how to lop off branches in a way that will reduce the chance of infection and rot. I know that roses are best pruned in February–which I need to do this month–and that once you plant small bulbs such as bluebells, good luck getting them all out of the ground again. Oh, and bamboo is always best planted in containers, or it’ll run wild like a weed.

I hope you’ll enjoy the story of Saleria, the mage-priestess tasked by her people to manage the magically mangled Sacred Grove of Katan, and Aradin Teral, a Darkhanan Witch-priest and Hortimancer, who comes looking for a true representative of the Katani people, and stays because he finds the challenge, and the love, of a lifetime.

About Author:

Jean Johnson is a multiple national bestselling author in categories ranging as far apart as paranormal romance and military science fiction. Having gotten her foot in the door first in romance in early 2007, she has since hit the Extended NY Times Bestseller list, recently been a special convention guest, and has been nominated multiple times for awards, including the 2011 Philip K. Dick Award for Best Science Fiction. She resides in the Pacific Northwest, promises to always write the best stories she can, and does not promise to keep her sense of humor out of her works. At this point, she has 15 novels and 2 single author anthologies already published, with many more scheduled to come. If you want to learn more, you can reach her at: http://www.jeanjohnson.net/, @JeanJAuthor on Twitter, or via Facebook at Fans of Author Jean Johnson.

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